The Healthiest, Happiest Hustle

All about the unexpected health benefits of the 24/7 work-mom life and why I wouldn’t do it any other way.

 On the set of "Your Name Isn't English" in L.A. nursing Alo between takes. The director, Tazbah Chavez, made sure that I was able to take breaks any time I needed to feed baby.

On the set of "Your Name Isn't English" in L.A. nursing Alo between takes. The director, Tazbah Chavez, made sure that I was able to take breaks any time I needed to feed baby.

I don’t even remember what it’s like to be alone.

My baby is with me 24/7. That’s my choice. I don’t want a sitter or a nanny. She is 6 months old and I have never left her side -- not even for an hour. We are attached. Where she goes, I go. It’s intense, it’s a lot, but it’s so, so awesome.

Alo and I practice feeding on demand. It means that I exclusively breastfeed her. We do not use formula, she hasn’t tasted solid foods yet, and I do not pump or give bottles. Rather, I allow her to regulate her own milk supply by nursing for however long she wants, whenever she wants. This means that I am always on call. I never make her wait to eat because I don’t believe in letting babies “cry it out.”  When she is hungry or wants to be comforted, I am there. No schedules, restrictions, or limitations. It’s a constant rhythm of care and nurturing, call and response between my daughter and I.

I also work fulltime as a freelancer. I write articles for various publications, I manage a pretty heavy travel schedule for Well For Culture, I train for the Native Wellness Institute, and I blog and maintain a few websites. I continue to do pretty much the same stuff and get paid about the same amount as I did before having a baby. My working hours are inevitably fewer because I spend most of my day momming, but when I do sit down to work, I'm twice as productive.

Some people say that I’m “lucky” I get to work from home and take my baby on the road while traveling, but in reality it has nothing to do with luck. I worked very hard to get to a place where I have full freedom to control my own schedule. Being self-employed requires a lot of grind, hustle, and creativity. It’s no less challenging than having a 9-5 job, which I have also done. I have to stay self-motivated and disciplined. I chose to live this lifestyle before having a baby, and now that I have her, it’s what I continue to do because I prefer to be with her all the time.

If you’re reading this and you don’t have kids yet or you can’t imagine breastfeeding or giving your entire self to a tiny human, trust me, I get it. Let me offer some background. I grew up a tomboy. I had no interest in babies. I never even thought about having one until my maternal instincts kicked in in my mid-twenties. I never saw anybody breastfeeding their babies until my sister gave birth to my niece 6 years ago. It’s not something that I ever even considered until I became pregnant and started to research its health benefits. And just like that, it became my goal, my mission, and my passion. Now, I absolutely love breastfeeding, I hope to continue doing so until Alo is at least 2 years old, and I hope to have more children and breastfeed them.

I emphasize that I love this process and this lifestyle because too often, mom life is described as a burden - something that is incongruent with a good career. The reality is, like anything else in life, it has its challenges, but if you focus on the rewarding moments, the happy times, and the incredibly healthy benefits it can bring,  it feels great. If you allow yourself full and complete attachment to your child and do not treat their cries as an interruption but rather as a welcome and normal part of your day, it will feel easier. Not only in retrospect, but in real time.

Before I tell you all about the pros of on-demand breastfeeding while working from home, let me be clear: this information should NOT be used as fodder to minimize any other woman’s expression of how stressful and difficult motherhood can be. Also, this is not meant to be a suggestion for how other people should live their lives, handle their work schedule, or parent their children. We are all entitled to our preferences and bound by barriers to access. I fully recognize and respect all moms who perhaps would like to but cannot manage to work from home, moms who have no choice but to leave the house for work and seek childcare, moms who have no choice but to abandon work for a few years to stay home with the kids, moms who choose to stay home with the kids, or moms who are doing what I’m doing but not finding the joy in it. We’ve all got stories.

That said, this is my story. Believe it or not, it’s a happy one. I get stressed out sometimes, but I cannot say it emphatically enough: I LOVE working and momming all day every day. I am incessantly grateful that I have managed to make this lifestyle happen for my family, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Here’s why.

1- HEALTHY, HAPPY BABY

Our girl is way beyond the 100th percentile for weight and height for her age (and no, she’s not “overweight” because breastfed babies are self-regulating and cannot be overweight). She’s almost always in a good mood, she has never had to cry for a long period of time, she’s never had an ear infection, she never got baby acne or any other common infant skin issues, her hair grew in super thick, she’s never had a fever, she’s never had diarrhea or constipation, she’s pretty much always comfortable, and all told, her contentment is pretty much the greatest gift I could ever ask for. I believe her ability to feed on demand has everything to do with her remarkable growth and health.

2- HEALTHY, HAPPY MAMA

I have my low energy days, but for the most part, I feel great since having Alo. I never experienced any sort of postpartum depression, which can be very serious and scary for many mothers in today’s crazy world. Honestly, because it’s so common I was very worried and almost certain I would have to face it. Hormones are very erratic following delivery (your body adjusting to no longer growing a life), and for a new mom, the learning curve for figuring our parenting and adjusting to a completely different lifestyle can be too much to handle. Baby-led breastfeeding helps regulate hormones. Breastfeeding not only provides emotional comfort for the babies, but for the moms, too. I’m a living testament to that. I am so amazed that my tiny little girl has the ability to keep her mommy strong in body and spirit.

3- RECIPROCAL GROWTH

We all know that as the baby grows in a pregnant woman’s belly, the woman grows, too. What is often not talked about is that this cycle of reciprocal growth and transformation of the physical form continues when the baby is out of the womb. As my daughter has grown in size, parts of my body have shrunk and begun to return back to its original condition. Carrying her all day has allowed me to grow muscle and a new type of functional strength that I never had before. As she develops, my body adjusts to meet her needs. We remain a single unit. It’s a beautiful example of the inherent knowledge of the human body. With no interventions and no early severance of the tie between my child and I, my body knows just what to do in the postpartum phase, and so does hers.

4- PEACE OF MIND

There is no greater peace of mind than knowing exactly where your baby is, whose arms she is in, what she does all day, how she’s being treated, how she’s being cared for, and who’s watching her. I never have to worry about any of that because I am with her always.

5- MONEY

Bottles cost money. Formula costs money. Breast pumps cost money. Babysitters cost money. Nannies cost money. I don’t do any of that, so I’m saving a lot of money.

6- CREATIVITY

Working from home with my baby by my side is a constant source of inspiration, motivation, and creative energy. She is my purpose, my world, and my whole reason for existing. Working and being a parent should not have to be opposing forces, one interfering with the other. Working and momming can coexist harmoniously, and if you want to and are able to make this happen, you might just be amazed by how awesome it can be.

 Thosh holds Alo while we present at a Native Wellness Institute event in Oregon. 

Thosh holds Alo while we present at a Native Wellness Institute event in Oregon.