August 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week and we have a special extended line up for you! Our writers will share their triumphs and tears through their personal recollections of making sure their babies are fed, be it through breastfeeding or supplementation. We hope you connect with these experiences by picking up a few tips or gaining the confidence to do what is best for your situation. Enjoy!
This is a brief window into my lactation expression career.
‘Breast is best’, they say.
Actually, what they should say is, “Breast is better, but finding your feeding balance is best.”
Now, this is not a message of surrender, rather it is the acceptance that this is how some things were simply meant to be. Some mothers would argue that by choosing a pumping-free career over breastfeeding is a slap in the face to all of the women who desperately wish that they could produce and can’t. With that being said, after pulling 40+ hour work weeks and pumping through two little ones I can say that my ability to balance my career would have been considerably easier if I wasn’t the human form of a jersey cow.
I am an #ArchiMom. The architecture profession is an often unpredictable stream of deadlines and client meetings. Like many other careers, it can be unyielding in flexibility. Fortunately, through my two babies, I was able to find my work-pump balance.
I had to say goodbye to my snappy fashionista dresses but I did find some alternatives to keep me feeling more feminine as opposed to a curtain-draped lactation producer.
Nursing Tanks – I had several in multiple colors. These ended up being my prized possessions. The built-in bra mechanism was strong enough to support the pump cups in them so I could operate hands-free. It also acted as a shielding device so I or some innocent bystander didn’t have to see my postpartum belly bulging out over my waistline. I felt less exposed and that is always a good thing. Additionally, the nursing tanks had enough padding to masque any leaking if I had gone too long in between pumps.
Zippered and or Buttoned Camisoles and Cardigans – I never knew that buttons and zippers were going to be my pumping savior. With fast access to get my pump parts hooked up and going, these garments made it easier to drape over the pump protrusions or your little one’s head while they are feeding out in public. I would nurse out in public, although I was the one who was shy about showing my skin. Furthermore, this type of outfit transitioned really well from work to home.
I opted for the battery charged option because it gave me the flexibility to hook up wherever I needed. Life would have been far harder if I was constantly searching for an outlet. I carried my parts back and forth in a zippered lunch tote that carried nipple cream, the pump charger, and dish-washing soap. In my desk drawer was an ice cream bucket and a towel. After each pump, I would wash my parts in that bucket. It used less water and allowed me to quickly clean the parts without having to wonder what was lingering in the break room sink. The milk was stored in the office fridge in the zippered tote with an ice pack that came with my pump.
Scenario 1 – First Born
Primary Pumping Location: Windowless Conference Room
Secondary Pumping Location: Car – During Rush Hour
Tertiary Pumping Location: Bed – 10 minutes to eeek out just enough to fill the daycare bottles.
Between the lack of restorative sleep from multiple night-time feedings and the stress of a fast-paced, deadline-oriented work environment my anxiety is alarming and irrational. I was weeks into my return to my #ArchiMom career and I still felt guilty for leaving my desk. It took a serious amount of mental control to not worry that my colleagues were fuming at me while I was behind closed doors, pumping. By not being at my desk I am perceived as not doing what is necessary to get the job done.
Despite working to meet assigned deadlines, I find myself nearly 4 hours late for reaching a deliverable milestone. I had to finish a check set before I could leave. In a feeble attempt to do so, I skipped my last pump of the day to try to catch up. Despite that, I still felt guilty as I sprinted out the door 10 minutes past my daycare pick up departure time.
Since becoming responsible for a tiny human and their nourishment, I don’t have the flexibility that I used to. In the parking lot, I struggle to hook up my breast pump while praying that no one walks by and looks at me with stern concern. Yes, that is what my day has been reduced to – pumping in the car to salvage the skipped late afternoon pump. My mom-boobs are like boulders and have begun to leak. I can’t get my hands to settle down, more minutes tick away. Frustration has turned into sobs.
A month later my husband saw the emotional mess I was in. He lovingly worked to get me to accept the formula route to supplement my milk production. It was an extremely difficult realization but it was an important one. I was able to usher some peace back into my life AND skip the rush-hour pump in the car routine. I pumped until my firstborn was 15 months old and I worked on a memoir using an app on my phone during pump breaks. Sometimes you have to embrace the quiet time that pumping provides.
Scenario 2 – Second Born
Primary Pumping Location: ADA Accessible Bathroom Stall with Chair and Side Table
Secondary Pumping Location: Car – At Construction Job Site
I’m on a construction site, in the job trailer with eight other men during an OAC (Owner, Architect, Contractor) meeting. I knew enough to pump before the meeting but on this particular day, the agenda was particularly long. When we were three hours in, one suggested a bathroom break – I stood up and pleaded for ten minutes. Seconds later I was speed walking through the mangled terrain to my car. I fumbled through my purse to find my new secret weapon: the hand pump. I draped myself, trying to shield all of the union labor from an unintentional peep show. Eight minutes to go. As time expired the muscles along my forearms were strained but my boobs were deflated and I felt better. Impressed that I got the job done in time I closed up the liquid gold. I stashed it in my purse and rejoined the meeting.
For my second, my milk production was in hyperdrive to the point where I was donating to a friend whose little one was refusing formula. I leaked more than I ever imagined I could. I pumped until she was 13 months old and was ready for whole milk. Even though I was a seasoned pumping veteran it was striking how the two experiences were drastically different. You never know what to expect when you are in the depths of being a mom.
Ultimately the biggest lesson of my breast pumping days is this: as a mother you cannot overwork yourself. Being a slave to the clock causes undue stress on yourself. That stress extends to your ability to care for your child. Unnecessary amounts of stress also play a part in declining milk production. That mere fact alone brings on even more stress and the whole debacle has come full circle.
My feeding schedule for my second born was dramatically different than my firstborn. I had more tools, more experience, and more courage. Even with the familiarity, the 12-month laborious endeavor is what I chose to do. So for any mom who is about to launch into becoming an infant lactation expression specialist – do what you can, when you can. Despite the adaptation and flexibility required along the way, mothers always seem to find the strength to do what they feel is best for their precious little ones.