Empowering Woman: Tineke
It took me quite a while to get breastfeeding well established and to really start enjoying it. In the first months it was quite difficult (understatement..), not only painful (don´t get me started on cracked nipples or mastitis) but also the pressure of an underweight baby who needed to eat very often (and took his sweet time meaning you were basically only having 1 hour breaks in between feeding sessions) and not knowing how much milk you actually have and whether he was eating enough. By now I can say I loved breastfeeding but it took quite some tears and screams to get there.
So when my 16 weeks of maternity leave were over I definitely wanted to continue breastfeeding for a little longer. I guess my situation was quiet luxurious in the sense that I work 4 days a week of which 2 from home. So the 2 days from home were easy to cover: until midday when my partner was taking care of Lucas at home I would plan my breaks from work around feeding times and in the afternoon when he was with his grandparents I had to extract milk once and then the evening session was live with mommy again. However, the days that I did go into the office were much more complicated. I have a very long commute to my office (2,5hours) so I would leave the house a little before 7am and come back only after 8pm. In the beginning I still did a morning feeding around 6am but once Lucas got a better sleep rhythm he wouldn´t wake up before 7 / 7.30am anymore meaning that I was not home for any of his feedings. Then my challenge was where and when to extract in the office or even on my way to the office.
When you have a baby, sleep is not a commodity anymore so there were some trade-offs involved. This basically meant that I could choose between getting up 20 minutes earlier to extract milk or leaving my first pumping session for the commute… Yep, sleep is scarce so I chose the second option. So I would extract milk in the train under a huge scarf hoping and praying that the passenger sitting next to me would keep sleeping (advantage of the early morning train!) or working and at least not notice that something was moving under that scarf.
Then the next challenge came with the fact that in my office there was no nursing place. Our “office” is basically a little village with over 10k employees divided over different buildings and we have loads of convenient services in the village (gym, childcare, pharmacy, doctor, dentist, optic, travel agency, supermarket, Starbucks, hairdresser, and the list goes on) but no nursing room to be found. So that left me with the option of the toilet (which was very cold because of no heating system, and let´s not get into the background noise) or booking a meeting room. The inconvenient part of meeting rooms is that most have windows so there were only a few I could work with. I would try to book these meeting rooms that had no windows or at least windows at strategic locations so I could set-up my “extraction station” with a barrier on the table from my bag, laptop and my notebook standing up open so that if somebody would come in, not too much would be visible. After a few months with the combination of toilet and meeting rooms, I finally found out that the reception had a closed printing room behind them and although it had no chairs I did use that option for the last weeks of breastfeeding. On the commute back home at night I would repeat the scarf trick.
All of this involved quite some logistics, not only the choice of scarf but also to bring your small cooler bag, make sure you put it in the fridge as soon as you arrive, don´t forget it in the fridge when you leave, getting the milk from the toilet / meeting room to the cooler bag in the fridge without everybody noticing what you´re doing and most importantly, keeping that cooler bag stable in your backpack on the commute back home. I did come home one night noticing a lot of little white spots on my black boots, yep, one of the bottles with extracted milk had opened and spread through my backpack…. The worst part was that my immediate thought was not “uh oh my laptop” but “noooo, after all the effort 250ml down the drain…”.
Another challenge is when to pump. When I had relatively ok days with some meetings here and there I would just block my calendar every 3 hours for 30min but when you have full-day workshops or team meetings it gets a bit more complicated because obviously the breaks there are never on convenient times for your pumping schedule. So I would sneak out a few times a day with my grey Medela bag. (Also in Spain you never know when a break will actually happen, because hey who needs an agenda or if there is one why stick to it, so of course I would often go out in the middle of a discussion and 2 minutes after I came back they would break..)
After 4 months of this, when I had some business trips coming up and when Lucas had started eating solid food and therefore only has 2 milk feedings left I decided it was enough, but it definitely has been an interesting experience! The downside of stopping with breastfeeding is that it gets a bit depressing to look at your “new” breasts in the mirror (You would almost understand why in Spain they tend to keep breastfeeding for years!). Also I am already a bit nervous for Lucas´ next monthly check-up and the speech that I am going to get from the breastfeeding-taliban-nurse, but that´s a whole other story!
Photo credit Medela: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/dharder9475/23919221670/”>dharder9475</a> via <a href=”https://visualhunt.com”>VisualHunt</a> / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>CC BY-NC</a>
Photo credit extracting in office: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/cafemama/118317846/”>cafemama</a> via <a href=”https://visualhunt.com”>VisualHunt</a> / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>CC BY-NC-SA</a>
I am Tineke, a Dutchie living in Spain, happily not-married to César and mommy of Lucas. Before becoming a mom I always thought I was busy, however since we have Lucas the term “busy” got a whole new definition! Trying to juggle two demanding jobs, a busy social life while squeezing in some sports, keeping the house somewhat liveable, pursuing both of our entrepreneurial ambitions ánd having sufficient family time makes me wonder how I ever thought we were busy. And all of that in a country which is not my home country and therefore causes quite some cultural clashes in this whole motherhood thingy.
Want to read more about my adventures as a working mommy abroad?