Category Archives: it's cold up here on this soapbox

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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Putting in My Eight Hours

Like most stay-at-home parents, I work. I have two part-time jobs; I’m a freelance writer and I teach a class of 2-year-olds at a Mom’s Day Out program. Most of my writing work is with local colleges and universities writing promotional pieces like department features and student profiles. I started teaching at the Mom’s Day Out program last year so the boys could go for free and enjoy the social interaction. I kept doing it this year so I would have a steady paycheck to help pay for John’s Montessori program. And the kids are really sweet too.

The freelance work I picked up over a year ago, and that’s the work I do because I love it. It keeps my finger in the career pool and all, but I really enjoy talking to interesting academics and making their esoteric research accessible to people who have no idea what they do or why it matters. It’s that little thing I do that is completely for myself.

Today looked like this:

5:30am-6:30am – This week I’ve been getting up every morning at 5:00am to work on writing projects. Today I slept in until 5:30am.

8:30am-1:30pm – Taught at Mom’s Day Out program.

2:45pm-3:45pm – Lesson planned for Mom’s Day Out next week while the boys were napping.

4:00pm-5:00pm – Interviewed individual for current freelance project.

It’s funny how despite the rise of the non-traditional workplace, people tend to think stay-at-home parents are all non-wage earners who MUST have ridiculous amounts of time on their hands. Most of the stay-at-home parents I know also earn an outside wage in some capacity. They are doulas, teachers, home-based salespersons, they own their own businesses, provide childcare, or they work part-time for their employers from home. And if they aren’t wage earners, it’s because they are contributing a large cost-saving service to their family in the form of things like homeschooling.

Yesterday was not a great day to be a work-at-home parent. At one point I was racing down a back county road, handing McDonald chicken nuggets and french fries to my boys in the backseat while I drove, and seriously questioning what great thing I though I was giving my children by “staying home” with them. It was a very atypical day with multiple client interviews and a huge miscommunication regarding childcare that I couldn’t have planned for. And it was the first time they’d eaten McDonalds since our summer travels in July, but to me it felt like a failure. I should keep a stash of wholesome, freshly prepared food in my bag FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS. 

I know it’s the little moments I have with them every day, throughout the day, even on days when I work a full eight hours, that make all the difference. It’s for them, but it’s for me too.

They thought chicken nuggets in the car was the best thing that had ever happened to them.

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I *heart* Laura Bush

Regardless of what you think about Bush 43, it’s hard not to like Laura. She is just incredibly fair and above it all.

Laura Bush Defends Obama

And while I’m here on my soap box, Curtis Sittenfeld is a witch.

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