Have you ever heard breastfeeding success stories from working moms?
I bet, countless…
So many working moms are still able to breastfeed despite having to work full time.
But the story that I’m going to tell you is different..
If a typical working mom manages to exclusively breastfeed her baby, thanks to her super-efficient breast pump, availability of fridge in the office/ good-quality cooler bag, and abundant milk stash in her dedicated freezer..,
This working mom is different.
She doesn’t have all of that.
Yes, you read it right.
She has no fridge at home (even more in her work place), and has no breast pump.
What? Are you serious?
Let’s find out what kind of challenges this mom faced, and how she managed to continue breastfeeding in such situation.
At the end, let’s summarise together, what lessons we all can learn from her story.
She is a factory worker working in a textile industry.
Just like her fellow mommy friends who work as factory workers, Kemijem stopped breastfeeding her first baby once her maternity leave ended.
But things went differently when she was expecting her second baby.
Initially her plan was still the same. Give birth, breastfeed while at maternity leave, follow-up with formula afterwards.
But thanks to the arising breastfeeding awareness in her region, one of her senior supervisor, managed to approach the managerial level, to allow the female workers in that factory to get regular talk about the importance of breastfeeding.
Little by little, this series of breastfeeding talks open up Kemijem’s mind.
Soon after that, she was hoping to be able to exclusively breastfeed her second baby.
She diligently came to each talk and read the distributed handouts religiously.
More good news to her.
Finally, the top management level allows special pumping breaks were given to the nursing moms so that they can pump regularly in addition to the lunch break time.
This is such a breakthrough, considering that these workers work with a very tight schedule, operating textile machineries which require constant monitoring.
These changes to make Kemijem’s factory become more breastfeeding-friendly, were not done by a lactation consultant. Rather, just by an ordinary mom who cares and wants to spread breastfeeding awareness.
However, Kemijem’s effort to prepare for breastfeeding did not come without challenges.
Here are some of the challenges:
- No Breast Pump
Not everyone can afford to buy a good-quality breast pump.
What more for a factory worker like Kemijem.
To avoid dependency towards breast pump, she started learning how to express milk by hand with the guidance from a volunteer in her workplace.
- Minimum support from surrounding family
Kemijem’s family is formula-feed friendly. It’s just kind of norm to feed the baby with formula milk once her mother returns back to work.
Previously, Kemijem listened to them.
But now, she wanted things to be different, and she badly needed a support.
So, she turned to her husband.
She shared all her breastfeeding handout with her husband, who gradually become interested with the concept of exclusive breastfeeding.
Once her baby is born, her husband becomes her pillar, supporting in every way he can, to ensure that the baby can receive the goodness of breast milk. That includes, finding a baby sitter that’s willing to feed with expressed milk, some thing that’s super rare in their current community (everyone is so inclined to use formula milk).
When they finally get a sitter, he was the one who constantly reminded the baby sitter about the importance of breast milk. That the baby should not receive anything but breast milk for the first 6 months. Her husband’s roles are even more prominent in the subsequent challenges.
3. No fridge
Kemijem lives in a rented household, which has maximum electric power of 225 W, just enough to power up some light bulbs, a rice cooker, and some small electrical appliances.
Adding a fridge to her household is therefore not possible. Her house simply cannot take it. It will definitely blow the fuse right away.
What about neighbors?
Unfortunately, none of her neighbors has a fridge.
A side note: If you live a country where having fridge is very common in every household (and some even have two, or extra chest freezer), please take a moment to feel grateful with what you have and what you can afford.
Not everyone in every part of the world has the luxury of having fridge.
I myself have visited houses without fridge, even these days (including my great aunt’s house).
So, this is a real thing. No joke, friends.
Ok, let’s go back to Kemijem’s story.
But this mom, once made up her mind to exclusively breastfeed her baby, does not give up with her situation.
From the breastfeeding talk she attended, she learnt that expressed milk in a cooler box with cooling elements can stay fresh up to 24 hours, and she’s making use of this facts to keep her milk.
She bought two cooler boxes.
A small one, for her to bring to her workplace every day to keep her expressed milk while at work.
The big one stays at home to keep her bottles of expressed milk for tomorrow’s consumption.
Instead of using ice cubes, she chose to cool the box using ice blocks. It stays frozen longer, and hence the milk stays chilled longer, too.
This is where her husband’s role is very critical.
Every single morning, her husband will hunt for ice blocks from shops and markets.
He’s also in charge to change the ice blocks in the cooler box once they starts to melt.
When the EBM stock at home may not be enough to last for the whole day, her husband was also in charge to fetch the expressed milk from her workplace and brought it back home for immediate consumption.
Just like every day, Kemijem trying hard to sneak some time to hand-express her milk in the factory, her husband also tirelessly looking after the amount and the freshness of the expressed milk in their home.Hospitalised
She’s almost there. Her baby was almost six months old when Kemijem fell sick due to dengue and needed to be admitted in the hospital.
Even with IV tube in her hand, she was still hand-expressing her milk with one hand, while her husband helped her by holding the bottle.
Her illness made her milk production dropped, so much that she worried she won’t be able to express enough milk for her baby.
She frantically asked for help from the nearest breastfeeding community, who quickly supported her by sending a few bottles of donor milk, just enough for the baby’s consumption while she’s recovering from her sickness.
Past her illness, she continued to exclusively breastfeed her baby up to 6 months and still continued nursing until her child is 25 months old.
Her determination to exclusively breastfeed her baby was admired by her fellow colleagues, leading to more and more workers making more effort to continue breastfeeding despite of working.
:: end of story::
What are you thinking now?
When I read her story for the first time, I felt a slap on my face.
I mean.. Come on..
I have access to fridge in my own home, a big one..
I have breast pump to simplify my pumping task every day..
Yet, I found myself complaining non-stop
Yeah, it’s tiring..
It takes a lot of time..
It steal away my sleep and my time to spend with my family..
My struggle is NOTHING compared to what Kemijem’s struggle..
I have so much convenience when she was not..
I feel so ashamed!
I feel that I could have done better in providing breast milk for my baby.
I should not give up or complain easily.
PS: Want to experience pumping success like Kemijem? Get more pumping tips from my popular pumping 101 series!
The Important Lessons
What lessons can we learn from her story?
(1) Hard work and determination pay off
Without hard work and persistence, do you think Kemijem will be able to reach her breastfeeding goal of 6-month exclusive breastfeeding?
Her job is not easy, add more her pumping sessions in between.
Should she give up easily, this breastfeeding thing is not going to happen.
So nursing moms, remember this.
(2) The Importance of Support
Kemijem has two critical supports.
First, her husband, who supporting her every single day by taking care of the freshness of the milk by changing the ice blocks in the cooler. He also tirelessly reminded the babysitter about the importance of breast milk and not to supplement with anything else.
The second support is also very important. The breastfeeding community around her who cares about her welfare.
Imagine.. If nobody cares about giving a breastfeeding talk in her workplace, do you think Kemijem will ever succeed in breastfeeding her baby?
That’s how important it is to be surrounded by a supportive community.
(3) Importance of knowing and learning
Kemijem and her husband started out from knowing nothing about breastfeeding, even more about expressed milk and how to store and prepare it properly.
Had they not learnt about this before, will Kemijem ever know how to express efficiently by hand?
If they don’t know about proper milk storage, they also won’t devise a plan to store the expressed milk in the cooler box and changing the ice regularly.
It’s because they have learnt all of this knowledge, they were able to create a plan on how to continue breastfeeding while working.
(4) You don’t need to be a lactation consultant to start helping a breastfeeding mother (or expecting mother).
The volunteer in Kemijem’s workplace is not a lactation consultant.
She’s just a fellow breastfeeding mom who cares.
She cares about the other female workers and wanted to spread breastfeeding awareness.
She uses the information that she learnt before to share it with other moms.
And this little sharing that she did provide immense value for Kemijem and others.
It sparks breastfeeding awareness among the workplace.
More breastfeeding efforts were done.
What about you?
Do you care about other breastfeeding moms?
Do you have a nursing-mom friend who needs encouragement right now?
Hit the share button and let this wonderful story inspires others.
I hope this story will inspire you to do your best in reaching your breastfeeding goal.
Let me ask you a question now:
If you were in Kemijem’s shoe, do you think you will be able to achieve what she has achieved?
To me, this mom is simply extraordinary.
You can read the full story and pictures (story in Bahasa Indonesia) in the following links:
(1) Facebook post