This article was written by Sandra Chaybeh Farhat, a working pumping mother of 2 adorable little girls Emma & Katy, who has found a passion for breastfeeding & helping mothers breastfeed successfully as much as she can with the little spare time she has. To all working mothers out there who think it is impossible to breastfeed & have a demanding job, this is for you.
When I was pregnant with my first, I did tons of research & read countless books on parenting, from “how to bathe a newborn” to “how to handle tantrums”. I wanted to be equipped & ready for when my baby came. I covered everything except for the topic of breastfeeding, which I felt was something that would come naturally.
And that it did! Minutes after Emma was born, that first latch was magical. I remember gazing at her thinking “but she was just born! How does she KNOW how to suckle like that?” I was amazed. That marked the beginning of what had become a beautiful journey of motherhood. 49 days later, Maternity leave had eventually come to an end. The day had come. Armed with my newly bought breast pump, ice packs & extra breast pads, I kissed Emma goodbye with a heavy heart & headed out for my first day.
I remember walking into the office with my “camouflaged breast pump bag”. It was basically a regular lunch box on the outside. But inside were my single electric pump, battery pack, ice packs, extra batteries & milk collection cups. I was determined to keep pumping for my baby but I didn’t necessarily want anyone to know about it at work. Especially that our office consisted mostly of men, “embarrassing” I thought at the time! (I laugh now). I would secretly sneak my disguised bag into the bathroom every three hours to pump, open the window hoping that the street noise would cover the sound of my not-so-quiet-pump, and sit in a bathroom stall and pump for 20-30 minutes. I even used to turn the pump off every time someone walked into the bathroom and waited until they left to switch it back on again!
Looking back now, I think the reason why I was so self-conscious at the time was because I literally felt like the only person working and pumping (let alone breastfeeding) in the whole country. There were no support groups in Lebanon, no La Leche League leaders, nothing! Everything I knew about breastfeeding came from my mother, and a couple researches here and there. And yet, I honestly believed that “6 months of exclusive breastfeeding” meant that I should start formula & solids at 6 months. My first breastfeeding journey was an exclusive pumping one & due to its exhausting nature, the lack of information & support, sadly ended at 8 months.
3.5 years later, I had Katy. I was in contact with La Leche League leaders in the country, attended a seminar on working & pumping & most importantly had joined amazing breastfeeding support groups. This time, I was determined to succeed. I wanted to breastfeed until she self weaned. I was also determined to help moms that were probably going thru what I went through with my first when I had no help.
I had a double electric pump shipped all the way from the states, and 70 days of maternity leave later, I walked into work carrying it proudly. The first thing I did, was send an email to management on the benefits of breastfeeding & the importance of the employer’s support for breastfeeding mothers at work. Gone were the days of shame and embarrassment on the topic of breastfeeding. Everyone, including our suppliers, knew my pumping schedule. They would call before or after. And when asked if I am “still breastfeeding”, my reply was, and still is “of course, for as long as she wants”. I discovered that yes, at first people were interested, as they would be on any new topic. But later on, it just becomes normal. For this I am proud to be part of normalizing pumping among men and women alike.
Yesterday we celebrated Katy’s 15 months. Up until today, I had continued to pump while Katy led the way on how much she needed during the day. Every day, she decreased her intake of pumped milk & today was the first day that she decided to refuse all pumped milk. It is a bittersweet moment. On one hand I’m so happy that she decided to wean from pumped milk when she was ready & continues to breastfeed when together, but on the other hand, its hard to end something that I worked so hard to accomplish. Cause to me, this is exactly what it is, an accomplishment, one that I would have never achieved without the support of my mother, my husband & the amazing support communities and to them I will be forever grateful.
To all you mommies out there who have a story to tell, we would love for it to be read. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to share. ❤