Breastfeeding Almost Made Me Quit My Job

Allaya pumps on her break at work.
I love my job. I’ve been teaching adult education classes for the last three years, and I feel that helping people establish their new careers while simultaneously teaching them about finance is rewarding and important work. However, since I came back from maternity leave, I’ve thought about quitting before every. single. class.

The night before I’m supposed to teach, I begin to feel the tide of anxiety rising. I fight the urge to kick and scream, throw a temper tantrum, run into traffic, anything to not have to teach. Pushing down the growing sense of despair, I pack my lunch, print out my rosters and hunt for a clean baby bottle for the hand pump tucked discreetly in my purse.

Because my schedule is so tight (it’s set by the state of New York) I have to be extremely purposeful about my breaks. I can pump, I can pee, I can eat. I cannot do more than one of these things. Generally, I choose to pump, standing in the bathroom on the second floor where none of my students will walk in on me.

I am blessed to do what I love, I am blessed to have wonderful supervisors, and I am blessed to have been able to nurse my baby for a year. But more than anything I’m thankful that I only teach a couple of times a month. Ten hours with no bathroom break, ignoring my hunger as I watch my students walk back into class late with McDonald’s, and then running straight home to fight my baby over my paperwork and laptop has worn me out. Some women do this daily, and if I had to I would’ve quit long ago.

There is a moment in each day where I get into a flow, and I’m so full of passion and excitement that I forget how hungry I am, or that I have two cotton pads stuffed in each cup of my bra. It’s then that I remember that I love what I do. But if not for that, I wouldn’t have been able to sustain my energy weekend in and weekend out. Because like most women, when forced to choose between doing my job to the best of my ability and taking care of my child, I chose to do both, and I suffered as a result.

Here are a couple of things that I decided to prioritize while I continue to nurse and work:

Staying hydrated. 

– I try to drink a water bottle on each break and bring a large container of water and chia seeds to sip during class. Getting dehydrated makes me more sluggish and cranky, and affects my production.

Quick, nutrient dense snacks.

– Chia seeds are great, and so are these little things called Nut Punches (80 cal and 4g of protein). I also like Greek yogurt and fruit and veggie squeeze pouches. It helps to take the edge off the hunger and keep the headaches away.

Resting when possible. 

– This is particularly hard for me, because I am type-A to the max. But working nearly ten hours straight takes a toll on anyone. Sometimes I have to admit I’m human and just sit quietly. No pumping, no talking, just sitting and breathing.

Making up for it at home. 

– When I’m home, I try to eat big meals and drink lots of fluids to make up for the calories that I don’t get during the day. I also try not to pump, so I can give my nipples a break (sorry if that’s TMI, but nursing moms will know exactly what feeding a teething baby + pumping three times a day will do).

Cutting myself some slack. 

– Again, this isn’t the easiest thing, but it’s temporary. On the weekends where I teach, I don’t clean or stay up late. I try to take care of myself and my baby and let everything else go. If there’s one thing parenting has taught me, it’s that if I’m not taking care of myself, my ability to care for others suffers as well.

Like most of raising children, breastfeeding is not easy, but l believe it’s worth it. Not because of the health benefits or the fact that it’s free or the bond with baby (although I believe in all that too). It’s because it teaches you that you can’t have it all, but you can have all the important stuff.

Oh, and my job? There’s a contest going on right now…and currently, I’m ranked number one.

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