Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Breastfeeding: Pumping At Work (part 1)

I want to share some stories with you about adventures in pumping at work as told by some of my friends.  I find it helpful to hear real stories from real people tackling real life obstacles that I'm facing, too.  First up:  Angela!

Angela is on her feet most work days as an elementary school teacher (3rd grade).  She is mom to 16 month old Isabelle. She had this to say about pumping at work:

How long are your work days, on average? 

My average work day is 9 hours--7 hours with kids and two hours of work on lesson plans, paper work, meetings, etc.

How long were you out on maternity leave?  

I was on maternity leave for 8 weeks.

What, if any, apprehensions did you have about continuing breastfeeding and pumping after your maternity leave was up?

My main concern about continuing to use breast milk after returning to work was the time it would take to keep up with the supply Isabelle would need.  She has always been a VERY good eater and was drinking 6-8 ounces at a time from about 3 months old!  I knew from hearing about other mother's experiences that I would have to pump as many times as she ate if I wanted her to only have breast milk.  That would be a minimum of 3 times during my school day.  This seemed daunting because of the lack of flexible time in my schedule.  I knew it was possible because other teachers at my school had done it, but it definitely added a big element of stress to returning to work...something I didn't really want to do to begin with.

Did that original plan change after you went back to work?  

I managed to stick with my original plan/schedule that I anticipated.  I was able to be relatively flexible with times between pumping sessions, which I had to figure out as I went along.  My biggest obstacle was minimizing the impact on my students while I was out of the classroom.  My "personal" schedule and my class schedule were not compatible.  If I had pumped when it was most comfortable for me, I would have had to have a sub for about 20 minutes 3 times a day.  That seems minimal when I think about it now, but it was a big burden on teacher assistants (though they never complained) and reduced my time actually teaching my students.  Finding a balance of doing what is best for Isabelle and what is best for my students...this was the first in a long list of times that I've had to do that.  I managed to rearrange things to only leave my kids once a day.  It made it a little bit harder on me because I pumped during lunch and planning times, but it didn't impact my supply.  Problem solved.

What was your pumping schedule at work? Number of pumping sessions? Duration of each session? 

The schedule I stuck with the longest was as follows: 8:45-9:05 (during my students' arrival time--didn't miss any instruction); 12:30-12:50 (my lunch time--another staff member picked my students up from lunch); 3:45-4:05 (during dismissal--didn't miss any instruction.  My times included prep and clean up.  I actually only pumped for about 10 minutes most times.

Did your daughter have trouble interchanging between bottles and breastfeeding? 

Isabelle had no problem going between nursing and bottles.  She has always been a flexible little thing.

Where did you physically pump at work? 

I pumped in a little random "phone room" about the size of a closet in our teacher's lounge.  It was unofficially designated the pumping room in the school.  (When you work mainly with women of child bearing age, you have one of these.)

How did you handle washing of pump parts for multiple pumping sessions at work?

Luckily, there is a sink outside the room where I pumped.

Where do you store your milk during the work day?  

I stored milk in the refrigerator in the teacher's lounge.  I had to CLEARLY label the bag because there was more than one pumping mom at my school at the time.

Describe what you packed in your pump bag.

I really just had the pump parts and a towel in my bag.  I was pretty fast, so I didn't need a lot of things to keep me busy.  There was a clock in the room with me, which was the only other thing I needed.

Any other working-mom-pumping-related thoughts you'd like to share?

One unexpected change I made in the middle was that I stopped nursing altogether after about 2 months back at work.  Pumping was a lot faster than nursing, because Isabelle nursed slowly.  It took me 45 minutes to nurse her--it only took me 10 minutes to pump as much as she wanted.  I doubt I would have made that leap if I hadn't been pumping because of my return to work.  I enjoyed nursing after the initial adjustment period; however, the schedule and busyness of working made efficiency the priority.

I was very lucky because nursing and pumping for me were relatively painless and hassle free.  My main issues with it involved the amount of work and planning it took to pump enough milk every day: making sure the room was available and unlocked when I needed it, making sure I had coverage for my class when I asked for it, making sure I had all the parts packed, making sure I remembered to get the milk out of the refrigerator EVERY day before I left school, making sure I remembered to pump at the right time (a few minutes off could impact multiple people.)  All of those little details added onto the millions of teacher and early parenting tasks were very taxing for me.  I was very relieved to be finished and glad that I made it the 6 months I wanted to complete.


Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Angela!  

Do you want to be a part of this Pumping At Work blog series?  Email me!  baacuff (at) mac (dot) com.

Questions?  Leave it in the comments!

Breastfeeding:  Pumping At Work (Part 2)

Breastfeeding:  Pumping At Work (Part 3)

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