Milking in progress - enter at your own risk!
First time mum Thima talks about breastfeeding at work in Singapore and her reasons why she decided to breastfeed.
We chat with Thima about the working mums situation in Singapore, breastfeeding at work and even tips to breastfeed with ease.
Judging from the photo, Flok seems like a really cool company. How else has your company helped its employees who are working mums?
Flok definitely is a fun place to be working at! At the moment, there's only 1 other person in the company who has a child; we are a pretty young bunch of Flokers after all. But the working hours are quite flexible and our bosses, James Robbins & Brendan Millar, are uber understanding dudes - so, when we say we need to get off work early or need to bring bub to the doctor's at short notice, they are totally cool with it.
I recently came back from a 6 month maternity leave. When I asked Brendan and James about extending my leave beyond the 16-week leave given, I wasn't too apprehensive about how they would react because I knew they cared about their employees. And true to form, they were very supportive and told me to do what I felt was best for Zacary, my son. They even asked if I was going to be able to manage financially, with 2 months of unpaid leave. Having this kind of concern, support and job security, really helped put my mind at ease while I was looking after my baby.
Now that I'm back at work, I've asked James if I can come in earlier than the stipulated working hours so that I can head off earlier, before the peak CBD human crush hits the trains, and get back home to my baby. Again, he was supportive and told me I could. This has certainly help ease the transition back into being a working mum.
What compelled you to come up with the sign and how has the reaction from your colleagues been like?
I want Zacary to reap the benefits of drinking breast milk for as long as I am able to sustain the supply. So, the only way to continue that is to express my milk while at work. I asked James if I could use one of our meeting rooms as a "pump room" and he was cool with it. I sent out an email to the office, letting them know about this arrangement and I told my colleagues that I would hang a sign on the door to the room whenever I was using it to express (milk).
I decided to add some element of fun to the sign, I suppose, to create the impression that expressing milk is a totally natural process and there's nothing to be embarrassed about it! Most of the guys here know I'm pretty kooky anyway, so they hardly bat an eyelid when I put that sign up!
Are you a first-time mum and how long have you been a working mum?
What advice do you have for other working mums out there?
What was the typical reaction to your photo?
I definitely think more can and should be done to make it easier on working mums to devote a good amount of time on both work and with baby. I'm a Project Manager from 9 to 6, but I'm a Mother for 24 hours a day.Working hours and options need to be more flexible - schemes like working from home for x number of days in a month should be encouraged. As long as efficiency and productivity isn't compromised, working mothers should be given these options. That would definitely make it easier for us to come back to work without feeling like we've abandoned the responsibility of being the primary caregivers to our children! Some employers are offering these options but more needs to be done across the board and more organizations should definitely adopt these schemes to cater to the working mum who wants to be a success at work and at home.
From a personal perspective, what can be done to improve the situation for working mums in Singapore?
I think that maternity leave should be at least 6 months since that is the recommended MINIMUM duration a child should be breastfed. The primary reason I extended my leave was to be able to nurse my son. Seems contradictory that Mothers are strongly encouraged to nurse for that minimum period but given far less paid leave to do so! Not everyone would be able to take unpaid leave due to varying financial constraints and if 6 months of breastfeeding is what is encouraged for the wellbeing of babies, shouldn't that be the duration of our paid leave too?
There is so much emphasis on the importance of couples to have children to increase the birth rate but what's the use of all those efforts if mothers lack the support once the child is born? One thing I need to stress is that working mothers should NOT be viewed as less capable just because we juggle family and work. It's a fine skill, making both work! And that needs to be recognised more and celebrated more!
Do you ever formula feed your baby? Will you ever?
Nope, no formula so far. I hope that I will be blessed with a constant supply of breastmilk but I also know that the reality is that the supply can wane. I hope Zacary can continue to be nursed and have EBM for at least 2 years but if the dark, dreary day comes when I am unable to produce enough milk, formula will have to supplement his nutritional needs.
What is the main reason that you breast feed instead of formula feed?
The benefits of breast feeding are far too amazing to give that up for inferior formula milk! I've read that the hormones, cells and antibodies in breast milk protect babies from various illnesses, something that the inferior formula fails to replicate! And apparently, ear infections and Diarrhea are more common among formula fed babies.
With such knowledge, I think it is extremely difficult for a mother to choose formula milk over breast milk if she wants the best for her child! I also absolutely adore how breastfeeding strengthens the bond between mother and child. Whenever I feed Zacary, he looks into my eyes, twirls my hair, grasps my finger and looks like he knows just how much his Momma loves him. I'm just not willing to give all that up for formula.
What’s your message to mothers out there who choose not to breastfeed.
Breastfeeding is a wonderful experience and has so many benefits for mother and child. WIth formula, you need to sterilize bottles and teats and take time to make the milk while baby cries, waiting. There is none of that hassle with breastfeeding! Your bub can instantly be fed and reap the physical and psychological health benefits - feeling secure and loved with the growing bond with Mommy.
It may seem to be an inconvenience to some but think about it, they grow up so fast so you only have a small temporal window of opportunity to provide them with this superior nutrition while enjoying that special bond in the process. And, mothers also reap the benefits of breastfeeding, some of which include lowered risks of Type 2 Diabetes, and Breast and Ovarian cancers.
What are your personal Top 3 breastfeeding tips--to breastfeed with ease?
1. The most important one - practice makes perfect! Initially it used to be a painful experience but once I learned the right method to get baby to latch on, it was a dream to feed Zacary! So don't give up so soon! Youtube has many good videos about getting bub to latch on correctly and you can consult lactation nurses for help too!
2. Breastfeeding is all about supply and demand which is why I continue to express milk at work! The body is an amazing thing - the more milk your baby drinks, the more it produces milk.
3. Don't obsess over the duration of a feed; your baby will drink as much as he or she needs and as often as he or she gets hungry.
Don't strictly go by what the clock tells you because your maternal instinct is more accurate!