Breast Pumping at Work

I didn’t set out to become an exclusive pumper. I knew I would have to pump once I rejoined the workforce following my maternity leave, of course, but that seemed ages away. I had visions of my baby and I blissfully breastfeeding together, and fantasies of a freezer packed to the brim with bags of extra milk. Everything was going to be perfect.

The reality check came shortly after my son was born.

After a week of frustration and midnight crying marathons, it became clear that life had other plans. He wouldn’t latch and my supply was dismal. A breast reduction in 2005 had left so much scar tissue that my body simply couldn’t produce enough milk, but I was determined to give him everything I could, and my relationship with my pump began far sooner than I had originally planned.  Breast pumping at work was my only option. 

Because of my operation, I need a really aggressive pump in order to fully empty my supply. I ended up renting a Mirena Symphony, the same medical grade pump I used while I was recovering in the hospital. It’s pretty much the Rolls Royce of breast pumps, and it does a great job, but it does come with a few downsides.

On my first day back at work, I packed up my car with everything I needed and set my pump in its thick plastic case on the passenger seat next to me. I buckled myself in, started the engine as usual, and was surprised to hear the car start to ding. I got out and double-checked my doors. All firmly latched. I got back into the car and buckled in again, making sure I clicked the belt in securely, but the alarm was still sounding. I looked at my dashboard and realized the problem: the pump was so heavy that it was tripping the seat belt alarm! That’s when the reality started to set in. Every day, I was going to have to haul this pump, which apparently weighed as much as a small child, back and forth to work.

This was going to be a long, long year.

When I got to work, I headed for my boss’s office to talk to her about pumping.  I was knocking things off counters and accidentally whacked a few of my coworkers on the way as I tried to maneuver around with my heavy bags.

I work at an animal hospital, where pumping options are pretty limited. My boss told me I could choose between an exam room (which doesn’t have locks and isn’t really the most private space) or a completely private, lockable shower stall. I opted for the exam room. I would have rather pumped in the lobby in front of the whole staff and all our clients than resort to pumping in a bathroom. (Which, by the way, is not a legally acceptable place for an employer to make you pump. However, I was told a shower stall “didn’t really count” as a bathroom. Crazy, right?)

For a month and a half now, I’ve been lugging that thing with me every day and sneaking off every three hours or so to pump, and I’m going to be honest here: it’s a huge pain in the tuckus. My back is about to give out from carrying all my pumping accoutrements, my coworkers get irritated at me having to duck out all the time, and there’s just something inherently weird about hanging out at work with your boobs out, even if nobody can see you. But I’ll tell you something else: knowing my son is getting every precious drop I produce and reaping the countless benefits from nature’s perfect baby food makes it all worth it in the end.

 

Another SmartMom had a more embarrassing story regarding breast pumping at work – check it out.

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