Adventures in Pumping

Breast-feeding: What you need to know about pumping at work –

I just read this article on how to ask your boss for accommodations for pumping at work, and was reminded that this is one of the things I least look forward to about going back to work whenever I finally get a job.  The politics, procedures, and effort of pumping are some of the major barriers to women being able to meet the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation of exclusively breastfeeding infants until at least six months and continuing to breastfeed with supplementation of solid food for at least a year or longer.

When I went back to work 8 weeks after Carboy was born,  I worked for a small nonprofit with only two other employees, so none of the pumping laws really applied.  It was a health organization, so the importance of breastfeeding for baby and mom was totally supported, but I was the first employee to have a baby and kind of had to work out a system for myself.  I was also lucky that my boss allowed me to work from home in the mornings to reduce the cost of childcare and the number of times I needed to pump each day.

My “office” was one of four desks enclosed by a 5 foot high cubicle wall within a larger open space.   On days when there was a lot of traffic in the office, I pumped in the only room with a door and a lock: the bathroom.  It was a nice big ADA-accessible single user bathroom, but it was still a bathroom.  I would roll my desk chair with my laptop and my pump into the bathroom and set up a little pumping station on a rolling file cabinet that ended up there for some reason.  There was no wireless internet in my office, so I could only work on documents, not check email or anything else on the web.  I played a lot of solitaire while pumping.

On days I was alone in my office or it was just other women, I would occasionally pump at my desk.  I tried to be as modest as possible, going into the bathroom to put on the hands free pumping bra and then covering up the “horns” with my shirt or a shawl.  I tried to warn other folks in the building that if they heard the “whoosh whoosh” sound coming from my area, they should knock on the cubicle wall before barging into my office, or they would get an eyeful.  There was one day when the UPS guy was mighty surprised to come around the corner and see me in all my pumping glory.

I pumped until Carboy was nine months old, and then he was eating enough solid food to cover the afternoons when Supernanny was with him so I didn’t have to pump.  We nursed often in the morning, and, as is common with working moms, we nursed all night long.  Thank God for co-sleeping and side-lying nursing, or I would have gotten no sleep at all.

Now that I am unemployed and looking for a new job, I know that I am not going to have the flexibility  to work from home in the mornings, so I will have to pump two or three times a day.  I am totally dreading this.  But I will do it because it is what is best for Milkboy and for our family.  Why oh why can’t we have a breastfeeding-friendly culture that values giving children the best start in life by having state-paid maternity leave for the first year?  Maybe I should look for work in Canada or Norway 😉



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