After I revealed that my journey of expressing breastmilk at work had come to end, I received a few questions from moms about to start expressing at work. While I was on maternity leave, I remember reading articles and asking people how they did it. Even when you’re super prepared, there are some things you only figure out as you go through the process. Here are some of my tips that helped me in this year long journey.

1. Invest in a double electric breast pump 
The breast pump is probably the best invention for working mothers. Moms don’t have time to waste. While hand expressing and manually pumping works fine to prepare a bottle for that rare occasion that you’re away from your baby, it doesn’t cut it for every day pumping. A double electric pump along with a hands free pumping bra allowed me to drain both breasts while eating lunch or typing up a report. And each session only lasts 20 minutes. I used the Medela Swing Maxi


2. Build up a freezer stash
I hung out with the Le Leche League crew for a few months and they would never advise building up a freezer stash. They aim to help you understand how much milk your baby needs to drink while you’re away, to be consistent with pumping so that your supply doesn’t drop and to trust your body to produce what your baby needs. Perfect advice for calming down anxious moms. But, in the corporate world, work stress causes a dip in supply and department meetings that overrun mean you can’t pump at the same time you usually do. I created a freezer stash by adding a pump session every day while I was on maternity leave. I was a relief to be able to dip in to that for those days I didn’t or couldn’t pump enough. 

3. Know how much milk your baby needs
Most parents think their babies need more milk than they actually do. This is because they focus on the formula calculations on because when they leave more milk, their babies devour it all. Luckily, we have science to tell us everything we need. Little babies suck for comfort and when mom is not around, their desire for comfort increases. They can easily drink a full bottle because the need to suck is so strong. According to studies performed, babies only need to drink about 37ml of breastmilk per hour that the mom is away. They are also far more intuitive than we give them credit for. If they don’t drink enough, they’ll make up for it when mom’s back home. 

4. Schedule your pump sessions in your calendar
Ideally, you want to pump as often as your baby drinks in order to maintain your milk supply. At some point, I was pumping three times a day. I blocked out those mid-morning, lunch and mid-afternoon sessions on Outlook so that my colleagues knew I wasn’t available for meetings. It also served as a reminder for when I got busy and lost track of time. Don’t wait until you’re engorged; it sends a message to your brain to slow your milk production. This just threatens your supply in the long run. 

5. Know your rights
In most countries, the law entitles nursing mothers to take lactation breaks by law. In South Africa, you’re allowed breaks to express milk up until your baby is 6 months old. These breaks should not form part of your lunch break and its to aide exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of your baby’s life. Even when the law no longer protects you, there is no harm in finding out if you can still take your pumping breaks. I worked while pumping so that my seniors couldn’t really complain that I was neglecting my work. 

6. Grow a thick skin (or just learn to laugh at yourself)
The number of times I’ve heard people talk about how I’m milking myself, whether I need a helping hand and the disbelief that I’m STILL breastfeeding. It comes with the territory. Learn to laugh it off.

7. Find a place to pump
An office, your car and even the sick room will do. Ask about a clean place you can use. If nothing exists, you might be helping all the mommies that come after you to create a space for them. There is also a fantastic breast pump that just sits in your bra so you can discreetly pump in the open plan. Whatever you do don’t settle for a bathroom! All those germs hanging around waiting to infect a little baby’s virgin gut. Ugh!

8. Be prepared
I carried 4 bottles and an ice-pack in a lunch cooler bag which fitted nicely inside a handbag. This way, I didn’t need to use the fridge because my milk was kept cool all day. I also kept my pump parts in a ziplock bag which kept them clean so I didn’t have to disinfect them after each use. A clean face cloth to place my pump parts on, back up batteries and a hand sanitiser. And don’t forget snacks or lunch. Pumping is tiring work.

9. Support group and online resources
Cos you’ll need a tutorial to help you to figure out how to hand express when your batteries run out of juice. It also helps to talk about your pumping blues with other mommies going through the exact same thing. Photos and videos of my baby also helped the milk flow on those tiring days. 

10. Reduce your pump sessions gradually
My plan was to reduce my pumping sessions once Squeak started eating solids. The problem was that he still preferred his booby juice. Plan B was introduce some cow’s milk after he turned one but he was allergic. I was hoping he would give up a bottle himself but I soon realised that wasn’t going to happen with my kid. I slowly got him to eat more food by gradually reducing my pump sessions. Stopping completely was hard because I felt like I needed to give him something to replace the milk. Given that cow’s milk was a problem, I needed time to play around with other drinks. Eventually I introduced watered down tea and juice. I stopped pumping at 15 months. Trust your instincts and do it in the way that works for you and your family. 

What tips do you have for moms about to venture down the seemingly daunting path of expressing milk every day at work?

We have been lucky that Squeak is 14 months old and has never had a fever before. At this age, parents are seasoned pros at what to do when fever strikes. We weren’t prepared for what was about to come the weekend. If you’re a new parent, you probably want to read this post to learn from our journey.

It all began at the start of the long weekend. My boss left work early on Friday, so I left early too so that my baby’s nanny could leave early and we could all enjoy the long weekend a bit earlier. Squeak wasn’t his usual self that afternoon. He didn’t want to play and was a bit clingy. So, I held him while he clung to me like a little monkey. He fell asleep on my chest while I sat on the couch – no rocking, no boobing – none of the usual things he needs to be able to fall asleep. Strange. When he awoke, he felt hot to the touch.

1. Trust your instincts
You really don’t need a thermometer to know that your baby has a fever. You can gauge how bad his fever is based on how warm his head and body becomes. I consoled myself with the fact that our parents didn’t have thermometers or access to 24 hour emergency room visits and we all grew up just fine. I also realised that our parents never had to deal with swollen faces, hives and difficulty breathing from a nut allergy. The point is you know your baby best. You will know when to take him to the doctor and when cuddles is the cure. A doctor’s visit will never be a waste (apart from money). Even if there is nothing the doctor can do, it might just reassure you that everything you’re doing is right.

2. Use the cheap little underarm hospital thermometer
We invested in those expensive no touch thermometers that incorrectly sent us to the emergency room when Squeak was only 6 days old. We returned the defective unit and got another one which is really handy. You point it at a baby’s forehead and take his temperature without actually touching him. While it’s useful to not aggravate a cranky baby further, I realised those cheap underarm thermometers are what they use in the hospital and is much more accurate. When I was monitoring a 39.5 degree fever, that’s the thermometer I used.

3. Don’t fear the fever
A fever is a good thing. It means your little baby’s immune system has the ability to fight off an infection. The bad thing is that the baby has an infection that needs to be fought. I’ve read a lot about allowing the body to fight off the baddies but my itty bitty baby doesn’t deserve to be uncomfortable in the process. I found that giving him Panado really helped to bring his fever down for a while. I only medicated him as a last resort. I tried to gently bring his body temperature down by cooling him off first.

4. Skin to skin
I’ve seen the benefits of skin to skin from the time Squeak was born. He would calm down the moment I took off my shirt and held him to my chest. Now, with a raging fever, I took off our clothes, kept him in a nappy and held him against my skin gently rocking him. In no time, my body helped him regulate his body temperature and he fell asleep.

5. Agree on your cut-off point
A friend gave me this advice and it is the most important tip. My husband is more of a traditional parent and I am what he calls an organic free-range mother. He likes to consult with doctors and I prefer not to medicate my child if he doesn’t need it. We, therefore, needed to discuss at which point, we should head to the hospital and stick to it. We agreed that an uncontrollable fever of 39.5 would send us to the hospital. Luckily, we didn’t need to.

6. Stay hydrated
Squeak quickly lost his appetite but he kept sticking his arm down my shirt. I felt like I had a newborn again. I didn’t mind as I knew it was his only source of calories and it helped maintain his hydration levels. I’m sure I’m not supposed to be feeding my baby iced water but he seemed to enjoy it so I kept offering whenever I had some.

7. Maintain your sanity
I didn’t get much sleep and I also didn’t want to waste a long weekend. I decided we still needed to go out. We didn’t overdo it but we stuck to our plans so that we could maintain some sanity. It gave Squeak a difference in environment and us something to do other than care for a sick child. When Squeak needed his mommy, I popped him into my sling and wore him as I socialised with my friends.

8. Keep your routine
I’m notorious for throwing Squeak’s routine out of the window during the weekends but I maintained his evening routine. Bath, supper, bed. The poor kid has enough to keep him unhappy. I could at least let him know that there is still some normality in his life so he isn’t anxious about what comes next.

72 hours later, after Twitter consultations and constantly second-guessing ourselves, Squeak was back to his normal self. He ate a bowl of pasta, drunkenly ran around and the house was filled with his giggles again. Being responsible for a helpless child is scary and it might not seem like it at the time, but I know that all my baby really needs is me, lots of love and baby cuddles.

Do you have any tips to help with a fever? Share them in the comments below so I’m better prepared next time.

Try complaining about not having time to do the things you want to do and you’re hit with a ton of advice. We’re told we need to prioritise, stop being a perfectionist, be more efficient, blah blah blah blah blah. Stop telling me I don’t know how to manage my time and listen to me!

I remember what it was like to have 168 hours in a week and subtract all the necessary things in life until I have “enough time” to do whatever I want. But now, I don’t have that “enough time” anymore.

Those 37 hours of magical free time available is an average of 5 hours a day. That includes childcare responsibilities and family time. I’ve even tried to squeeze minutes away from my toddler stuck to me like glue – that barely gives me time to type 140 characters before my phone is grabbed away from me or I need to be Squeak’s transportation device.

On average, I spend about 4 hours a day just being a mom. That extra hour is for me to escape for a bit in front of the TV – a bit of relaxation time. And, even then, I’m trying to juggle being immersed in a new series with catching up on social media.

I’m desperate for some me time. Time to focus my thoughts and write. Time to dance. Time to be social whether with real people or through my phone. Time to finish reading long articles. Time to do the things that make me, me.

Tell me I am not alone and that you also struggle with finding the time to be you. 

Everyone always talks about not hurting the baby. I stopped wearing my wedding rings because I didn’t want the stones to scratch his delicate skin. I supported his neck while carrying him in positions that were far too uncomfortable for me. I made sure I kept him away from the oil splatters from cooking and tried not to use chillies for fear of burning his eyes with my fiery hands.

But no one talks about how deadly that helpless little baby is to his parents. Parents everywhere are suffering in silence. Co-workers wonder how she got that black eye or how it’s possible that he’s off work for an eye injury. They roll their eyes without understanding because we don’t talk about the abuse we get from our kids. This week has been a record of beatings from Squeak. I even reached out to parents on Twitter to check that I was not alone.

I was right! Parents and caregivers with a seemingly happy relationship with their babies came forth with stories of torture and physical abuse. Attempts at eyes being gorged out while parents innocently sleep. Skin and corneas scratched open by little hands out for blood. Walking into dad’s nethers to prevent future siblings. Bruised ribs from a 10kg wrestling contender. Head butts to the face resulting in bloody noses and black eyes from their deadliest weapon yet – their oversized heads! All this while parents were innocently going about their own business. I mean, one was even sleeping!

They blame it on their toddlers not yet mastering the art of walking (straight into male parts) or still learning their fine motor skills (waving deadly objects around) or just being curious (poking around at eyes, ears, noses and mouths) or even that parents did not cut their sharp nails (deadly talons). They may have the world fooled but not me. I know their real intent.

We need to stand up, we need to unite and we need to fight back! Lest we allow these tiny humans to rule our lives and beat us into submission. Who is with me? 

I’ve always been the type to say what’s on my mind even though the socially acceptable thing is to be kind, polite and not to judge others. I’m here to tell you that the claim to not judge others is such bullshit and why it’s totally ok to do so.

We all judge. Even the polite people think their judgements in their minds; they just don’t say it out loud. We judge people based on how they present themselves and the behaviours they display. It is a subconscious perception of people. We form impressions by deciding on whether to go on a date with someone based on how they look. We make correlations from the way your date treats the waiter or whether the person orders pineapple on their pizza.

Judging others is normal human behaviour. Every opinion we make is a judgement. If we weren’t judgemental, we’d have no opinions. You discover someone’s beliefs. You decide you like them, that’s being judgemental. You decide you do not like them, that’s also being judgemental. Our belief systems stem from our opinions and we decide to do certain things because we believe it is right. We don’t do the opposite because we believe it is wrong. Based on that we already judged people who don’t share the same opinions as us.

In the parenting world, mom-shaming is rife. Everyone tries to make conscious decisions to not judge because you never know the background and context that resulted in people making the decisions they make. Try as you may, you see the judgemental attitudes everywhere like the debates on breastmilk vs formula and anti-vax vs science.  It is not surprising that people have strong views because when you choose to vaccinate, you obviously did enough research to think that anyone on the other side of the fence is completely wrong, and vice versa.

And, even when you’re well meaning, people will still take it the wrong way. A mom shared a pic of her dirty car rationalising that it’s ok because it’s evidence that she spends time with her kids instead of cleaning. I didn’t expect the huge backlash of parents who keep a clean car and house that felt mom-shamed. They said that cleaning up didn’t mean that they are detracting from quality time with their kids.

Point is. It’s ok to judge. It’s normal. You don’t need to keep your thoughts to yourself. In fact, I’d rather surround myself with people who are judgemental because at least I know that they are real.

I’ve been a bit emotional this week. Since going back to work after maternity leave, I spent almost a year expressing breast milk for Squeak. I recently decided it was time. He’s over a year old, he’s eating pretty well and I’ve just introduced some Rooibos tea and watered down juice during the day to replace his boob juice.

It just feels so weird to not be running on adrenaline all day long. Over the past year, I’ve had to squeeze in a huge workload and as much as three pump sessions a day. In the same breath, I’m so excited to have my lunch breaks back so I can do things like run an errand and well, have lunch with a friend.

I think back to all that I went through during a year of pumping. I mastered pumping – doing it while driving, in my parked car, in rooms with glass doors or unlocked doors and even during syndicate group meetings. I had to learn how to hand express milk when my batteries gave up, found out why lithium batteries are so expensive and figured out the minor differences in flange vs nipple size with my nipples splashed across Facebook. I went through the disappointment of producing insufficient milk and the relief of producing more milk than I needed. I missed all the tasty tea time snacks and lunch during training sessions. I dealt with judgement from my colleagues and resultant discrimination.

I don’t think I’m going to miss hooking myself up to a breast pump and milking myself dry. Here’s to feeling like a normal 9 - 5 employee again!
I read everything. I read about breastfeeding when I was pregnant too but experiencing it was something else. 4 months later, Squeak and I are still going strong but that's not without a lot of support. Here's how I made it work for me and you can too.

You first need to educate yourself. Find out what breastfeeding is all about and the benefits of breast milk on both mommy and baby. It was a no brainer for me to breastfeed purely because it's a natural act. The human race survived and thrived with mother's milk as a foundation. Why would my choice be any different.

Next, create a support group for yourself. I didn't have many mother friends and the few that I had, jumped on the formula wagon pretty early on. Online, I found moms on Twitter that DM'ed advice on preparing for breastfeeding, bloggers who honestly shared their journeys and a La Leche League Facebook group that helped me when I wasn't sure if things were normal. Most importantly, this online circle encouraged me when I was despondent and boosted my confidence as a mother. 

Get help! My baby latched on like a champ but many don't. The nurses at the hospital were so helpful in getting Squeak to latch on in so many different positions. I had a lactation consultant help show me how to make latching easier for him. And because I'm paranoid, I had the nurses at the vaccination clinic check out our booby time and a group of La Leche League ladies at one of their meetings.

Before I went into hospital, one of the online moms advised me to insist on doing immediate skin-to-skin and rooming in with my baby. Keeping your baby as close to you as possible and frequent feeding will boost your milk production and help you both conquer the lactation learning curve.

Once my milk came in, my boobs were all sorts of uncomfortable. I found relief in breast shells and nipple cream. This combination soothed my nipples and kept them from rubbing against my clothing and making it more uncomfortable for me.

I hated night feeds. I was so sleep deprived and getting up to feed a crying baby was painful from my c-section. And then I found out how much easier it was to keep Squeak next to me at night and feed him lying down. Best decision ever for us all to get better sleep.

The Husband was super involved in breastfeeding. He would hand me water and snacks, make me comfortable with cushions and sometimes just sit with me to keep me company. When Squeak wanted boob just as I was about to eat, The Husband would feed me. If your partner is supportive of breastfeeding, you'll be more inclined to see it through.

Three months of doing it and my number 1 tip is to forget about the horror stories. Knowledge is power but don't stress on what might not happen. I didn't get bleeding nipples or breast infections so don't let other people's horror stories deter you from breastfeeding. Each woman's breastfeeding journey is unique. Hopefully my tips will help you succeed. If you have successfully breastfed, what tips do you have to offer?
Squeak's first car ride was when we brought him home from hospital. The scrawny little thing barely fitted in the newborn setting of the car seat but we strapped him in tight. Nervously, The Husband drove off following every precaution to ensure we transported our precious cargo safely.

Soon after that Squeak accompanied me to necessary doctors' visits and for all of those outings, I drove alone with Squeak in the backseat.

I was super prepared, diaper bag and handbag all packed and in the car ahead of time. All I needed was a freshly changed and well fed baby. But the moment I put him in the car, he would wail. The poor baby didn't know where he was or why he was alone. He'd scream for someone to save him.

Four months later, nothing has changed. Some days, he might have a little snooze once we hit the highway. Other days, he'd scream his head off for the entire duration of the car ride until we reached our destination and I rush to the backseat to cuddle him.

I sound so understanding of my baby but it's a stressful drive and every time I get behind the wheel, I can't help but think that driving with a baby should be illegal.

As a new mother, I am not programmed to ignore the sound of my baby crying. From the driver's seat, I try everything to soothe him. I play music while navigating the route, talk to him while waiting for the traffic signal to change, sing while overtaking so I can get home faster. When the screams get louder or there is sudden silence, I try to look back at him wondering if he is not strapped in too tight or whether he stopped breathing. I should be looking ahead at the road!

We have so many rules to ensure road safety. Don't text and drive - one look away from the road could be fatal. Don't hold your cell phone to your ear so you can act quickly when you are not distracted. Take frequent breaks during long trips so you don't fall asleep at the wheel.

Driving alone with the baby brings all these risks and more in one drive. I take my eyes off the road to look at the baby. I am distracted by his constant crying. I am an exhausted sleep deprived new mom.

It's not just people texting and driving, unruly taxi drivers and fatigued truck drivers that we should be wary off. Moms driving alone with their babies are also a hazard on the road.
I'm at Squeak's beck and call. I attend to his cries immediately. I used to take him with me wherever I went because I knew Squeak wouldn't survive without his boobies.

To the outsider, it looks like I'm that mom who never wants to leave her child. And it's true; I don't. But caring for Squeak is also a chore that I've had to do ever since he was born. That chore soon became tasks that I enjoyed doing.

But there are things that I just have to do without Squeak. I've been trying to get him to take a bottle and the easiest way to do that is to have someone else do it. If I'm within seeing or smelling distance, he will refuse the bottle because well, why must he put strange things in his mouth when the breast is right there.

So off I went to Starbucks before he got hungry. When I told some moms the story, they empathised with pity. "Shame you must have been so heartbroken." "I bet you couldn't think of anything other than your child." "You probably couldn't enjoy yourself."

Actually, I was relieved! For the first time in 4 months, I parked on the opposite end of the mall away from the stores I planned on visiting. I didn't need to map my route of things I needed to do based on stroller navigation. I walked up and down levels several times. I took my time in browsing through the menu and even had time to think about opting for a non traditional milk in my mocha latte. I had my coffee and sandwich at leisure and I could Google and tweet without distractions. I was free!

When I got home, Squeak whimpered at me as if to ask why I left him when he needed me the most. I held him so tight and gave him free reign to my bare chest. As he yelled at my boobs and tried to comfort himself, tears welled up in my eyes. How could I find relief in being away from my child whose only need was to be with me?
I found out about cloth diapers online, while I was pregnant. I read quite an informative article about it and did more research. Pretty soon, I was learning more on the cloth diapering Facebook pages and attending all sorts of nappy parties and events in preparation for Squeak. Four months later, I feel so confident with cloth diapers. Just another thing I do outside of my circle of friends because people I know don't understand it so this post is to maybe shed some light on my decision. Here are some of the reasons I choose to cloth diaper.

Cost saving People always talk about how expensive babies are. Actually babies are only expensive if you're constantly buying diapers (and formula). Reusing diapers is the perfect way to cut down on diaper costs. Buy a few reusable nappies upfront that can fit your baby from birth and use them up until your child potty trains. In fact, you can use them until your last child potty trains. People who have done the math estimate that disposable diapers cost R20 000 per child! Compare that to R4 000 for a stash of diapers that can be reused for all your children. Diaper rash is much more prevalent with disposables so with cloth diapers, you also save money on bum creams. 

Environmentally friendly   I'm constantly looking for ways to do my bit to not mess up the planet any more than we have. And what better way than to reuse diapers instead of dumping about 12 diapers a day into landfills. Do you know how long it takes for diapers to decompose! 

Gentle on baby's skin Imagine trading your soft cotton undies for something plastic and paper-like filled with a gel to absorb moisture that lets off heat as the chemical by process. Cotton is so much softer and gentler on skin. We are also so careful to use detergents and products that are natural on our babies' skins yet we put chemicals near their genitalia for the sake of convenience. These chemicals have been linked to all sorts of health problems including male infertility.

Supporting small businesses  
Where feasible, I'd rather support a mom making nappies to support her family than throw my money at the big guys. So the big guys can keep making products cheaper with inferior ingredients that are not properly tested and marketed so well that consumers believe things like its ok to leave your child in a chemical filled diaper for 12 hours! 

Cute little bums

Kids are darn cute but how much better would they look without paper and plastic butts. People go wild with all sorts of cute nappies. My sister-in-law even approves of the Harry Potter prints.

No poonamis The first time it happened, it hit me by surprise. I was innocently changing Squeak at my sister-in-law's place. I took out the disposable, wiped him clean and then realised that further away from his bum was still a yellowy gooey mess. Lo and behold! A trail of newborn shit all the way up to his neck! We've had lots of pretty big poops since. Thankfully, the cloth diapers contained it all.

That's why I use cloth diapers. I'm more than happy to answer any questions you have or chat more about your thoughts on this. Do you use cloth diaper? If so, why? If not, why not?