While you might be one of the lucky ones who absolutely adores what they do for a living, ask any parent and they’ll be the first to tell you nothing quite compares to the love of a child. That being said, the transition from two to three isn’t easy for either party, but for mothers, the hormonal shift is just the start of the changes. Especially for women who want to and choose to return to the office after giving birth, figuring out how to maintain a pumping schedule for breastfeeding is one of the biggest hurdles. (That and all of the #feelings when you receive a picture of your baby from the sitter or caretaker at home and wish you could jet back to snuggle him or her!)
The month of August celebrates breastfeeding in an effort to bring awareness to the tough, flexible and problem-solving women who earn six figures, run teams and multi-million dollar companies … all while raising a family, too. Whew. Here, successful working mothers share how they transitioned back to work, mastered the difficulty of pumping and how you can, too:
Pump when you can — and get creative
Creator and owner of The Cookie Cups Nicole Pomije put it best when she says breastfeeding, in general, is challenging for any mother, and for working mothers, a whole other layer of stress is added. And if you’re an entrepreneur? You might feel like a one-woman show — and not always in a fun way. Recently, when Pomije finished her maternity leave and returned to work, she was operating a business on her own with one bathroom.
“Throughout the past four months at the store, I’ve pumped about twice per day—in between customers, conference calls and well, actually baking,” she shared.
And since sales can be an unpredictable business, she’s learned to expect interruptions to her schedule: “I go to pump when there seems to be a lull at work, get my pump set up and a customer walks in,” she shares.
So how does she make it work? Pumping whenever she gets a second, even during digital meetings. “If there’s the conference call you have to be on, but won’t do much talking, I take that time to pump as well. It only doesn’t work when someone on the line asks for you and you quickly go to shut off the pump power so you can quickly engage,” she adds.
Be strategic with your schedule to maintain work productivity
When co-founder and CEO of YouEarnedIt, Autumn Manning became a first-time mother at the age of 26, she wasn’t just juggling children — but her budding business and plenty of travel, too. To make nursing work for her, Manning had to get smart about her schedule and allow herself much-needed breaks to provide for her baby. In addition to planning and mental preparedness, she also became a mastermind of travel schedules. Specifically commuting to and from business meetings, figuring out anywhere and anywhere she could stop, pump and go.
“It was surprisingly rare to find a mother’s room so I would use any place that was available: the car, customer bathrooms, conference rooms that would lock—or whatever I could find,” she explained. While not the rosiest of situations, considering the concept of ‘mother’s rooms’ is still a growing industry, many women are forced to make due with whatever location they can scope out.
Founder of Majka and Bloguettes Lorena Garcia says the moment she became a mother, her whole world changed. Everything she thought she knew was much different — and harder. And it took a bit of trial-and-error to figure out how to make motherhood and pumping work for her. On her first day back to work, she wore a sweater with no nursing bra, forcing her to ahem, completely undress to pump, leaving her exposed. While they might have been okay if she was alone, she noticed an open window giving people in the building across the street a full view.
“That was a nice little reminder to be more prepared before heading out the door for work. I started laying out my clothes the night before so I would make sure that I wore the appropriate clothing and nursing bra and did not have to strip down again,” she explained. While this is one part of the planning process, consider everything you need to pump with ease before heading into the office so you’re prepared for the day ahead.
Think of pumping as a break and your personal alone time
What’s meant to be a time when you pause to create nourishment for your child, can actually prove to be quite complicated. Though you might be multi-tasking most of the time, when you can, Pomije encourages women to savor some of the time pumping as an actual break.
“If you are going to be pumping at work, think of it as a positive, a little break throughout the day where you can almost meditate while pumping and regroup,” she explains. “Try to allocate twenty minutes alone where you can actually relax and take your time.”
Ask for a mother’s area from your company
Regardless if you’re at a startup, a country with a 200-year history or somewhere in between, Manning reminds working mothers of the power of their voice. If there isn’t an easily-accessible and private space for you to pump — ask for it. One way to approach the topic is to walk around your office and identify areas where a space could be created, thus coming prepared to the meeting.
“Talk with your manager and human resources team to come up with a solution to make it easier for you to re-enter the workforce and pump at work,” she suggests. “Finding ways to lessen the stress before you go on maternity leave will help make the transition a bit easier when you return.”