When I see another woman walking into the office with her Pump In Style over her shoulder, I want to run up and give her a high five. I want to ask her so many questions. How’s it going? How old is your baby? Where do you pump? Do you have a stash in the freezer at home? I want to tell her that I’m like her. I do it too. I sit alone and watch my milk drip down into the bottles. I count the ounces. I have good days and bad days, just like she does. I’ve done this before. It gets easier.
We usually say hello to each other, but that’s it. There are no high fives or pep talks, because at that moment, we’re just two women heading into the office. Pumping is part of our day like staff meetings and conference calls. In a way, this is positive. It shows we work in an environment that allows us to include pumping in our daily routine. But, there are so many times when it’s helpful to have a sounding board and a support system. You might not give each other high fives in the hallway, but an encouraging email here and there can be a tremendous help. What we all need is a Milk Mentor.
We have numerous mentors throughout our careers. They coach us through tough assignments and job transitions. It only makes sense that we find that same support as we return to work while breastfeeding. I like to call them our Milk Mentors. With my first child 3 years ago, I had several. There was a friend at a different company who gave me the sage advice “Don’t wear a dress unless you want to pump with no clothes on.” There was a mom of slightly older children who helped me through the emotional transition back to the office. There was even the fellow harried mom that I kept running into who showed me a shortcut to the lactation room.
Milk Mentors help with that first day back. You might be feeling guilty about leaving your baby or you might be feeling guilty because if feels good to be back at work. She listens. Your Milk Mentor shows you the lactation room (or where she pumped if there’s no formal pump location). She asks you how it’s going. She assures you you’ll find a routine.
Your Milk Mentor has tips on how handle a day of back to back meetings (don’t apologize, just step out for 20 minutes). When you’re discouraged about trying to balance it all she reminds you that it’s okay to feel out of balance. When you have a good morning and the daycare drop off goes smoothly and you’ve pumped more than you need to, she notices the smile on your face and drops by to say hi.
Like any mentoring relationship, you get out of it what you put in. You have to use your network and ask around to find other moms who’ve been in your shoes. And, you have to be willing to pay it forward to the next new mom in your office.
I was in a meeting last week with a mom who’s expecting her second baby in September. With her first, she stopped breastfeeding when she came back to work. “It just seemed so overwhelming,” she told me. She started asking me questions about when I pump and how I work it into my day. She was surprised at how routine it was for me. “I’m definitely going to try this time,” she said. I told her that I would be here to answer any questions. I told her there would be ups and downs but it’s totally worth it. I told her that there are so many women who do it – she definitely wouldn’t be alone. You just have to look for the woman with that distinct, yet discrete, bag, walking into the office to start her day. Think about giving her a high five and welcome her to the club!
Thanks to Natalie for sharing her words of wisdom with MilkWorks. Natalie is the mother of two, and has a career in corporate finance. She is the sister of Libby Mollard, who is a member of MilkWorks Board of Directors.