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.