Breastfeeding Blog Hop: Pumping and Storing Milk

We’re getting in a little late for 2012, but Mommy News & Views is excited to participate in the Breastfeeding Blog Hop hosted by Sisters N Cloth. This week’s topic is pumping and storing milk. Boy, do I have a lot to say about that!

When I was pregnant with my first son, I of course knew nothing at all. But that was in my twenties, when I didn’t know that I didn’t know anything at all. Thankfully, my husband’s cousin pulled me aside in my first trimester and told me she wanted to give me a breast pump. That started me down the lengthy and ever-interesting rabbit hole of human milk expression information!

Once my son was here and I was back to work (after just 6 weeks, which was a huge mistake on my part), I had an awful time pumping. I hadn’t taken the time to speak with my employer about a place to pump (and, since this was before legislation guaranteeing me such a place, there wasn’t one…), and I hadn’t really sat down to think about planning pumping breaks into my day.

I was teaching and tutoring at the time, so I would feed my son in the morning and then zip in the bathroom to use the manual pump before my first class. I locked the door during my office hours and prayed my office mate wouldn’t stop by for her umbrella. And also that students wouldn’t show up without an appointment!

I tried to sneak in quick mini pumping sessions in between my tutoring sessions for the rest of the afternoon. Ugh! It was stressful and gross what with all the bathroom pumping. I used to feel so sad that I was feeding my son what I called toilet milk.

I should add that there was a period of time where I had a conference room available to me to pump, but I got barged in on a few times and stopped being able to let down for the pump and just gave up. I either walked around engorged or did all my pumping in the bathroom. Most days, I didn’t express as much as my son would need, so I had to pump while I was with him at home, sometimes in the middle of the night.

The moral of this story is that I did not stand up for myself, plan properly, or take up the many offers from my La Leche League group members to help me improve the situation.

I ended up actually leaving my job after the fall semester and switched to a gig where I worked from home part-time. I nursed my son when he was hungry and put an end to my pumping woes. This is a working situation I’ve continued with my second son, and it seems even more important because he won’t take a bottle even if I pump him a big fat one.

But what if part-time work from home was not an option? What would I do instead if I had a time machine?

  • I would have talked more with the cousin who first gave me the pump! She would have told me what was really involved in pumping, that I should expect sessions to take at least 20 minutes and to plan for that in my work day.
  • I would have planned for time! Time to walk to/from the pumping space and set up, then store, my pump. This would have meant organizing my day differently, and in a way that was much less stressful.
  • I would have talked to human resources at work. I would have learned what my options were for pumping space and scheduled breaks. Then, I would have been more open with my office mate about times that were off-limits for her to duck in unexpectedly.

Looking back now, it all seemed so stressful, so impossible. What a difference I could have made to my early days of mothering if I’d just had some frank conversations about my needs and my son’s needs. Because I had a temporary contract, I was so worried about losing my job if I asked for any little thing.

It was a needless worry–they were sad to see me leave halfway through the year and happy to have me back once my baby and I were doing better. They were also sad–surprised, even–I didn’t speak to them about my needs before it became a problem. That still stings a little, knowing things could have been better if I’d spoken up.

So whenever an expectant mom asks me for advice for pumping at work, I always encourage her to have frank conversations with her supervisor and with HR. Speak up for yourself, mamas! You might be surprised by your conversations with your employers. Hopefully other mamas are having a more positive experience than I was!

What’s your best advice for a successful pumping experience at work? Leave a comment to let us know!

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