Porshai Z. is a third grade teacher in the Boston Public School system, currently on maternity leave with her three-month-old son who cooed during our phone call on an early October morning.
“I absolutely love it,” Porshai says of teaching. “My [students] are at the most tender age where they’re still aiming to please adults, but they have a little sass and personality.”
After the birth of her first son, Porshai returned to work just four months postpartum, and she says it’s one of her biggest regrets. For one, it took away from her role as a teacher. She found herself pumping in a bathroom, stressing each and every time she needed to leave her full-of-personality third graders. Returning to work so soon after the birth of her baby also took away from the joy of feeding her first son, Porshai shares.
Though Porshai poured herself into research about unmedicated birth and how to breastfeed as soon as she became pregnant, she found herself unprepared for the physical demand of feeding her little human. There was one evening in particular where she felt enticed to open the commercial milk formula package sent by the formula company, but she ultimately persevered.
“I don’t know what quieted that voice,” Porshai reflects. Perhaps it was the investment she made learning and preparing for this relationship and her realization even through the challenge: “Wow, this is really special.”
This time, Porshai will remain at home with her new baby for a year. Simultaneously, she is completing the Lactation Counselor Training Course (LCTC). Porshai earned one of the most recent rounds of the Accessing the Milky Way Scholarships.
“I have really been enjoying [the course],” Porshai shares. “ There is so much I wish I knew the first time I was nursing.”
She says she appreciates that the course grounds breastfeeding as a public health issue and that she was surprised to learn about the composition of human milk. Learning about milk’s dynamic nature has allowed her to better understand her own infant’s behavior. More generally, she was fascinated to consider how our society has adopted nesting caregiving behavior though we are truly carriers.
“This is mind-blowing,” she says. “So many more women need to hear that.”
As a highschooler, Porshai was always fascinated by reproductive health. She’d watch documentaries on birth and her favorite science museum exhibit was one that depicted the stages of life. It wasn’t until later that she became aware of the option to become a lactation care provider.
Through Boston Medical Center’s Curbside Care for Moms and Babies, a mobile unit that provides “comprehensive mother-infant dyadic care during the first six weeks of life”– Porshai met her first duo of Certified Lactation Counselors (CLCs).
“I really do think the power of that training is what allowed me to continue [breastfeeding] in the first place,” Porshai reflects.
This wrap-around care was particularly influential as it ‘met her where she was at.’
Porshai goes on to say, “I hope to work in that way as well. I hope to be that visibility.”
More specifically, Porshai says she has been thinking a lot about how elementary education is a female-dominated industry; with many friends and colleagues growing their families, Porshai hopes to be a resource and support for them as they learn to feed their babies. She plans to create a network of breastfeeding mothers within the Boston Public Schools so that there is a designated space for parents navigating infant feeding and the unique challenges of teaching.
In addition, Porshai is considering becoming a postpartum nurse.
“[The LCTC] could very well be the thing that catapults me to go back to school.”
For more on teaching and lactation, check out this article. The PUMP Act now extends federal lactation rights and protections to all employees in K-12 schools.