Monday, March 24, 2014

Nursing Mama & CEO - Making it Work

Sabrina Pinions, CEO of Palo Alto Software with Baby # 3
by Glenni Lorick, IBCLC

I have had the privilege of helping many moms combine work and breastfeeding over the years. We are lucky to have federal law on our side now. Working mothers who receive an hourly wage and are employed by a company with at least 50 employees benefit from the Department of Labor mandate that ensures adequate pumping time along with a place to pump (that isn't a bathroom). I love helping working mothers figure it all out. We put together a pumping plan that they can use when they return to work 6-12 weeks after baby comes.

However what happens when mom IS the CEO?  Some people might say something like, "That's great! She can take as long as she wants!" As the owner of a small business (I don't use the title CEO because we're not that big yet), I realize just how impractical that thinking is! As impractical as it is for the CEO of a larger company, it is even MORE difficult for a small business owner.

Gina (name changed to protect privacy) had begun her business shortly before her third child was born on a Friday afternoon. Saturday morning while she was still in the hospital, she received a call from a potential big-dollar client that went to her answering machine. When she got home Sunday, she heard the call and returned it Monday morning, asking if they could meet in a week or so. However, the client wanted to meet immediately. So Gina took her personal assistant with her to watch the baby and headed to the client's office at 4 days postpartum! She got the account and didn't miss a beat nursing her baby.

Marissa Mayer and Baby Macallister
The challenges a CEO faces are going to be different from those of an employed mom. The whole business is really dependent upon the CEO. So she needs to plan a little differently than a regularly employed mom would do. However, because she IS the CEO, she gets to make the rules! That's where it gets fun!! She can create any kind of climate she wants to in the workplace. Her example of breastfeeding her baby may be just what it takes to encourage her employees to pump and nurse.

It is unfortunate that some people think you can't mix being an executive with breastfeeding! Obviously, that isn't the case at all! Take, for example, Sabrina Pinions of Palo Alto Software. When she had her third child in 2010, she wasn't able to take a maternity leave. But she was able to bring her baby with her to work! Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, has actually built a nursery next to her office so she can bring her baby to work. While she has received criticism for insisting that Yahoo employees no longer work from home, as a savvy CEO, she recognizes that having access to her baby so she can nurse is important for her own well-being which translates into the well-being of the company.

Making it Work For YOU

So what can you do when YOU are the CEO to ensure a successful breastfeeding experience? I have a few tips - take what works for your situation!

  1. Plan ahead. Before your baby is born create a breastfeeding plan. Realize that in the first few weeks your baby will need to nurse every 2 - 3 hours from beginning of feed to beginning of feed, so create your schedule and plan your meetings accordingly.
  2. Take advantage of The Bottle Window. Don't give your baby a bottle until breastfeeding is well-established, but be sure you introduce it by the time baby is month old!
  3. Involve your personal assistant as much as possible in the day-to-day operation of the business. If you don't have a personal assistant, identify someone who can help shoulder the burden during the first few weeks so that you can really focus on those things that ONLY you can do.
  4. Enlist your spouse's support as Chief Bouncer to allow your time at home to be restful. Your body does need to recover from birth, and you do need rest, even if, like Gina, you are meeting a client at 4 days postpartum! People may want to come by to see you and the baby, but it might be more important for you to focus on baby and on yourself.
  5. Be sure that you are eating 2400 calories/day, and focus on really nutritious foods. Some great foods for nursing moms include avocados, almonds, oatmeal, Ovaltine and lactation cookies
  6. Incorporate baby into your life. Be creative! Wear your baby at work. Practice nursing discreetly in a sling. A newborn basically sleeps and eats, so if baby gets accustomed to being worn early on, it will make it much easier for you.
  7. Don't worry about your house. If you haven't hired a housekeeper yet, now is the time to do so. Keeping your house clean should be the least of your worries! You might find that in the early days you need to increase the frequency of her visits if she isn't with you on a full time basis. Add laundry to her duties if you haven't already!

Your Unique Position

You are truly in a unique, enviable position. You have the opportunity to run a business, to nurture a new life, and to create a different kind of work environment. As you settle into life with your new baby, you will further appreciate the sacrifices the mothers who work in your company are making when they return from maternity leave. Your own experience may very well lead you to create an increasingly family-friendly environment in your company. You may begin to think outside of the box about how you can support nursing mothers in your company. The end result is that everybody in your company wins!

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