Pumping at Work: A Working Mom’s Breastfeeding Story

For all you working moms who are breastfeeding, read this story about pumping at work and how to manage all the delicacies. Click for tips and support.

I found myself nodding in agreement while reading the recent Ad Age article Breast-feeding Execs Add Another Appointment to Busy Schedules. The days of an ad industry professional (not just execs) are filled with meetings, brainstorms, IMs, emails, desk-side chats, and even occasionally, some actual work.

I was fearful when I started back at work that I wouldn’t be able to carve out the time I needed to pump, so I booked standing appointments where I’m “Out Of Office (OOO)” on my Outlook calendar. I’ve been lucky. Most of my coworkers are very understanding and know that I’m pumping at work. They know what my “OOO” time means, and they are nice enough not to schedule meetings or personally come up and ask me if there’s any way I can move my times (and I usually can).

I am also outfitted with an actual pumping room (no bathroom stalls here and I have to wonder where in an office bathroom Heidi Singleton plugged in her electric pump), with a lock and a refrigerator for my expressed breast milk. Our company’s hospitality associate was even nice enough to provide some reading material (although I’m not always adept at reading and pumping at the same time.) All in all, a pretty nice set-up, considering I knew a girl who had to manually pump in a bathroom stall and dump her milk (I almost cry at the thought) because she didn’t have the means to store it, and another woman who told me she was forced to pump in a cold, damp company basement.

Although pumping at work isn’t always sunshine and roses.

There have been times where I forgot essential pump parts, and I had to figure out a way to do without or make the 30-minute commute back home.

There was the one time I completely forgot to pump in the morning. I was so incredibly busy answering emails, attending meetings, that I didn’t realize until I felt the familiar tingling in the girls. It just so happened on that particular morning Owen’s daycare called asking me to pick him up because he was feeling ill. I remember driving him home in the early afternoon worrying that I had “messed up my milk supply” by not pumping or nursing since early in the morning.

Also, my pumping room doubles as a supply closet, so sometimes people try to barge in to get some napkins or tissues while I’m pumping. Not everyone in the company knows the supply closet is also a pumping room, so they will try to shove and bang and push their way into the room when they discover it’s locked.

I never know whether to say anything or not. Most of the time I don’t. I just stare at the door lock with my the pump cones pressed against my boobs, turning my torso away from the door, willing the lock to stay strong. When the person finally gives up and walks away, I’m usually so freaked out by that point that I’ve tensed up and there isn’t much milk-retreiving to be had at that point.

I think breastfeeding itself takes committment. So while it’s nice to read that more people are pumping, I completely understand when women stop nursing because they have to go back to work. If I hadn’t started a PT schedule and was able to actually nurse O more, I’m not sure I’d still be breastfeeding. I just don’t think I’d be making enough milk. I’m barely making enough now, and I only have to provide for three days. And while I agree with what Jennifer Ganshirt says, “It helped me manage the internal conflict, the feelings of guilt I had about coming back. It was something I was doing still for my baby,” I also continue to nurse because I love the quiet time we have together while I nurse him before bed and when he wakes up in the morning. Oh, and also because whipping out one of the girls whenever O gets hungry is about 80 times easier (and cheaper) than preparing a bottle of formula–for this working mom anyway.

13 thoughts on “Pumping at Work: A Working Mom’s Breastfeeding Story

  1. mommymumbles says:

    It still surprises me that at this day and age, that companies still aren’t providing Mother’s Rooms. A friend of mine had to use a closet to pump or lurk around to see if there was an empty office around if there was a kind soul that would allow her to borrow their office for a bit. When I returned from maternity leave after my first, I found the “Mother’s Room” (which happened to be the old CEO’s executive bathroom) was demolished and nothing was planned as a replacement. I too ended up lurking around for empty offices. I was so extremely upset by it all. What are these companies and HR dept.’s thinking??

    Thanks for giving me the forum to vent. 🙂

  2. orchard_girl says:

    When I went back to work after having my first 2 kids, I only worked 4 hour days, so I would just pump before work. After I had my 3rd child I worked 3-4 6hr days. The only place available to pump was the employee restroom. The electrical outlet was near the door. After having several people walk in on me I gave it up. We resorted to formula while I was at work, and nursing while I was home. My supply adjusted, and I it was a relief to not be tense about trying to pump-worried about who might walk in on me. When I had my 4th child, I didn’t even try to pump at work. I did pump at home before work, and pumping with several kids running around was a whole different challenge!

    Hats off to those who are able to pump at work, and applause to employers who work hard to accomadate them!

  3. Modern Mama says:

    Tela, the image of you shrinking into a corner while someone bangs on the door is a riot! I know what you mean. I pump in our handicapped stall. I have created a nice little set up though. There is an outlet in there for some reason, and I just store a chair and stool in there. I was embarrassed at first and always hoped no one would come into the bathroom while I was in there. Now, it has been seven months and I talk to whoever comes in!
    Our general manager’s daughter who has downs syndrome came into the bathroom once and was lingering for a long time. I could sense that she was wondering what was going on in that stall! Finally, her little face peeked under to check it out. I had to tell her it was not nice to do that. I am trying to hold out and keep pumping for a year. Some days it isn’t so bad. Other days I can’t wait!

  4. Oregon is considering requiring businesses to offer nursing moms unpaid breastfeeding breaks at work. Check out the AP article here. It’s kind of a duh, don’t you think? But sometimes employers need a law to make them do the right thing.

  5. I, too, laughed at the image of Tela in the closet with somebody banging on the door. But wow, Susan, I was a little miffed to see the “unpaid” part of that breastfeeding breaks proposal. I don’t know – I just see how much time people waste socializing and messing around and taking long lunch breaks, yet nobody docks them a half hour here and there. I can see it if you’re an employee who punches in and out, but for salaried employees, I think this should just be another benefit. Honestly, how much does a nursing mother cut out of the bottom line by taking a little time to pump vs. the guy who disappears for a couple of hours around noon every day or can’t get his butt into the office on each morning?

  6. I am pumping as I read this 😉
    I am one of the lucky few who can pump in my office (windows all covered up with brown paper and all ;)).I am really grateful to be able to do this. But I wonder why women don’t put up a fight at workplaces that have women pump in the restrooms? Is it so hard for employers to dedicate one office for pumping? Orchard_girl …I am curious if you got together with other women in your office and tried to do something about this? Has anyone done somethign like that? has it worked?

  7. selfmademom says:

    I didn’t breastfeed, but I’ve seen how hard it is for working moms where I work. They usually put blinds, or paper up on the windows of their offices to hide. While chatting with another friend of mine yesterday, she told me she took a job at home because it was so much easier to continue breastfeeding.

  8. Amy Cribbs says:

    Great post – thanks for passing along the article too.

    It reminds me to send another thank you to my boss (working mom herself). Quietly, an office has been provided for me to pump – nothing is said about the 3 times a day I disappear to pump for twenty to twenty-five minutes. The only evidence of my pumping is the quiet swishing of the pump if you press your ear to my locked door (the locked storage closet is hilarious T!). This is in addition to the forty-five minutes I take to go see Parker at lunch to nurse. They have been incredible and it seals my loyalty to my company. I’m a BETTER member of their team because I know these are not luxuries to be taken for granted.

    The employers who are doing the right thing without a law or prompting should receive a tax break or at least ‘holla from this very grateful working mama.

  9. Tela, your post made me think back to the good (and not so good) old days when I was still pumping at work. My company wasn’t that bad; I did have an empty office with my own key that I could use as a pumping room, but it was completely empty except for the chair I put in there. Still, one woman I work with said when she was pumping there several years ago, they made her use the bathroom stall. Plus, I have high expectations for accomodating pumping moms. I used to work for Western Union/First Data and they had “lactation lounges” in the building for pumping moms to use plus they gave you a FREE brand new, top of the line Medela breast pump in your 8th month of pregnancy. I wish more companies were like that. Like Amy said in her post, when a company makes it easy for you to pump (or any other family-friendly policies) it really strengthens your loyalty to them.

  10. I am also fortunate to be able to pump three times a day at work. We have a loced lactation room with a sink, a fridge, and two easy chairs separated by a curtain. When I came back to work after my leave, I was fortunate to have access to this room (and I was really glad I wasn’t the woman to fight the battle to get the room).

    Anyway, this discussion makes me think of the NY Times article from September of last year that highlighted the not-so-fortnate moms. I am going to make an assumption that most of us commenting here work in office environments. What about the moms that work in fast food restaurants – many of whom can’t really afford the formula and whose kids would be much better served by the immunity boost from breastfeeding?

  11. Good luck to all you nursing/pumping moms!
    I found this contraption to be very helpful while pumping – it allowed me to read or do some work while pumping (I was lucky enough to have an empty office to use).
    It’s the Made by Moms pumping band.
    And I am pretty full-chested and it still worked…

  12. busybusymomma says:

    Thanks for sharing! I’m a SAHM now, but I WOH p/t when I had my first baby. I pumped in our little staff-only bathroom… not the most comfortable but easier for me than trying to find someone’s empty office that was private (I worked for a public library, not many hiding spaces there!).

    It takes commitment and I had to take fenugreek supplements once when my supply went down but overall it went well.

    I stopped pumping at 9 months but continued to nurse my daughter until she weaned at 20 months!

    I really do think businesses need to support nursing mothers- it’s in everyone’s best interests really. I started to type all the reasons why but if I do I’ll never shut up. :o)

  13. I’ve been back for about 1 1/2 now and HR was kindly to find me a room. Without asking HR or myself a Manager is moving into the room over the weekend. It was quite inconsiderate. None of our bathrooms have electrical outlets! The only place we literaly have is a closet and I’m not sure if there’s an outlet in there. Uggggh, You know I’ll just whip it out right at my desk.

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