Working and Pumping: My Experience
After I had my daughter, I returned to work after eight weeks, and I pumped breast milk at work for the next close to eleven months. While this isn’t an easy task for anyone, for me, it was especially difficult because I was a break-even pumper—I made just enough milk to cover my absence for the next day. I attempted to build a supply when I was at home for those first eight weeks, but honestly, I didn’t know how important it would be, and I just didn’t try hard enough. It’s important to note that there wasn’t really anything wrong with me, and that if I were able to stay at home with my baby, I would have made the perfect amount of milk to nourish her. I didn’t have supply issues—I had issues with creating EXTRA milk.
To keep up my supply, I had to pump three times a day for five minutes after my last letdown. To keep up with my daughter’s hunger, sometimes I would even get up early and pump in the morning before I left for work. I initially thought that just pumping a set amount of time—15 minutes—each time was enough to keep up my supply. That was almost a grave error, and I’m glad I discovered the truth. To make sure to send your body the signals to keep making more milk, you have to keep trying to pull more milk until no more comes. For me, five minutes after my last letdown was a good rule. Sometimes that meant I pumped for 20 minutes—sometimes I pumped longer. I think the longest I ever pumped was 30 minutes.
I had a double electric pump by Avent, and I would recommend it, although I don’t believe they make the exact same model anymore. Because I didn’t have a refrigerator to keep my milk and pump pieces, I had to bring my own cold packs and wash my pump pieces every time. Medela makes pre-moistened wipes for pumps that come 20 to a pack, and they were so much more convenient than washing my pump in a bathroom or our lunchroom sink every time—two flanges, two seal, two cones, two cone pads, two bottle seals, and two bottles. Three times a day is a lot of washing, and a huge time commitment. I’d use the wipes every pumping, and sink-wash about once a week. Finally, I relied on Babies’R’Us generic breast milk bags, or Medela bags when I couldn’t get to Babies’R’Us, because the Medela bags were sold (at a higher price) in my local drugstore.
My workplace was very supportive in that I probably spent an hour and a half pumping, every work day. I never received any negative comments, and only ran into a handful of scheduling errors—not bad at all for eleven months. My direct supervisors were kind, understanding, and even knowledgeable regarding the process, so I have no complaints there. The pumping room itself, however, was clean, but kind of grungy and utilitarian. It was also used as the “private phone call” room, and I was sharing it with another pumping mom, so I had to create and post a schedule. Even then, I would occasionally find people in the pumping room, and I would be furious. One person claimed to be “praying,” and I offered to adjust my schedule, but he declined, and I never saw him again. Others would use the room to nap. It was frustrating, but not so bad that I had to inform my HR department. I was occasionally tempted, but it never got to that point.
I DO NOT MISS PUMPING. I stopped maybe a month or two after my daughter’s first birthday. She still nurses, but does not need to drink breast milk while I am away. She still does not like other milk, cow or otherwise. That’s okay, though, as I know that my milk is still very nutritious to her. We will stop when she is ready, and then this will all be a memory.
So that’s my overview of the year I spent pumping. It was difficult, but as my daughter is so healthy and happy, I’m very glad that I did it, and I will probably do it again.
My mistake was trying to use a manual pump. Once I used a hospital grade pump I was like holy moly, I can make lots of milk this way!