I’m about to hit the one-year mark of breastfeeding my son. I don’t think it would have happened without Avanade.
- Posted on August 6, 2020
- Estimated reading time 4 minutes
The first week of August marks “World Breastfeeding Week,” an annual celebration that began in 1992 and is now observed in more than 120 countries around the world. The World Health Organization announced this year’s theme: “Support breastfeeding for a healthier planet.”
In a joint message with UNICEF, WHO explained, “Breastfeeding provides every child with the best possible start in life. It delivers health, nutritional and emotional benefits to both children and mothers. And it forms part of a sustainable food system. But while breastfeeding is a natural process, it is not always easy. Mothers need support – both to get started and to sustain breastfeeding.”
Breastfeeding is not for everyone – you have to choose what’s best for you and your child – but after researching and reflecting on my options, it was important to me to at least try to breastfeed for the first year of my children’s lives. My son turns 1 next week, and I’m about to wrap up my second time doing that. The thing about making it to that year mark is that it’s essentially impossible to do so exclusively breastfeeding. I don’t know a single woman whose life would be conducive to being physically present with her baby to eat every three hours for an entire year. No, if you want to make it to that year, you’re going to have to pump.
Breastfeeding, while challenging, can have its dreamy moments of bonding. Pumping, on the other hand, offered no connection to my child. It is inconvenient, uncomfortable, draining, frustrating, isolating — just plain hard. When I had my daughter in 2017 and returned to work that fall, I realized that if I wanted to continue offering her breast milk, I would need to lug a pump to and from work every day and carve time into my schedule of meetings and deadlines to go to the “Mother’s Room” two or three times during the work day.
This was before I came to Avanade, and at my previous job, the Mother’s Room had a chair and a mini fridge to keep milk. But there was no sink to wash out pump pieces once I was done. For that, I had a few choices: the drinking fountain, the bathroom or the staff kitchen. All of these were down a hall and none of them were ideal. Breastfeeding already feels othering and uncomfortable at work; to carry my pump pieces down the hall and have other people stare to try to figure out what I was holding didn’t help. The Mother’s Room also wasn’t technically a Mother’s Room. It was dubbed a Wellness Room, which meant that it was open to everyone. Colleagues took phone calls in these rooms, or they did quick rounds of yoga or had a quiet minute to themselves. This is not a bad option to have for employees–but it is hard to keep to your pump schedule and hold your milk supply steady when someone is using the one room you need to make a phone call.
When I returned to work in January 2020 after having my son, I felt anxious about coming back, about creating a new routine and about figuring out the pumping situation. I had emailed HR in advance of returning and gotten approval for the Mother’s Room – my badge would swipe me in. When I found the room and entered, I could have cried: It was a private suite just for moms, with four individually locking pumping rooms, a set of lockers to keep things safely, a large fridge and a sink. There was a corkboard where other moms had put up pictures of their babies. Mothers were not an afterthought. It felt like someone had really considered how to make the experience as supportive as possible.
It's that attitude that has propelled me though this year of pumping. Avanade has created a culture where it’s not embarrassing or inconvenient that I’m a breastfeeding mom. Even after COVID-19 sent our entire company home to work remote, my team has been supportive as I still needed to pump during work hours. I feel comfortable sharing with them when I want to, but I also know that I am trusted to get my work done on my own schedule, which includes pumping. The first year of motherhood is hard for so many reasons. And like the WHO says, it requires a lot of support. We all want to do the best for our kids, and the best at our jobs. I feel lucky that Avanade has empowered me to do both.