The day I returned to work from my maternity leave, I had another bag to lug from the parking lot. As I walked into the office that Friday morning, I felt shy and nervous that someone would know what the bag was, as if I was embarrassed that I breastfeed. I stored the bag under my desk out of sight of my coworkers.
When 10 am rolled around I started to get nervous. I am actually going to have to sit in a room in my office building and do this with coworkers in the next room? And this is going to be the norm for the next year?
I’m not going to sugar coat this. The first few days pumping at work were tough. I was so nervous for some reason. I felt awkward and self-conscious “undressing” in a conference room. It felt like some messed up documentary at a one-off film festival where someone captures an awkward work affair. It just felt weird. I feared that I wouldn’t be able to produce for my daughter while at work.
Luckily I have a support group at work. My boss pumped for a year and there is another mom that just stopped. Plus, the ladies in my department are in full support of my decision to breastfeed and pump at work. In fact, the receptionist and I have a secret code. When she sees me walk by with my black tote, she does a little nod if the conference room is free. There is no awkwardness; no explaining to others if they see our interaction. It really put me at ease.
Just like breastfeeding in the beginning weeks, pumping at work took some time to get a groove. I had to figure out the best times to pump and how to incorporate my daily “meetings” in my calendar (yes, I have “Pump” scheduled with an Outlook alert).
Although quite tough at first, I stuck it out and have been pumping at work for over 4 months now. Here are some tips to help with anxiety when whipping those boobies out in a conference room:
- Look at a picture of your baby. Just as the cries of your little one help with your letdown, so do pictures. I am lucky enough to FaceTime with Bear when I pump.
- Use an electric pump. It sounds like a “duh” statement, but pumps are expensive and some people try and opt for a manual pump to save some money. I wouldn’t recommend it. If you pump 2 or 3 times daily, an electric pump is a necessity. You won’t be saving any money when you have to go out and buy electric after you’ve already purchased a manual. Mine is the Medela Freestyle and I absolutely love it.
- Put a sticky note on the door. Yes, by law the door must have a lock, but even when a door is locked, it doesn’t prevent people from knocking or jiggling the handle. A sticky not that says “Room occupied. Available in 15 minutes” prevents any interruptions that could possibly slow down your production while pumping.
- Drink lots of H2O. I work in an office setting in a cubicle and constantly have to remind myself to fill up my water bottle. Set a calendar reminder every two hours to grab a glass of water. Or, use your “Pump” alert to remind you to get one.
- Keep mini dish soap and an extra bottle brush in your pump bag. This way you can clean your pump at work. Those pump cleaning cloths (that look like a thing of baby wipes) work well too if you don’t have access to a sink.
- Always have an extra set of batteries. Outlets malfunction and the last thing you want is to get all ready to pump only to find out that the outlet isn’t working. Rather than packing everything back up and relocating, you can use the battery operated power pack.
- Go hands free. This product must have been designed by a working mom. I have this “bra” from Medela called the Easy Expression™ Bustier. Best. Thing. EVER!
- Stay occupied. Don’t just sit there watching the milk come out (oh, don’t act like you’ve never done that). While I too love to see my “progress,” I find that when I focus on how much I am getting, I actually produce less. Read emails, skim a magazine, call a friend (just be conscious of the “milk factory” noise in the background).
It’s kind of funny that 4 months after my anxiety ridden week, I now am free to be me at work. I often leave my pump bag on my desk, I wash my bottles and equipment in the break room sink, and even store my milk in the common fridge (In a cooler, of course. I’m not that comfortable yet!)
Thanks Sisters ‘N Cloth for a #BFBlogHop week 9 topic that really hits home to me. I am so grateful that I am able to still nourish my daughter with breast milk even though we are apart ten hours a day.