This is a topic that I am passionately committed to. However, committed or not, pumping can sometimes be annoying, "in the way," and inconvenient. I decided I am going to give you an honest "in" on how pumping in the workplace has been for me over these last months.
First, the fact that I even am able to pump at work is something that I am very thankful for. Not only is it possible, but there is a dedicated room that has a nice, hefty lock on it that I can schedule time in each day. On the other hand, breastfeeding is a wonderful, warm, bonding experience that I have with my son. Pumping is NOT the same as breastfeeding, and to be honest, I really do not enjoy doing it. It is a sterile, methodic, and plastic-y thing that I do. But I do it. I will keep on doing it.
Since this topic is a bit different than my normal "thoughts on" journal-like posts, I decided to do it in a Q&A style. Here goes:
What kind of pump do you use? Would you recommend it?
I have a "Medela Pump in Style Advanced Breast Pump with On the Go Tote." I would describe this as the Audi version of breast pumps. It has a hefty price tag (runs over $300) but since it is a double electric, I can get a pumping session completed in about twenty minutes (set up and washing time included). I would recommend this pump to someone who works outside the home because it is powerful, efficient, and easy to take with you. Anything I don't like about it? Yep. I don't like that the bottles are SO EXPENSIVE. However, the fact that it all fits into one, non-de-script bag is a huge win in my book.
What does your pumping schedule look like?
Something that my midwife stressed with me a ton is that you must keep a consistent schedule while pumping because a pump is never as efficient as baby. What do I mean by that? Your baby can empty your breast (you want that) better than any pump ever will. So by pumping, you are taking a risk of altering your supply and sometimes in a negative way. Especially since breastfeeding works on a supply and demand routine. I digress. My schedule is as follows: wake up at 5AM for work. Try to get in a feeding with Asa between 5AM and 5:30AM. I then arrive at work at 7AM. My pump times are at 8:30AM, 11:30AM, and 2:30PM. I leave work at 4PM, pick up Asa, and we resume nursing around 5PM. You will notice that I never (try to never) go longer than three hours in between pumping/nursing sessions. This was recommended to me to ensure that my supply will not tank. It has not. Once Asa is eating solids (we are planning to introduce these at six months) I plan on spacing my pumping sessions out accordingly. Eventually dropping to two times a day at work, then to one, and so on.
Does pumping affect your ability to produce quality work?
The short answer is yes and no. Anything that causes you to break up your work day probably affects your productivity, but I would argue that pumping is not anymore distracting than taking a lunch break, smoke break, or any other kind of time away from your work. Also, I pump hands-free, and continue to work while I am pumping, so in reality, there is very little time consumed that does not involve working. How is that for multi-tasking?
Do you use your pump outside of work?
No! When I first started nursing and headed back to work, I did not understand how breastfeeding worked. Whenever I was engorged or over-full I would pump until empty. This was wrong. This told my body that it needed to make that milk again and resulted in a huge oversupply (especially since I already had oversupply/overactive letdown issues to begin with). I have now weaned myself off of pumping at all outside of work. Sometimes I can get overly full and will hand express until I am comfortable, but never empty. That way my body and Asa can regulate how much milk I am making.
Why is it important for you to pump at work?
Pumping at work, while it can be inconvenient and a pain in the derrière, is very important to me. Breast milk is the #1 way to feed your baby. It protects them from so much and gives them nutrients that cannot be matched in any other way. That being said, babies can and do thrive while being fed formula, but for my family and children, we have decided that breastfeeding is critical.
In an ideal world, I would never be separated from my son during feeding times. This is not reality. However, just because you work does not mean that your child cannot receive breast milk exclusively. It is possible. It's a lot of work, but it is possible. My goal is for Asa to be only have breast milk until the age of six months, and then continue nursing him with the goal beyond one year. With that goal in mind, you can only imagine how hard it was for me during my terrible bout of mastitis and having to pump/dump for over two weeks.
What advice do you have for other moms who want to pump at work?
It is totally normal if you get frustrated with this. It is totally normal for you to feel like you just want to skip a session (don't do it though). It is totally normal for you to just wish you were at home nursing. Stick with it. Don't give up. You are providing valuable nutrients to your baby and supporting your family by doing this. Basically, you are a rock star.
If you are having problems with your supply or creating a schedule, DO NOT hesitate to call a lactation consultant. My local hospital actually has a free hotline that you can call with questions at anytime. They have answered a lot of questions for me in relation to pumping. It has been great. Also, my midwife has been an awesome champion for me in terms of helping me protect my supply through working and illness. Find people to be on your team and then let them help you, you will not regret it.
I hope that this might be of help to someone out there who is also pumping at work, thinking about it, or maybe knows someone who is. I definitely do not have all the answers, nor am qualified to give specific advice, BUT am totally here if you have any questions about my experience or anything else. I can share my advice and point you to helpful professionals. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, KellyMom has excellent resources on pumping at work as well as La Leche League.
*Disclaimer: This post is in no way trying to minimize women who have chosen to use formula or who cannot pump/breastfeed. There are a lot of reasons why you or someone you love has chosen not to breastfeed. However, I do believe that breastfeeding is a great gift you can give to your children and since it is now a huge part of my life, I have decided to post on the topic. I hope that you understand that this post is written to share my personal experience and reach out to those who can relate.