A Crash Course in Pumping

This post is to help my friend Mrs. Ski prepare for her return to work post baby while nursing. My experience hasn’t been perfect in anyway, but I hope I can shed some light on the subject of Pumping at Work. I’ve wrote a little bit about this before, but here are a few more memories.

After 7 months back to work post ‘Lil Man’s birth and maternity leave, I feel like I finally have this pumping thing down. Reality is, it is just about done, and I am pretty much ready. Pumping at work (our anywhere) is a pain to me. I would so much rather be at home, snuggled up on my chair with ‘Lil Man than in an office chair hooked up to my Pump in Style. Alas, there are lessons I have learned in my journey from pumping in a locked office to having a room dedicated to pumpin’ mamas…things I wish I had known.

1. Be prepared to find a place to pump–and don’t be shy about talking to your boss about it. It’s legal according to the US Department of Labor, and you shouldn’t feel guilty. Your boss also shouldn’t make you feel like you are not giving your all to your job. If this is an uncomfortable conversation, go to HR (or a fellow Mama who has done it before). You are not alone.

2. When you find that place, make yourself comfortable and make sure the door is locked. When I first started pumping, I kept scooting my chair against the door and balancing my laptop on my knees (praying the door would remain locked). Eventually, I got comfortable enough to trust the lock. It also helps to know who else has keys to your space and if you are sharing a space, work out time with the fellow Mama (or be prepared to throw down a pumping party). When my office opened up the Mother’s Room, I asked a friend to push on the door and handle to make sure no one could bust in–this put me at ease.

3. Put your pump times on your schedule–and stick to it as much as possible. I started with 2 20-30 minute sessions, and skipped them sometimes. This lead to some bad infections and a quickly depleting supply. Be honest when you really need your break–this will help prevent leakage and ensure you get plenty of milk for the cutie at home (or daycare). If you are in an all afternoon meeting, simply excuse yourself for a “bio-break” and catch up when you get back. You won’t be sorry.

4. If your space doesn’t have signage, you might want to think about it. Our office admins made this nifty sliding sign so that it helps with the locked door fear and allows people to know it is occupied. You can always do a door hanger.

5. Don’t fear carrying the pump bag. Sure, it looks like you are bringing your whole house with you, but it also symbolizes your super power. A funny story…a cousin had a co-worker help her carry her items in and they put the bag in with our overhead projectors. Imagine the look on someone’s face if it hadn’t been discovered quickly! 🙂

6. Have somewhere to keep your milk cold. My Pump in Style came with a little cooler and an ice pack perfectly shaped to keep 4 bottles cold. Perfect. I don’t really trust the old food in our fridge enough to put my milk in there, too, but it’s always an option if I forget my ice.

7. Be prepared with supplies. You probably want to make sure you have lanolin, Lecithin Supplements (a recent discovery that REALLY helps with warding off the infections, bags (in case you start pumping like a cow), wipes (in case your space doesn’t have a sink), extra membranes (those little guys can tear easily), a battery pack (if there isn’t power…plus extra batteries), and of course, a picture of your little cutie!

8. Be prepared to pump on a work trip (via car or plane…it always can lead to a fun memory). You just find a way to make it work.

9. If you need support, check out The Milk Memos. It is a collection of IBM pumping mamas’ journals and an excellent read…and perhaps might inspire you to collect your thoughts about being a working/pumping mama.

10. Know it’s not easy, but worth it. The look on your baby’s face when you get home from work is one of true love and a heart melter. There are plenty of other mamas who have been there, done that, and are willing to lend an ear. Go with strength and courage!

Oh…and before you leave your space, triple check that you’ve ditched the PumpEase…unless you want to step out looking like this:

Pumping: My Story

Today’s post is another one in the series from Life With Levi (the Breastfeeding Blop Hop). The topic is “Pumping”.

Pumping. Where do I even begin?

My journey with pumping started in 2008 when Lil Miss A was born. She had a hard time latching (so much that I had a lovely rubber shield to “help” her out), so once I was released from the hospital, it was evident I was going to have to pump to help myself out. I had a “hand me down” pump—body only—and would have to sit for 40-45 minutes to get a few decent ounces for the little one. It wasn’t a supply issue, but I think a lack of money led me to a lack of options, thus I took what I could get and ended up with a horn style that really didn’t fit with my body. Plus, I hadn’t heard about the wonders of a Pump Ease, so I had to sit and hold the horns while still paying attention to my newborn. Luckily, I didn’t have to put up a fight with the pump for long—A didn’t take to breastfeeding because of her milk allergy, so it was off to formula we went.

When it was time to have E, I knew I was going to try to breastfeed again, but I didn’t know what to do about the pump. In fact, I didn’t even look at it to see if all the parts were there. The day I came home from the hospital, I went to pump just because I didn’t feel completely empty after a feeding and realized the bottles were at my parents’ house and one of the valves had deteriorated to the point of no use. I was lucky that my friend sent me home from the hospital with an amazing supply of Medela 2.5 oz bottles, which somehow fit my Playtex pump, so I was able to pump one sided directly into a bottle. Phew!

My Pump!

I pumped one sided for a few weeks (everyday, out of necessity to relieve my body from a little one with a sucking addiction) and I got irritable, cranky, and tired. I didn’t give up, but I knew this would never work when I went back to work. My mom told me about how lucky I was to have an electric pump and a safe place to pump at work—she used to have to hand pump in the restroom—but it didn’t help my frustration with myself. That and the pump was starting to give up on me, groaning with every turn. I hear those things can smoke, so I didn’t have it so bad. Eventually, I gave in and picked up a Medela Pump in Style.

I was addicted. It was so amazing to have a pump that really worked, I felt spoiled! I was able to build up a great stock that kept E satisfied while I was away on work business in March and it’s kept up with me since. My pump goes everywhere I do and has been a huge help. While excusing yourself during the day to pump or going to your car to pump while out and about is not so fun, it’s all worth it in the end.

Mom's busy!

While I might not have the amazing guts to pump while working out or walking the dog (check out Life With Levi’s videos), I have pumped without fear many times. In the parking lot while waiting to get my Steeler tattoo? Check. In the car while driving to Columbus to get said tattoo? Check. In the airport? Check (albeit a horrible experience). Running through Las Vegas to get back to my hotel and pump? Check. Pumping while working on multi-page reports for work? Check. In the end, it’s so worth it, knowing that I am giving E great nutrition, even if it can be painful at times (if you wait too long in between) or a drop or two gets spilled. I’m proud to say, I am a pumpin’ mama!