Myth #8: The Pumpin’ is Easy
This afternoon, upon leaving my office to make a quick trip to the bathroom, I spot from afar the man who cleans the restrooms. Hovering impatiently outside the door, he mutters, “there’s someone in there for a long time…” and then trails off as if to imply I might as well go ahead and keep him waiting, too.
Once inside, I get it. Instantly.
An extension cord is plugged into an outlet by the sinks and stretched taut across the room, where it disappears up into the first stall. At the same time, the unmistakable sound of breast pump wheezing fills the air.
I can also see the black, peep toe pumps—and the fact that the mama who owns them is likely perched on the toilet (with no lid) collecting milk for a baby that is somewhere else.
You would think that in a fancy pants office building like mine—complete with art gallery in the lobby—someone could spare a damn broom closet with an outlet and a folding chair.
Would you eat your lunch on the toilet? Better yet, would you prepare your child’s lunch in a public bathroom stall? And yet, that is essentially what we ask of nursing mothers who need to pump outside of the home.
I feel so sorry for peep toe that I almost yell to her that she can use my office, but I don’t have the guts.
But, you say, pumping is win-win. Baby gets breast milk benefits while mama gets the freedom to earn a paycheck, right? Wrong, I say. There are many reasons why I pump—like those described in one of my previous posts—but there are also many reasons why the pumpin’ ain’t always so easy:
- Location, location, location. Not only do you need electricity (or several fully charged batteries) and a place to sit, but you need some serious privacy as well. It seems like every milking mama has at least one horror pumping-locale to share—from the bathroom at a theatre to the front seat of a parked car to the many, many janitor closets cozied up to some sloppy mop.
- No substitute for nature. Pumping messes with the supply-and-demand system of breastfeeding. If you don’t time it just right, you can wind up trying to nurse a hungry baby before you have replenished. Likewise, a machine just doesn’t stimulate production like the real deal so—more often than not—the more you pump, the harder it is to sustain your supply over the long-term.
- Race against time. Once you have pumped your precious ounces, the clock starts ticking. Someone somewhere made up a bunch of arbitrary rules about how long you can store breast milk at room temp, in the fridge, or in the freezer. Be prepared to worry constantly about “freshness” (and ice packs) as your milk travels from the office fridge to your home fridge to your baby’s bottle.
- Cleanliness is next to Godliness. Sanitizing pumping parts is a brutal waste of time. Expect a nightly ritual of at least 30 minutes to microwave tubing, phalanges, membranes, and bottles. At the suggestion of a really smart lactation consultant, I used two sets of pumping parts per day—one for each session—and then bagged everything and schlepped it all home for cleaning. This strategy got me back to my job as quickly as possible and spared me the hassle of having to use the office kitchen.