Taking Your Working Boobs to Work

When I became a mother a little over three years ago, I started nursing and I started reading The Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog. From time-to-time they have blog “carnivals” where various people offer their different perspectives on the same topic. This carnival of breastfeeding is on working and breastfeeding, something I spent about eight months doing after John was born. I hope others who are or may be considering workplace pumping will find this helpful. Please check out the other carnival participants for additional information.

Breastfeeding in the workplace first entered my imagination my freshman year in college when I was on the debate team. Our topic that year was workplace discrimination, and my debate partner and I advocated a plan that required the federal government to make employers provide accommodations for nursing mothers in the workplace and to do otherwise was gender discrimination. Thanks largely to breastfeeding, there is a first place traveling debate trophy out there somewhere with my name on it.

Fast-forward almost ten years later: I had a great job as a communications director of a top-ranked public law school, Michael was in graduate school and I was pregnant with our first child. I’m the oldest of eight children, my mother nursed all of us and, much like the way we all tend almost unquestioningly do things the same way our parents did, I was planning to breastfeed. I was also planning to keep working after my maternity leave since I was the one with the good insurance and Michael had the more flexible schedule to keep the baby. Here are a few things I learned along the way about breastfeeding while working:

Take a Class, Then Take Another Class. You must take a breastfeeding class. It seems intuitive – here is a baby, here is a breast, let the feeding begin! – but you need to approach nursing armed with knowledge because it can be challenging. THEN you must take a class specifically for nursing working mothers that covers very specific topics like how to pump, how to store breastmilk, how to successfully bottle train your baby while still maintaining your breastfeeding relationship, and how to keep your supply up.

Buy or Rent a Good Breast Pump. My first two months of pumping, I used a hand held pump. During those months I made gallons of milk. I was a regular fountain of mom juice. But it still took 30 minutes for me to pump a few ounces. Then I started using an electric pump – a Medela Pump in Style – and it was worth every penny of the $250 I paid for it. Pumping now only took about 10 minutes and was much less frustrating.

I loved nursing. I tolerated pumping because I loved nursing. I could tolerate pumping because I had a great breast pump.

Find a Comfortable Place to Pump at Work. I used to think this meant buy a fluffy pillow. You know, get comfortable. But really this means find a place where you can get half naked, attach cones to your breasts and somehow manage to relax enough to effectively pump because stress doesn’t help your milk let down. Some workplaces have special areas set aside just for pumping, and some people end up in closets or in their cars. Whatever environment you have, do whatever you can to make it a little sanctuary for yourself.

I pumped at work until John was about 10 months old. I appreciated how much money we saved by my pumping rather than giving John formula. It also allowed me to reach my personal goal of exclusive breastfeeding until six months and continued nursing until 12 months and a bit beyond. But really, pumping allowed me to continue to start and end my day by cuddling and nursing my sweet little baby. There is something very unique and precious about the relationship you share with your nursing baby, and I’m glad pumping made that possible.

At one point I asked my mother how she managed to continue nursing me when she went back to work part time as a mental health professional after I was born in 1978. She told me how she would nurse me just before she went to work at 8:00am and then would half run back over to my great-aunt’s house at noon when she got off work to nurse me again. She described her feelings those first few weeks after going back to work as “schizophrenic.” To me it really underscored the great, great distances women have come both as working women and as breastfeeding women.

Other posts in the topic include:

Breastfeeding At My Family Daycare by Breastfeeding Moms Unite!
A Job Where Everyone Breastfeeds by The Milk Mama
Sorry, Facilities Guy by Momnesia the Book
Working and Breastfeeding a Toddler by Strocel.com
Working and Pumping by The Marketing Mama
Breastfeeding and working is possible, and you can make it work by The Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog
Do you really need a pump? by Chronicles of a Nursing Mom
I Think This Officially Makes Me a Mommy Blogger by Vanderbilt Wife
What About Breastfeeding When I Go Back to Work? by babyREADY
My Breast Pump and I Didn’t Get Along by Stork Stories
Tips for Breastfeeding and Working by Breastfeeding 1-2-3
Breastfeeding and Working in the UK by Breastfeeding Mums
The 5 biggest mistakes working & pumping moms make by Blacktating
This is a Breastfeeding Office by MumUnplugged
Beating the Employment Booby Trap by Best for Babes
Nursing Mothers Need Workplace Support by My World Edenwild

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24 Comments

Filed under how to..., it's cold up here on this soapbox, stuff i read

24 responses to “Taking Your Working Boobs to Work

  1. Pingback: A Job Where Everyone Breastfeeds – The Milk Mama

  2. Pingback: Breastfeeding At My Family Daycare | Breastfeeding Moms Unite

  3. Pingback: » Working and Breastfeeding a Toddler Strocel.com

  4. Pingback: My Breast Pump and I didn’t get Along « Stork Stories… Birth & Breastfeeding

  5. Your mother must be one amazing woman. To nurse so many children and be so committed to breastfeeding during a time a few decades ago when breastfeeding was even less supported and encouraged than it is now. . .

    Oh, and I really like your statement, “I loved nursing. I tolerated pumping because I loved nursing.”

    It captures so well the feeling of so many working, breastfeeding mothers.

    • I continue to be impressed, as well, by the lengths that women go to in order to work and breastfeed. I wish that it weren’t necessary to go to such lengths. But given that it sometimes is, I stand in awe of moms’ commitments to breastfeeding.

    • She IS an amazing woman. My maternal grandmother also breastfed back when most people were formula feeding. I have the feeling from talking to people this was largely an economic decision since she was a farmer’s wife. But I”m so glad she did.

  6. Tabitha

    I wanted to do the same thing — breastfeed exclusively for the first 6 months and then continue until at least 12 months. I went back to work as a bank examiner when my daughter was about 4 months old — when I went to work part-time, I was never at my office, but in various banks. I once had to pump in a supply closet without a locking door — no bueno! After it was all said and done, I was sad to quit nursing when my daughter was about 16 months old, but I made it to my goal. Furthermore, my almost 3 year old is super healthy and has never even had an ear infection. I know it isn’t an easy thing to do, but I’ll always try to encourage new moms to stick with it. I’m so glad I did.

    • I am really impressed by your commitment to nursing – especially doing it in a supply closet!

      I really appreciate the health benefits of nursing. I can’t imagine how much we saved in co-pays just by breastfeeding.

  7. Your post made me realize that if I had returned to work I would have had to pump in a bathroom we had to share with mental health clients because there really was no other place. Yikes. I had never thought of that before.

  8. Your tips are right on the mark. The electric pump is key (worth the $$) and “comfortable” equates to “relaxation.” It is extra work to pump during the workday, but so worth it.

  9. Pingback: Tips for Breastfeeding and Working : Breastfeeding 1-2-3 - Breastfeeding 1-2-3: A Blog for Breastfeeding Tips and Support

  10. Pingback: MumUnplugged »  This is a Breastfeeding Office

  11. For me your post really underscored the fact that breastfeeding your child isn’t just a gift for that child – it’s a gift for the next generation too! My mother breastfed my two youngest siblings and that made me determined to breastfeed my son; I hope if we are ever blessed with a daughter then she will go on to breastfeed her own children having learned that it is natural, normal and wonderful!

  12. Rosalie

    I’m pretty sure this post is responsible for me dreaming about breast feeding my baby. I had to hold the baby almost upside-down and tilt it’s head a certain way in order for it to work. I was walking around somewhere and people kept telling me I was doing it the wrong way.

  13. Your site was extremely interesting, especially since I was searching for thoughts on this subject last Thursday.

  14. Pingback: Things I’ve learned in the Mother’s Room « Brooke’s Baby Belly Blog

  15. Olivia

    “I loved nursing. I tolerated pumping because I loved nursing.”

    This is exactly how I feel about pumping. So many times I think to myself I’m just DONE with pumping. I don’t want to set up and clean all that equipment one more time (I’ve been doing it for 7 months, 2/day 5 day/week). But then I think of all the early morning nursing, and how I can reconnect with my baby at the end of the day, and I don’t want to do anything to jeapordize that.

  16. Pingback: What About Breastfeeding When I Go Back To Work? | babyready

  17. Pingback: Beating the Employment “Booby Trap” | Best for Babes

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