Pump It Up

I am here to chronicle my pumping journey. As a working mom, I had to decide if I wanted to continue our breastfeeding adventure once I returned to work.

For me it was pretty simple:  I want to keep providing George with breastmilk as long as I can.

Since we had to pump quite a bit his first month of life due to his early arrival situation, I knew that transitioning back to it wouldn’t be that difficult.

I just had to figure out how it would fit into my new work schedule.

There are laws protecting women in the workplace who decide to pump, meaning that they have to let you do it. But there is still cause to worry. Will my colleagues be understanding? Will it cut down on my productivity/availability? How will I fit this in my schedule? Will it become too much?

Luckily my colleagues have all been super accepting and understand fully what I am going through. They both have kids of their own and know this is something that I need to do. I just have to kindly remind them when I need my mother break. I feel really lucky that they have been fully supportive and help me in whatever way they can to make sure I get my time.

As far as my productivity and availability, this has been the hardest thing for me to adjust to. I take three pumping breaks a day, which leaves me practically useless for those half hour spans of time. I am fortunate to be able to pump in my own office so I can still do minimal work on my computer. I would say it is not super productive since I can only type with one hand (although my speed is increasing.) I don’t have one of those fancy bras that holds the cups in place, so I have to physically hold it with my hand for the duration of the pump. I try to save more reading tasks or phone calls for these times to maximize what I can do since I am limited to one hand.

But I cannot meet with anyone. It hasn’t been a huge problem yet since I have still been in training mode and our student contact dies down at the end of the semester. I do worry though once next semester hits, and I have back to back meetings and need to be available to students. I don’t want to seem unapproachable or hard to meet with due to my blocks of time.

I had have a lot of guilt that I am not doing my job the best I can because I have to take these timeouts. I know that this is the best for George, but I also feel a strong sense of responsibility to do the best at my job. Sometimes, I feel an immense amount of guilt because I have to hide myself away for an hour and a half a day to do something personal.

Which leads into my schedule. So far I have only had one day that I have not been able to do all three of my breaks. I do worry that this will happen the more I get involved and more things I need to tend to. The day it happened I had 3 meetings back to back in different places around campus and was not able to make it back in time to pump. I learned that I will need to be more vigilant about moving my pumping schedule around so people don’t schedule my time on my calendar. Unfortunately, I know there will be times when those meetings are out of my control. I feel that as long as I make sure I have 2 pumps a day, I can make it work. But ideally I need to have three to keep up with George’s feeding the best way possible.

I am so glad that I have my own office to escape to for my breaks. I can leave my pump somewhat set up under my desk, which is nice not to have to break it down each time. My first day here they didn’t have blinds on my window yet, which is a floor to ceiling window looking into a lobby. I had to go to the community breastfeeding closet that day. This would have really eaten into my schedule because the one room they have designated for breastfeeding moms is not in my building. So I would have to walk two buildings over (luckily they are connected by a breezeway), climb three flights of stairs, and hope the room wasn’t occupied. Then I would have to set up and break down each time. That travel time and set up alone would add 15 minutes to the already 30 minutes I was taking. Plus there is no computer in that room, so in order to work, I would have to lug my work station with me. Needless to say the blinds were installed on my office window on my second day so I only had one day of that to deal with. Whew. I do not take this luxury lightly!

Funny story:  Even though I have blinds and a locked door, I did have someone walk in on me a couple weeks back. It was a maintenance man who did not heed my “I am busy” when he knocked. He got more than he bargained for when he unlocked that door. I am still not sure why he needed in my office because I had no work orders out and he never came back to do what he intended in the first place. I was really mad at first but looking back, I can only laugh at his facial expression when he realized what was going on.

Anyway, besides all the professional questions, you think about all the mom things: Am I going to make enough? Is George going to be more used to a bottle now and will we have problems breastfeeding?

I don’t make enough milk. There it is. I feel like a failure sometimes when I think about it. It just is what it is though. I have tried taking supplements and eating all the lactation cookies to increase my supply, which helped, but ultimately I was not keeping up with George’s demand. He is pretty greedy with the bottle. I average around 3 oz each complete session and George drinks 3-5 oz each feeding. Do the math; I got behind fast…We had to make a choice, and we recently decided to feed George formula for his last feeding of the night. This was for two reasons. One, he was no longer sleeping through the night, and I was having to wake up at 2/3am to feed him. We were hoping if we fed him formula it would get him through the entire night since all the readings say it keeps them full longer. And two, it gave me the opportunity to pump at night and stock up extra milk for the sitter. So we have been doing that for a little more than a week now, and it has really changed everyone’s mood. We are all sleeping through the night for the most part (we still have our nights), and we now have enough for him to drink breastmilk all day. For now.

There was a lot of anxiety on my part for this one. Tom and I had several conversations that we were going to do this, and it still took me a couple days to actually pull the trigger on the formula. I still feel guilty that I wasn’t able to do it 100% longer, but we made it 3.5 months. I know that formula is not bad. Goodness I was only formula fed and I am just fine. I think though that there is just so much pressure these days to be mom who breastfeeds, and then you put a lot on yourself as a mom if you can’t succeed in that. I just need to remember to look at the whole situation; his primary sustenance is still breastmilk and again formula is keeping lots of babies perfectly healthy. We ultimately were going to have to end up doing formula somewhere because the reality was I was not making enough to fill him up. The plus side is that now Tom can be more involved with feeding because he is in charge of that bedtime feeding now. That gives them some time to bond that I was previously hogging (unintentionally).

We also did have a few problems with breastfeeding before the big switch to formula that began shortly after I started working. George did not want the boob. He would kick and fight me the whole time, and I was so distraught. But yet he would have no problems with a bottle. Apparently they go through cycles and this happens, but I had firmly decided that it was because of pumping and “abandoning” my baby at feeding time. “All my fault” was flashing in big neon lights in my head. I just need to get over myself on this one-it’s a daily battle friends.

I really just need a reminder that there are going to be little troubles, but we will make the best decision that we can within the means that we have. I need to accept that. He is healthy and being fed and that is what matters.

So I pump more than I breastfeed now. We do breastfeed completely on the weekends, besides that last feeding. It is nice for me to catch up on all the missed feedings with him. I honestly think that pumping has made me cherish those times we do breastfeed a little more.

And I cherish the fact that there are less dishes to do on the weekend. Like super cherish. I hate doing those silly dishes.

I have to wash pump parts every single night to keep up. (I have 6 pump parts, and I am adament stubborn about buying more even though I pump 4 times a day.) Those are 15-30 minutes I wish I had back every day, but I am too paranoid to leave it to the dishwasher to get clean.

Other things that are handy for pumping at work:

  • It is vital that you have a good pump. I have a Medela, and I love it. (As much as you can love a suction cup machine)
  • Burp cloth or hand towel-I keep a burp cloth in my bag because it is inevitable that I will spill/spray milk every where.
  • Cooler/access to fridge- My pump came with a little cooler and ice pack, which I use everyday to transport the milk. I am lucky that we have access to a fridge in my office, otherwise I would probably invest in a mini-fridge to store the milk throughout the day. Although it would still be nice to have a fridge in my office again.
  • Water and snacks-I am thirsty and hungry ALL. THE. TIME. I pack my lunch bag with extra snacks to have for these pumping sessions. I also make sure that my water bottle is full before every session so I can stay hydrated.
  • Nursing pads-These are just a must so you don’t leak through your work clothes. I use the Target brand, and I have never had a problem with leaking out of them.
  • Ziplock bags-I keep two bags to keep all the clean and dirty parts separated in my bag.

I don’t wear a nursing bra because I found them too cumbersome. I am still managing with a sports bra and cami everyday and then just roll it up when I need to pump. It does somewhat limit my wardrobe, but I am making it work. This is the most comfortable for me. I do miss all my dresses though…

There are times that I wonder if this (the pumping, the washing, the preparing) is worth it. Pumping only 3 oz each time can be really discouraging. There is a conversation a few times a week about whether we should continue. In the end though, what I am able to supply is a huge blessing. Whatever I can give is good for George.

Just saying, it is also nice on our wallet to keep pumping. Even with only one feeding of formula a day, I feel like we are just zipping through this container of formula.

You have to always be re-evaluating this nursing experience. Your situation and baby’s needs are going to make things change, so you have to be ready to evolve with what is going on. It can be really stressful at times. For me, it was in those moments that I realized we needed to do something different because it was not healthy for any of us to continue down that path. So adjustments are made and you move on to the next thing.

Which is teething…oh buddy.

Do you have experience pumping at work or know anyone who does? Did you have struggles? What are your tips? Did you feel like a bag lady going into work everyday? 

5 thoughts on “Pump It Up

  1. Pingback: George-4 Months |

  2. My last day of pumping at work was Thursday, 12/18! I was so excited I felt like throwing a party! I pumped three times a day up until 10 months and then slowly started dropping pumps. At the end, I only pumped once a day for three weeks. I personally think a hands free pump bra is worth the $30! It enabled me to do a ton of work while I pumped. You can also use a sports bra and cut holes in it (haven’t done it but heard good things). Another thing I did for days that were super busy with meetings, I bought a car adapter for my pump and pumped on the way home. You can also pump on your way to work. Another thing I found helpful was pace bottle feeding. It is a method of feeding bottles that mimic bf so that our littles aren’t so “greedy” while we are at work haha If you YouTube it, a really helpful video shows up. Working and breastfeeding is super hard! You are doing great and should be really proud.

    • Thanks Sara Lynn! I am trying the sports bra trick all this week to see if that will suffice before I go and buy a real pump bra. Congrats on making it a whole year! That is awesome! (And definitely party worthy!)

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