Surviving as a nursing mother in a university classroom in South African institutions can be challenging, but with careful planning and support, it is definitely possible. Here are some explanations and advice to help you navigate this situation:
• Understand your rights: It’s essential to familiarize yourself with the laws and policies regarding breastfeeding and parenting in South African universities. The Protection, Promotion, Development, and Support of Breastfeeding in South Africa Act (Act 2013) protects the rights of nursing mothers, including the right to breastfeed in public spaces.
• Communicate with your professors: Inform your professors about your situation and discuss any necessary accommodations. Most universities have policies in place to support nursing mothers, such as providing a private space for breastfeeding or pumping milk. Reach out to the appropriate university department or administration to inquire about available facilities.
• Plan your schedule wisely: When selecting classes, consider the timing and location of the courses. Try to choose classrooms that are closer to the designated breastfeeding or pumping areas on campus. Additionally, plan breaks between classes to allow time for nursing or pumping.
• Utilize breastfeeding or pumping facilities: South African universities are increasingly recognizing the importance of supporting nursing mothers. Many institutions have designated breastfeeding rooms or private spaces equipped with comfortable seating, electrical outlets, and refrigeration facilities for storing expressed milk. Familiarize yourself with these facilities and make use of them during breaks.
• Build a support network: Connect with other nursing mothers on campus or join parenting groups to share experiences and gain support. They can provide valuable advice and understanding since they may have gone through similar challenges. Additionally, seek support from family, friends, or a partner who can assist with childcare or other responsibilities.
• Be organized and prepared: Ensure you have all the necessary supplies, such as a breast pump, nursing pads, bottles, and storage bags for expressed milk. Keep your pump and accessories clean and ready to use. Plan ahead by packing your bag with essentials, including spare clothes, nursing covers, and any other items you might need.
• Time management and prioritization: Balancing motherhood and academics requires effective time management. Create a schedule that incorporates study time, nursing or pumping breaks, and time for self-care. Prioritize your tasks and allocate specific time slots for each activity to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
• Seek academic support: If you find it challenging to keep up with coursework, reach out to your professors or academic advisors for assistance. They may provide guidance on managing assignments, offer extensions when necessary, or suggest alternative learning options if available.
• Take care of yourself: Remember that your well-being is crucial for both you and your baby. Get enough rest, eat nutritious meals, and stay hydrated. Seek emotional support when needed, whether through counseling services provided by the university or by connecting with fellow students who understand your situation.
• Embrace flexibility: Recognize that unexpected challenges may arise as a nursing mother in the university setting. Embrace flexibility and be willing to adjust your plans if needed. Remember that you are doing something incredible by pursuing your education while also caring for your child.
By advocating for yourself, seeking support, and planning ahead, you can successfully navigate the university classroom as a nursing mother in South Africa. Remember to take it one day at a time and celebrate your achievements along the way.