Karabo Mokoena
Content producer
4 minute read
6 Sep 2019
2:00 pm

The realities of being a mom that needs to pump milk at work

Karabo Mokoena

Did you know that you are entitled to 2 30-minute pumping breaks every day, over and above your lunch break?

There are many deciding factors that cause women to stop breastfeeding before their intended time.

These may include;

-Low milk supply
-Unsuccessful latching
-Issues with pumping at work

My own personal story, may include my journey through having to pump at work. Pumping at work is an essential part of every working mom’s parenting and breastfeeding journey. Figuring out a healthy pumping routine and nailing it makes every working mama very proud. This is because our bodies are extraordinary. For 4/5 months we are happy at home, bonding with our little ones 24/7. Let down is, therefore, an easy process. If it becomes a problem, you can easily grab your little one and have a quick skin-to-skin session.

Then all of a sudden, you get back into an environment you have not been in for months, and your team is very happy to see you. You get back into “work mode”, accompanied by stress and overwhelming time constraints.

Our bodies react to this stress and suddenly we produce and pump less milk. At times, our schedules become so busy that we never find the time to pump. This tells the body that we no longer require milk, and it slowly stops producing it.

Some of us feel bad taking time out to go pump because we think it’s unfair to take more time, over and above our 1-hour lunch break.

Did you know that you are entitled to 2 30-minute pumping breaks every day, over and above your lunch break? This is an actual law under the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA).

If you work close to home, you can quickly go breastfeed, or you can power pump for half an hour.

I managed to pump for a couple of months after I had gone back to work when my daughter turned 5 months.

My biggest challenges;

-Finding a sanitary and appropriate place to pump.

When I started pumping, I went to the office bathroom, set everything up on a paper towel on the floor, and got down to business. This experience was horrid. Imagine pumping in the one cubicle, and someone is doing number 2 in the next. Yes, people poop in the office bathroom. I quickly rejected this option and spoke to HR about using a different space.

I then started booking some of the smaller boardrooms to pump. My issue with these is that the top and bottom part of the room are glass. The middle part was tinted. So some nosy people would either peep through the top or bottom section to see who was in there. This was pretty annoying. So I had to find another alternative, again.

There was an exec office I could use from our building next door, and the owner was hardly
there. When he was there I was forced to go into the glasshouse again.

-Skipped pumping sessions

I would sometimes be stuck in back to back meetings that would result in very uncomfortably full and painful breasts. Engorgement is no child’s play and the risk of mastitis is super high when your breasts are full and you can’t express.

Don’t get me started on sitting in a meeting with a group of colleagues or a client and you leak. Have you seen the stain of breastmilk on a work shirt?

What helped me stimulate my let down?

-Taking regular pumping breaks
-Watching my daughter’s videos or looking at her pictures while pumping
-Try, and I repeat, TRY, to manage my stress levels
-Listening to calming music

Some days were better than others. The moment work became too overwhelming I was not producing enough to pump at work anymore. So I ended up supplementing with formula as she was turning a year old.

Women need to be brave enough to have a difficult conversation with their Human Resources department about creating a conducive environment to express. If companies employ moms, then they should create a favorable environment for them to continue mommying.

Karabo Parenty Post BioKarabo Motsiri is a first-time mom, over-sharer, lover of life, chronic napper and married to her best friend. She loves a good party because the dance floor is her happy place. She enjoys good food, good conversations, laughs a little too hard, and cries during every episode of Grey’s Anatomy. She started her blogging journey because she wanted to share all the ups and downs of being a young modern mama in South Africa. Her blog Black Mom Chronicles has been featured on Ayana Magazine & SA Mom Blog. She has enjoyed airtime on Power FM and frequently writes for the parenting section of Saturday Citizen. She also works with MamaMagic on their Product Awards, Milestones Magazine, Heart to Heart blog, and the Baby Expo, which is South Africa’s biggest parenting expo. 

If you found this article useful or interesting, why not subscribe to Parenty’s weekly newsletter for a wrap up of that week’s best content.