When I had my first baby I looked at pumping as a miracle that would allow me to work and simultaneously care for my baby. I thoroughly researched and bought what I believed was one of the best pumps on the market, a Medela Freestyle. I even purchased the pump bra so that I could pump hands free and work or type.
My first experience with pumping was in the hospital. H was premature and so I had to pump since he was in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). Pumping became my job. I pumped every few hours to get as much colostrum as I possibly could. I would then proudly take it down to the NICU for his feedings. Every drop seemed like gold.
When we got home from the hospital I had to pump and give the breastmilk to H in a bottle. This would allow us to monitor exactly how much he was receiving. It was exhausting. I would let him practice nurse a little while, feed him his bottle and then pump. By the time I finished pumping I had about 15 minutes before he needed to eat again. It was a labor of love, and I powered through it.
Then I went back to work… Pumping at work is not easy. With H my supply dipped dramatically when I started pumping. I had to pump at least 20-30 minutes just to get the minimum amount of milk he needed while he was at school. It was a constant challenge and I started to feel anxious every time I pumped because I knew the average I needed to achieve in order to meet his feeding needs. Despite this we used breast milk exclusively until 8 months. At that time he started weaning and my supply really dropped, but he continued to nurse with supplemental formula until 10 months.
With Baby C2 I nursed from the moment he was born. In fact I didn’t even break my pump out more than a handful of time during my maternity leave. It was easy, natural and he ate on his schedule or when he needed to eat. I dreaded having to drag the pump out when I went back to work. Having to decline meetings or ask them to be rearranged because it doesn’t fit into your pump schedule is a little humiliating. Not to mention, you constantly feel like you are being judged. To be clear, I said feel. I don’t know that I actually am being judged. Regardless it is highly inconvenient to need to pump at least three times during the work day. People don’t understand that pumping for a nursing mom is like using the restroom. If the milk doesn’t come out you become engorged and it is just painful. I also feel strange putting the pumping sign on my office door. Coworkers don’t necessarily understand that I am in my office working hard on my laptop while hooked up to this milk machine. The New Yorker published a piece in 2009 about how we are turning into our own milk maids as we create pumps to simulate real babies. Meanwhile we take babies away from their mothers.
“If breast is best, why are women bottling their milk,” the article questions.
I want to make it at least ten or twelve months breast feeding Baby C2. However, as the travel demands for my job begin to increase due to an organization realignment, I am afraid it won’t be possible. During my last work trip we used all of my frozen reserve. I may end up having to choose providing for my family over feeding my baby.
We know that breastfeeding until six months is recommended by both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of Pediatrics. The WHO even recommends breast feeding in combination with allowed foods continue beyond the six month time frame. There has been a lot of recent discussion surrounding maternity leave and benefits for mothers of newborns. Specifically, Vodafone just announced new maternity leave policies to attract and retain women employees. Policies that support mothers being able to breast feed their babies for at least the minimum recommended time frames should also be seriously considered by government and employers.
As a working mom were you able to breast feed? What choices did you have to make to feed your baby?
Peace, Love and the Whirring Sound of Pumping,
*It is important to note that I am able to afford, beyond healthcare compensation, for a very good portable pump. If I could not afford the $300+ dollars to purchase a quality portable pump, it would take much longer to pump and the decrease in breast milk supply could be greater.
Image Credit: huffingtonpost.com
Swallowing the Pumping Pill is Part 2 in a 3 Part Series About Breastfeeding and Pumping for Your Infant.