A few years ago, I inter-met (get it? Meaning “met on the internet” – just made that up) this amazing blogger named Jessica Shortall. She was talking about combining breastfeeding and work in a funny, open, realistic and smart way – something I found refreshing in this typically depressing little corner of the Web. I’ve followed her work since, and am so excited to announce that today, her book Work.Pump. Repeat has been released into the world. This is the first and only breastfeeding book I’ve ever recommended on this page, and while it may seem odd for me to be promoting something exclusively for lactating women, I feel that strongly about her contribution to the infant feeding canon. I have a lot of readers who combo-feed or decide to breastfeed subsequent children, and I am thrilled to have a solid book to suggest to them; something that will celebrate their individuality and right to choose, while simultaneously giving them practical tips on combining breast and bottle and going back to work while breastfeeding.
Jessica and I have joined forces to offer the FFF audience a kickass giveaway, for those of you who are still pumping, planning on pumping, or might want to support a pumping friend (a great way to spread the #ISupportYou message). I wanted to do this for three reasons:
1. To show that infant feeding websites can, do and should support every woman’s individual journey. Just because you frequent FFF doesn’t mean you don’t support your breastfeeding best friend, or that you aren’t also pumping or combo feeding, or that you don’t plan on giving breastfeeding a go the second or third time around.
2. Because I think it means something that these brands were willing to work with me and this site, since some other brands (cough) were afraid to align themselves with someone who primarily supports parents using formula.
3. Because it’s a fun way to promote Jessica’s book, and I would do anything to help her out. Just read her post below, and you’ll see why I feel this way.
Check out the info about the giveaway at the end of this post.
So, without further blabbing, here’s some words written specifically for the FFF audience by a woman I am incredibly proud to call a friend, a woman who truly supports ALL mothers in their feeding journeys, and manages to support breastfeeding without ever disparaging alternative feeding methods.
On Failure and Goals
by Jessica Shortall
Work. Pump. Repeat. (available now) is the first breastfeeding book to get beyond the noise of the Mommy Wars and into practical advice, emotional support, and some seriously dark humor. Jessica Shortall shares the nitty-gritty basics of surviving the working world as a breastfeeding mom, offering a road map for negotiating the pumping schedule with colleagues, navigating business travel, and problem-solving when forced to pump in less-than-desirable locales. Drawing on the war stories, hacks, and humor of working moms, and on her own stories from her demanding job and travel in developing countries, she gives women moral support for dealing with the stress and guilt that come with juggling working and breastfeeding. As she tells the reader in her witty, inspiring manifesto, “Your worth as a mother is not measured in ounces.”
The other day, I was looking for something specific in the manuscript of my book, so I opened the Word document I had submitted to my publisher, and did a “ctrl+F” keyword search for the word “failure.”
I wasn’t really expecting the search to return 231 results.
It does make sense, though, because trying to be a triple-threat breastfeeder, working person, and new mother in a world that wants you to be perfect at all three, is FULL OF FEELINGS.
But still…I don’t know how we got to this place. My gut tells me that this breastfeeding/failure thing is a relatively new phenomenon. I mean, I can totally picture any woman, at any time in human history, completely breaking down in the first hours or days postpartum, when her nipples are bleeding and the baby is howling. That’s probably pretty universal in terms of an almost unnameably horrific set of feelings. But this thing, this setting of breastfeeding goals as a thing women are asked to do and to publicly affirm, via “I breastfed for ____ months” Facebook badges? I have to believe this is relatively new territory.
The biggest problem with this cultural phenomenon is that tightly defining what “success” looks like is, de facto, also defining “failure” for us, whether we like it or not. So, 231 instances of the word “failure” in my book, from my mouth and the mouths of the hundreds of working mothers I interviewed? When you consider that 83% said that working caused them to breastfeed for shorter than they had hoped? Yeah, I guess that makes sense.
In this journey of writing a book that helps women breastfeed while working, I have discovered one interesting thing: I’m kind of alone in WHY I’m doing it. (Note: I’m totally NOT alone in that I feel like I’m stitching together the stories and laughter and tears and holy-shit-that-was-awkward moments of gazillions of working women. YOU people make me feel not-alone.) I’ve learned that many breastfeeding advocates and educators – including some of the great and lovely ones – define their baseline goal as getting more breastmilk into more babies. So if that’s the goal, then for any individual woman, success is defined pretty tightly – and therefore, anything outside of that success sort of sensibly feels like failure.
I get their goal, and I respect their intentions. I’m just coming at this from a totally different place. I define my ultimate goal in this space as helping women and their babies figure out what ‘thriving’ looks like for them. Two roads diverged. And here’s who I think that matters to:
– the waitress who really doesn’t have a choice when she is faced with losing tables, and therefore un-lose-able income, by taking pumping breaks
– the lawyer who suffers from crippling postpartum anxiety related to how much (or how little) milk she is producing at work
– the heavy-business-traveler who just can’t…just CAN’T, like, down to her SOUL…withstand even the IDEA of bringing that #%$^ pump onto one more airplane
– the stay-at-home-mom with her own damn reasons that I haven’t even thought of
– and even, yep, the woman who produces more than enough breastmilk, day in and day out, at work, enough even to donate some, for a year or more. This woman, too, doesn’t deserve to be defined as a success only by her milk, and I truly believe that she doesn’t want to see her sisters, her friends, and her co-workers put to shame.
Every time we draw bright lines around success, we create a huge swath of experience that is, by default, being defined as failure. Breastfeeding for X length of time is ONE part of ONE version of thriving, for some, but certainly not for all. I refuse to discount families who are using their capable hearts, heads, and bodies to figure out their own version of happiness, healthiness, and success. The goal is thriving families, and I can’t wait to see your version.
Fearless Formula Feeder + Work. Pump. Repeat. are pleased to offer you
The ultimate working + breastfeeding giveaway survival kit
Hey, pumping and combo-feeding moms! Don’t go back to work alone: bring this bad-ass survival kit with you! Work. Pump. Repeat. and the Fearless Formula Feeder are teaming up with some of the best-loved breastfeeding brands to offer an amazing prize pack of the survival gear any working-and-breastfeeding mom will need. Worth more than $500, this giveaway will let you stop worrying about gear and get back to snuggling with your baby and binge-watching TV until it’s time to head back to work.