the grumbles primer on pumping at work (part two)

March 31, 2010

if you need to, catch up here's part one: the logistics of it all.
today- where? and when? and how often and how much?

where to pump? this is the first and foremost issue that most of us worry about.  some employers at larger workplaces may provide a 'mother's room' or have a designated pumping room.  if this is the case and you live in the US then bully for you!  you should consider yourself one of the lucky few and go shake your boss / HR department by the hand.  unfortunately it isn't that easy for many of us.  here are some of the options to consider, from more preferred to... ugh:

provided pumping spot.
a designated place chosen by your employer, usually when they have a glut of nursing mom's working at the same time.  empty office, official nursing mother's room, etc.  sometimes has its own fridge.  huzzah for all employers that are able to provide this!

your own office.
if you have an office with a door (especially a door that locks) consider your problem solved.  if it doesn't lock, wear a nursing cover and put a do-not-disturb sign on the door.

empty conference room.
this can be trickier if the conference room gets used often and you might find it occupied during a time you need to pump.  it's also not quite as private but an adequate option.  definitely notify somebody in charge before just hijacking the conference room all the time, it'll avoid awkward questioning later.

your cubicle.
if you aren't blessed with an office with a door, ah, such is the life of the peons like me.  if your cubicle has some serviceable walls you can put up a curtain when it's time to pump, do your business, and then take it down.  the down side to this is that there is obviously no way to contain the sound, especially if you're using the LOUD AS CRAP medela pumps (no hard feelings medela pump, i still love you).  your coworkers will probably be blatantly aware of what's going on which is fine as long as you like all of them and none of them are weirdy mc-creepersons.

your car.
i've known several employees at my company who preferred to go out and sit in their car and pump.  it's technically a private space with locking doors and you can listen to the radio but with all those windows, eh...

the bathroom.
the final solution.  best if it's a single bathroom with a locking door, worst if it's a public-style bathroom with many stalls.  i'm not going to rant and rave about this, so let's just say it's not ideal to prepare food in an area where you poop.  not.  ideal.

it's come up several times in conversation this past week that yes, i actually use the final option.  i pump in a bathroom.  and i feel the need to explain a little bit because in my employer's defense they did offer to let me pump in the HR director's office.  but can you imagine me popping up there three times a day (it's three floors away from my desk) and busting my way in, "um hey, can you get out of your own office even though you're in the middle of a sensitive meeting right now so that i can empty my boobs thankssss!" it just wasn't going to happen.  inconvenient doesn't even begin to describe it.  my cubicle area doesn't have any walls or dividers and a guy from some other department moved his desk into our conference room.  so the only other option available to me was the bathroom, and that's what i do.  unless otherwise forced i use the single person bathroom because it has a little table for all my gear and mysteriously, no outlets.

when/how often is the most straightforward question to answer.  in the beginning you should pump for every feeding your baby would normally have while you're gone.  when i first went back to work jude was still eating every two hours.  that means i would have needed to pump four times.  but i found that when he went to the babysitter he would only eat three times a day (because he's not crazy about the bottle).  so i figured out pretty quickly that three times a day would be sufficient.  it's better to start off with overkill and scale back as you get acclimated.  and yes, this is very inconvenient.  the whole thing is pretty freaking inconvenient.  but such are the things of life.

i pump at 9, 12, and 3 and i'm usually away from my desk for about 10-15 minutes each time.  i try to combine my trips with other things (like using the bathroom, getting water) to minimize the time i'm away from my desk during other times of the day to compensate.  if a meeting, conference, or special lunch hits at a time when i would be pumping i usually try to pump right before i go and then right after.  or, GASP! very rarely, i actually will skip a session and make up the extra after jude goes to sleep but i wouldn't recommend that in the early days when you're still getting in to the routine.  it's hard to make it a priority but if you make it not optional in the beginning once you get in the groove it doesn't seem so bad.

be transparent with your boss about what you're doing, even if he's a man.  you'll feel less guilty and your boss won't have to wonder what you're doing all the time and think you're a total slacker.  when people come around your desk looking for you they can say you're off doing something and not say, "hmmm, good question, where IS the grumbles?"  get your thing done, get back to work, and all will be well... unless your boss is a real jerk.  i don't have much help for that but i can tell you that part of the healthcare bill that was just passed includes mandated rights for women to pump at work.

how much you'll get per session varies by woman.  it's easy for me to zip up and pump three times a day and get what i need because i have a pretty plentiful supply.  at the end of each day i typically take home about 19 ounces. during a growth spurt jude will eat all 19 of that PLUS some frozen milk but on a daily basis he usually eats about 16 ounces and i am able to freeze a small amount each day.  there are calculators online that will "tell" you how much your baby will need but when you're gone and they're taking a bottle things may change quite a bit from what their habits are at home when they're nursing full time.  here's the thing- you can't control your supply.  some women respond to the pump better than others.  and the more you worry and worry about it the stress can actually decrease what you get.

my advice on 'how much' would be this:  pump when you can.  try not to miss any sessions.  but then, the milk you get is the milk you get.  every amount that you're giving to your baby is awesome.  there's nothing wrong with pumping what you get and if your kid is still hungry telling your caregiver to use formula/frozen milk as needed to meet the gap in the supply vs. demand.  if you're nursing full time at home then meh, what else are you going to do?  the more you beat yourself up about it the more stressful and horrible the whole thing will be and it's hard enough as it is. 

which leaves us at friday's topic- morale.  how to keep going on and on day after day despite how incredibly inconvenient and embarrassing this can be when your company makes you to go a team-building exercise and you have to pump at a bowling alley.

this series is complete- quick! skip to:   part one  |  part two  |  part three part four



Ky (Two Pretzels)

(I have NEVER pumped more than 8 oz. at one sitting. In fact, I average 5... and lately it's been going down to 3 oz. This must be the differences between baby boys and baby girls?

Lila literally eats 5-6 oz at a time. And... (gasp) she's dropped a feeding yesterday. We're down to 3. I hope it was a fluke.

I can't handle this getting older thing.)

Enough about me - I'm sorry. GREAT post. I especially enjoyed how you broke down the various popping locales. May I reiterate AGAIN that I find it DEPLORABLE that ALL businesses do not offer a private (small! Closet, I don't care!) pumping space.

Way to go! KEEP. IT. UP.

Mickey D.

Loving this!

I would like to add one tip that I discovered yesterday. Wearing dresses to work means that you'll probably have to sit in your underwear when you hike the dress up to pump. Luckily I had the foresight to pack a receiving blanket that I could wrap around myself/sit on so that I didn't feel ridiculously overexposed. But the thought did cross my mind that, "hey, I'm sitting at work in my underwear with my boobs hanging out, isn't that somethin'?"

So the tip is: don't wear dresses (button-up dresses could still work) and/or pack something to wrap around yourself if you're somewhat modest like myself.

Rock on with your 19 ounces!

the grumbles

MD- I'm not a dress wearer so GREAT advice, that's never even occurred to me and it sounds... awkward. I had a similar situation when I wore a shirt-dress where the neck wouldn't pull down to Christmas and I needed to feed Jude, I ended up having to pull up the entire dress which was disconcerting.

...and of course, after posting this, i was on vacation at home for 5 days and out of my pumping routine, and only got like 14 ounces yesterday and had to send extra frozen with the kid. schedule fail. :( looks like i will be pumping four times a day next week.

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