Nipples Happen. Supporting moms in the workplace

When you work with a millennial workforce you are inherently working with a very fertile population.

“There must be something in the water around here” is what guests to our offices have said. Well, it’s either something in the water or the fact that 90% of my workforce is under the age of 40. This workforce consists of new parents that are emerging and figuring out what lifestyle they choose.

So what’s a #girlboss to do? I have made great efforts to incentivize people to stay in the workforce. We have progressive policies and perks intended to say “Please come back to work!”:

  • We buy our mommas (and partners of our employees) pregnancy gifts when we hear of the good news.
  • We talk about their family expansion plan without any sense of guilt or worry. We simply ask “What is your plan?”.
  • We discuss the lifestyle that people may want to have after they have a baby and discuss what options our company may have available to them.
  • We throw a baby shower that is company-sponsored.
  • We send them meals after they have the baby. We have the luxury of using Samples World Bistro as our meal delivery service, though these can be homemade meals or items catered from a local restaurant.
  • We offer paid parental leave. I think every business should do what they can based on their industry, though every little bit helps.
  • We also remind the momma of the value they bring to work and will continue to bring to work after they have the baby.

At some point, it is a choice that is out of your influence as a business. There are no amount of perks or benefits or monetary compensation that you can provide that will tip the scale if someone simply wants to spend the whole day with their baby…and that’s ok. As a supervisor you are simultaneously happy for them and sad for your loss when someone doesn’t want to return to work.

Some people love their babies but also find it lonely to stay home all day. I wanted to do what was best for the baby AND I wanted to work full-time. That’s ok too.

Trying to stay at home isn’t for everyone. I felt a bit lost when I wasn’t with my work team, even with a beautiful new baby.

For people that WANT to work, however, it is important that we provide an environment that is supportive and conducive to nursing.

I’ve had three babies while growing my businesses and I breastfed all three of them for about a year each. Yes, I did it in the office. I did it in meetings and in conference calls. I also pumped at the office and stored my milk in our community fridge. I attempted to use a cover sometimes, but two of my children HATED the cover and screamed with the fire of 1000 suns every time I tried to use it, so I usually went without it.

Did I sometimes have to stop meetings to adjust the baby’s latch? Yes. Did I sometimes have to reschedule meetings so that it lined up with feeding schedules? Yes. Did I really pump and feed in front of the men on my team? YES, you betcha. Did it make them uncomfortable? Probably, but they all sweetly smiled and stayed in the meeting anyway. Our men are the best men, setting the standard for a supportive work environment.

What is the downfall of breastfeeding at work?

There aren’t any as I see it. Yeah, you might see some nipples. My husband would call it a “nip slip”….haha. Yeah, some people might get the occasional squirt of breast milk if you sit too close. (Yes, that happened a lot). Bring some kleenex in case you need to wipe it off.

You may even find that your team will grow closer. You hold each other’s babies when the mom is trying to give a presentation. You help transfer the milk into the bottle if they need an extra hand. You tell someone their nipple is still showing. You laugh about it and bond and move on.

I’ve never seen productivity go down or someone use breastfeeding as an excuse to avoid a new project. If anything, it encourages strong female leaders to stay in the workforce. People that want to keep working will generally make up the hours to actually get the work done. You may end up seeing correspondence late in the evening or even in the middle of the night when they are feeding and have nothing else to do.

The only thing NOT to do? Suggest that breastfeeding is an issue in any way, shape or form. Don’t do it. Don’t be that person. If you don’t like it, simply look away. This is one of those times in life where you simply keep any negative thoughts to yourself and “suck it up”….*yes, pun intended*.

Because if you make breastfeeding an issue, we be like:

We’d rather be like:

This is me feeding my first child Rose at the office. Feeding and working = Happy Mommy.

Ultimately, a pro-breastfeeding culture isn’t about policies or private pumping rooms. I think it is actually about being able to breastfeed publicly and integrate it into your work if you choose. Don’t shun people into private rooms as if nursing is the plague. A little milk never hurt anybody. Invite them to work next to you while you continue the meeting or type up a report together. Don’t be afraid to make eye contact with a mom (or baby) who is trying to make eye contact with you while they are nursing. Just be prepared for the occasional “nip slip”.

Nipples Happen. Keep calm and breastfeed on.

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