women's narratives

‘It’s totally worth it’: Experiences of women who breastfed their children while at work

August 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week. Scroll.in speaks to three women about how they manage their babies’ feeding schedules around work.

While mothers are often made aware of the benefits of breastfeeding, there is little conversation around how difficult the task can be, especially when the child is just born.

The World Health Organisation recommends that mothers exclusively breastfeed their child (with no other food or drink) up to six months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary food up to two years of age.

But for working mothers, when maternity leave draws to a close and the mother chooses to go back to office, many questions arise. For instance, should they wean their baby, pump breastmilk, or find a way to breastfeed at work?

Breast pumps are devices that can extract milk from the breasts of lactating women. The milk can be stored in a refrigerator or freezer. Women can express breast milk without these devices too, by using their hands.

 Manual Breast Pump
Manual Breast Pump

While some women choose to switch to baby formula as an alternative or supplement to breast milk, there are some who manage to juggle breastfeeding with their busy work schedules. This is particularly challenging, because breast milk needs to be pumped at regular intervals, which means women have to find a way to pump or feed at work.

The WHO states that nearly all mothers can breastfeed if they have the right information and the support of family, the healthcare system and society at large.

The Maternity Benefit Act, 1971 was amended in March where the maternity leave for women in the organised sector was increased to 26 weeks or six months, up from 12 weeks. The law also requires every establishment with 50 or more employees to provide creche facilities. But these benefits leave out 96% of the women who work in India’s unorganised sector, said experts.

As the world marks August 1 to August 7 as World Breastfeeding Week, an initiative to protect, promote and support breastfeeding, Scroll.in spoke to three mothers who managed to breastfeed their babies while simultaneously working. They said the support from the workplace and their families was crucial.

Dilraz AR Kunnumal with her son
Dilraz AR Kunnumal with her son

‘Pumped breast milk in the prayer room’: Dilraz AR Kunnumal, Communications Professional, Doha

I went back to work full time when my son was two months old and I would be away from him from 7.30 am to 2.30 pm. I was looking forward to going back to work. It was important for me to be in a place where I was valued and respected as more than a mother.

I tried to organise my work around my pumping schedule. My team was great and I didn’t want to inconvenience them. I used the prayer room facilities to pump breast milk. I read online about how women pumped in their workplace and spoke to mother’s online groups.

I built a stash of (chilled) breastmilk. I would give a day’s supply of milk to the nursery near my office where my son spent the day. The baby’s nannies at the nursery told me that they would warm the milk and feed him. They even helped me reach the right amount of milk my baby needed for each feed.

My boy is now 17 months old. I’m hoping to definitely feed till he is two, and then we’ll see how we both feel about it.

Keep in mind that some days are tougher than others, sometimes you will need to pump more and some days the output will be minimal. And that’s all okay. Set shorter term goals. Say, “let us see how this week goes, how this month goes” and so on, for three months, then six months.

Moulshri Joshi with her son
Moulshri Joshi with her son

‘Carried my baby to work’: Moulshri Joshi, Architect and Professor, Delhi

My daughter was just over five months when I went back to work at the School of Planning and Architecture. My job involves teaching large groups of young adults in a studio and lecture setting, and extra-curricular responsibilities such as wardenship of the student hostels.

As I was not open to the idea of pumping or formula-feeding, I decided to wear my baby to work.

In the early months, I had the support to choose a time table which didn’t need me in class early morning or kept me back for eight hours at a stretch. But there were also days when I would be needed to make visits to the hostel at unearthly hours and those nights, the baby would be on my back. Sometimes I would express breast milk in a saucer for my husband or mother to feed her with a spoon.

There was no crèche or day care facility in the school. There was not even a changing room or a faculty common room.

My colleagues, the students and the staff were all very supportive. Many men would be too embarrassed, awkward or shocked when they saw me feeding or carrying my baby to work.
But in general, people held doors open, offered a seat and shared their lunch. I felt like I was left alone to cope with something that was clearly my family problem and not a social responsibility.

I converted my worktop into a changing station in my room that I shared with a very generous senior colleague, a woman. This is also where I would often feed my baby. I also fed during long meetings, but I did not feed in class and refused to feed in the washroom.

I remember hosting a day-long conference that I organised and chaired one month after going back to work. I wore a red sari to work that day, teamed with the black baby carrier and my parents waited in the parking lot to back me up with support if the baby cried or needed a diaper change.

All I remember of those first few weeks was the exhaustion. The sheer mental and physical labour of doing at least two things at the same time in a public space – guarding and nurturing the baby (“Is the diaper soiled? Is she too warm? Are there mosquitoes here? I need to use the washroom myself”) and working, which in my case involved critiquing a design project. My daughter weaned at three years and I am now breastfeeding my son.

Of course, it gets easier over time. Sadly it is not because we have daycare at work or washrooms where fathers can change diapers. It is presumed that couples and families will somehow manage this most commonplace phenomenon of rearing children. This is the reason children and breastfeeding mothers are invisible in our workplaces and in our cities.

We need to make workplaces friendly to babies, mothers and caregivers.

Prutha with her daughter
Prutha with her daughter

‘Laws support breastfeeding mothers’: Prutha Amal Pai, Administration Manager, Goa

The moment my daughter turned six months old, I resumed work. I didn’t think twice about it because I was dying to get back to my routine. Besides, my mother was going to look after my daughter in my absence and I was confident that she would take better care of my baby than me. I was away from my baby for a total of nine hours.

I read about pumping and how to store milk. There are various groups on Facebook where experienced mothers help out. I bought a new pump, storage bags and bottles and started my pumping journey. A little dip in my supply was the only challenge, which was sorted rather quickly with all the information out there. Besides missing my daughter tremendously, nothing else bothered me. I’ve been nursing for over two years now and hoping to let my daughter self wean.

As for tips, I’d say consider pumping at work. Talk to your boss or human resource manager. There are laws out there that support breastfeeding mothers. Weaning is a choice ultimately. But don’t wean if you want to continue, especially when so much help available. Make it work for you both. It’s totally worth it.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Not just for experts: How videography is poised for a disruption

Digital solutions are making sure it’s easier than ever to express your creativity in moving images.

Where was the last time you saw art? Chances are on a screen, either on your phone or your computer. Stunning photography and intricate doodles are a frequent occurrence in the social feeds of many. That’s the defining feature of art in the 21st century - it fits in your pocket, pretty much everyone’s pocket. It is no more dictated by just a few elite players - renowned artists, museum curators, art critics, art fair promoters and powerful gallery owners. The digital age is spawning creators who choose to be defined by their creativity more than their skills. The negligible incubation time of digital art has enabled experimentation at staggering levels. Just a few minutes of browsing on the online art community, DeviantArt, is enough to gauge the scope of what digital art can achieve.

Sure enough, in the 21st century, entire creative industries are getting democratised like never before. Take photography, for example. Digital photography enabled everyone to capture a memory, and then convert it into personalised artwork with a plethora of editing options. Apps like Instagram reduced the learning curve even further with its set of filters that could lend character to even unremarkable snaps. Prisma further helped to make photos look like paintings, shaving off several more steps in the editing process. Now, yet another industry is showing similar signs of disruption – videography.

Once burdened by unreliable film, bulky cameras and prohibitive production costs, videography is now accessible to anyone with a smartphone and a decent Internet bandwidth. A lay person casually using social media today has so many video types and platforms to choose from - looping Vine videos, staccato Musical.lys, GIFs, Instagram stories, YouTube channels and many more. Videos are indeed fast emerging as the next front of expression online, and so are the digital solutions to support video creation.

One such example is Vizmato, an app which enables anyone with a smartphone to create professional-looking videos minus the learning curve required to master heavy, desktop software. It makes it easy to shoot 720p or 1080p HD videos with a choice of more than 40 visual effects. This fuss- free app is essentially like three apps built into one - a camcorder with live effects, a feature-rich video editor and a video sharing platform.

With Vizmato, the creative process starts at the shooting stage itself as it enables live application of themes and effects. Choose from hip hop, noir, haunted, vintage and many more.

The variety of filters available on Vizmato
The variety of filters available on Vizmato

Or you can simply choose to unleash your creativity at the editing stage; the possibilities are endless. Vizmato simplifies the core editing process by making it easier to apply cuts and join and reverse clips so your video can flow exactly the way you envisioned. Once the video is edited, you can use a variety of interesting effects to give your video that extra edge.

The RGB split, Inset and Fluidic effects.
The RGB split, Inset and Fluidic effects.

You can even choose music and sound effects to go with your clip; there’s nothing like applause at the right moment, or a laugh track at the crack of the worst joke.

Or just annotated GIFs customised for each moment.

Vizmato is the latest offering from Global Delight, which builds cross-platform audio, video and photography applications. It is the Indian developer that created award-winning iPhone apps such as Camera Plus, Camera Plus Pro and the Boom series. Vizmato is an upgrade of its hugely popular app Game Your Video, one of the winners of the Macworld Best of Show 2012. The overhauled Vizmato, in essence, brings the Instagram functionality to videos. With instant themes, filters and effects at your disposal, you can feel like the director of a sci-fi film, horror movie or a romance drama, all within a single video clip. It even provides an in-built video-sharing platform, Popular, to which you can upload your creations and gain visibility and feedback.


So, whether you’re into making the most interesting Vines or shooting your take on Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’, experience for yourself how Vizmato has made video creation addictively simple. Android users can download the app here and iOS users will have their version in January.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Vizmato and not by the Scroll editorial team.