Like many moms, my goal was to breastfeed!
When my son was born I was determined to exclusively breastfeed him. I was very lucky to have a 14 week maternity leave. Despite having some early breastfeeding challenges, that time at home was a big help in getting to a good place before heading back to work. I did everything I could to prepare for continuing to breastfeed while at work.
I’m one of the lucky breastfeeding working moms. I had a great employer that supported breastfeeding moms. So much so, they put a mini fridge in my office to store my breast milk. Now that is what we need more of ladies! My office has a door, so I could easily pump in private while continuing my work in my office. It was an ideal setup to continue my exclusive breastfeeding journey.
Pumping While at Work
My first breastfeeding challenge came about 3 weeks after I returned to work. My job requires occasional travel. Every few weeks work would take me away from my baby for a couple of days.
My first trip was a day-trip to New York City for a lunch event in 2012. I did my homework and emailed the restaurant ahead of time to ask about a private space I could use to pump. I was told that there was a single-person bathroom I could use. Not what I wanted, but “fine.”
I arrived only to discover that said bathroom was off of the main dining room and didn’t have an outlet. Thankfully, I had a battery pack. There was nowhere to put anything, so I ended up standing near the sink, with my pump bag resting on the open changing table, people constantly knocking on the door, and me wondering whether or not the diners outside of the door could hear the whirring of my breast pump, and if not, has anyone noticed I had been in the bathroom for over 15 minutes. As you can imagine, the whole experience was stressful and unpleasant.
Pumping on a Train
My second attempt to pump was on the train on the way home. That didn’t work. The train bathrooms were too tiny and way too gross. I did research ahead of time for pumping on a train in 2012 and despite tips I had read beforehand, I just couldn’t handle trying to pump in my seat with a scarf draped over me. Needless to say, I arrived home frustrated, and wondering how women who travel more than I do possibly handle this.
At the time, I was too new and too uneasy to push for better accommodations. Since then I have become so much more comfortable asking for the space that I need, and deserve, to do what I can to breastfeed / pump for my child. And that’s what it comes down to. I need to feed my child. Nothing else matters.
No breastfeeding mother should have to settle. I now know I shouldn’t have settled for the weird public bathroom, knowing that there were staff offices nearby. Eventually, I also realized that this can be my contribution to help normalize breastfeeding – be part of the solution. People and society as a whole should be more aware of the needs of working breastfeeding moms. We are making great strides, but we still need to do better. Keeping quiet is a disservice to our kids and other moms.
Now I won’t hesitate to ask anyone and everyone for an appropriate pumping space. Since that first trip I’ve pumped in a variety of interesting locations and have had lovely people help me along the way.
- There was the kind older man at the military facility who gave me an empty office and taped paper to the window to make sure I had privacy.
- There was the befuddled young man at a club in DC who directed me to the courtesy phone room, which turned out to be a glorified closet without a lock on the door. I made it work.
- I’ve pumped in my car in a parking garage, in a stranger’s office that had one entire wall made of glass, and one wonderful day I was surprised to find a company with a dedicated nursing room. Reclining chair, refrigerator, sink and all. I’ve made it work and have had some interesting conversations along the way.
In my journey, twice I have been the first person to ask for pumping space, and now maybe they’ll be ready for the next woman.
In retrospect, I wish I’d asked a train conductor for space during that first trip. Maybe they would have come up with something, and even if not, they don’t know that there is a need unless we ask the question. Keep asking ladies, together we will normalize breastfeeding.