Mazel tov! You’re a new mother. You’re feeling excited, ebullient and exhausted beyond words. This new little person in your life will consume the bulk of your time, energy and emotional strength for the next 20 years, not to mention his or her siblings.
You’ve got six weeks off to master the rudiments of childcare, get a handle on nursing and bond with your baby—then it’s back to work to pay the bills. You leave your little angel with a babysitter, ignore the knot in your stomach as she wails inconsolably and walk out the door, two cups of strong coffee your only buffer.
The hours pass as you try to get a handle on the work you’ve missed, trying not to worry about the baby or think about the mountain of laundry waiting for you at home. You’re also not feeling so great yourself, as you only managed to get three interrupted hours of sleep the night before.
Soon it is lunchtime, which means giving up your precious downtime to pump. You’ve brought along your brand-new Spectra pump that was paid for by insurance and carefully lug it to the pumping room.
Pumping room? What pumping room? Your workmates are wondering if you’re all there. Either you go into a bathroom or the broom closet, and you hope that someone doesn’t walk in on you. Instead, you’re lucky to find a small private room off the conference room, take out your equipment and try to set it up. Then, just when you think you’re getting the hang of it, the door bursts open. It’s your boss and her new client, about to have high-level meeting. Your boss doesn’t say a word, just raises her eyebrows as you fumble, red-faced, and excuse yourself.
If you’re rolling your eyes and thinking that this is an exaggeration, think again.
Chaya Lighten, MHA (Master of Healthcare Administration), IBCLC (Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant) and RPA-C (Registered Physician Assistant-Certified), spends her days helping and guiding both new and experienced mommies during some of the most vulnerable and stressful periods in their lives.
Chaya, who grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland, is a perfect example of someone engaged in this juggling act, raising her own kids who range in age from one to 13 while working full time. She and her business partner, Marninah Hersh, originally from Ottawa, run two successful businesses: Lactation Central, and Togethernest, LLC, both of which are focused on nurturing and empowering mothers.
Togethernest is actually an outgrowth of her practice, which she cofounded with Marninah three years ago after working for many years as a PA. “The reason I wanted to open my own practice as a lactation consultant rather than work for someone else was that I’m a mother of young children,” she says. “I didn’t want to work full time, including on Erev Yom Tov, and handle emergencies during the most stressful times. Now I set my own schedule according to my family’s needs, while also doing something that I love.”
The practice, located in East Brunswick, New Jersey, is run by Chaya, Marninah and an associate. Chaya meets with clients in her office, in their homes, and even via teleconference. Her expertise includes issues such as low milk supply, painful latch, slow weight gain, tongue tie and other things that make nursing challenging for new mothers. One of her specialties is helping babies with medical challenges to be able to nurse. She also uses her knowledge and training to tackle related problems like failure to thrive and when to introduce solids.
Chaya and Marninah opened their practice in 2015, five years after the Affordable Care Act was enacted in March of 2010. The ACA requires most insurance plans to cover the cost of pumps and lactation services, and requires many employers (those with 50 or more employees) to provide break time for nursing women (which may be unpaid) and a discreet space for nursing or pumping that is not a bathroom. A sink and refrigerator are also highly recommended. These amenities are mandatory, and any employer who does not comply can be prosecuted and forced to pay steep fines.