By Amandla Karungi
Before I went back to work, 3 months after giving birth, one of my main worries was how I would manage to keep up a supply of breast milk for my baby. Among other causes of my deep anxiety was how I would adapt from feeding my baby every 2 to 3 hours to only feeding him when I came back from work.
For the first time in my life, I considered staying home with my baby, knowing well that nobody else would be able to give my baby the love and care that I could. I still believe that. However, a consolation came in the form of leaving my baby with a collection of breast milk which was not only the best for his nutrition but also a way of leaving a love note to him while I was away.
It has been tough creating a pumping routine at work. Even as I type this, I’m running late for my pumping session today. It’s been a test of my confidence and determination. I have had to turn down some out-of-office engagements where I foresaw that I would not be able to pump. I have had to ask for an extension of time or excused myself from some meetings because I knew that I had to keep up my breastfeeding schedule in order to feed my child and keep up my supply.
I saw confused looks on the faces of my colleagues and sometimes discomfort that arises with the technicalities of pumping at work. I disappear from my office desk twice every day for about 30 minutes to 40 minutes. I hide in my car and unbutton or raise my carefully selected choice of clothing that enables me to nurse without being completely exposed, while constantly worrying about whether the tint is dark enough or whether the gate-man and grass raking guy can see me when they pass in front of the windscreen. I disinfect my hands and then try to avoid spilling milk on my clothes. I wear a nursing bra, have breast pads and extra shirt as my all day armour for this. After pumping, I store the milk, make sure all my human equipment is safely tucked out of sight and that all my clothes are in place before I get out of the car. I reappear in the office with a bag carrying bottles of breastmilk which I keep in the work refridgerator. The most fittingly titled storage is when I use Lansinor storage bags; they are aptly labelled ‘Mother’s milk’.
I have had to explain what pumping is to my father. During this explanation which I believe left him with a boat load of questions he decided not to ask, I realised how difficult it is to explain pumping without using the words breasts. I also explained how my manual pump worked to the pregnant cleaning lady while dismantling, washing and reassembling its parts which I have been doing every after I pump, which also explains the duration of my pumping schedule.
In a most underrated way, the breast pump has kept me at work. I declare it the world’s leading invention in encouraging mothers to get back into the official working world.
We all know how essential #breastfeeding is to the health of the baby and mother, so why are offices and public buildings not creating spaces for mums who have to feed their babies and pump milk – instead of letting them hide in cars or toilets? … well done to you Amandla, for finding a way to make it work, despite the circumstances.
Thank you Salha
Most of the time, our employers have no idea whatsoever about the technicalities (or even the possibility) of pumping. There is very little awareness when it comes to these very important issues. Some of them, I’m sure would be willing to do something about it, but we have to speak up first so that the women after us won’t have to deal with the same issues.
It is truly one of the most rewarding things I could do for my daughter when I went back to work. All hail the breast pump.
So true, thank you
No one should have to hide away to express – I agree it’s probably a lack of knowledge and understanding in companies about what the expressing process involves. It’s something that can and should be talked about more in companies as part of their HR strategies.