Monday, July 05, 2010

The Price of the Pump- That Old Boob Dilemma

Cross-posted from October 2007 DC Metro Moms. 

If you work outside the home and you plan to breastfeed after the birth of your child then there's a good chance that you probably already know what dilemma I'm talking about. Pumping. Will you be able to pump at work? Has your company made sufficient accommodations or are you going it on your own?

When I gave birth to my daughter I knew without a doubt that I would breastfeed and it went off without a hitch. She was a natural. I was lucky. She was also colicky. I tried to persevere but even after I had already paid the rental fees on the pump for the next few months, I knew my days were numbered. My boob dilemma was rearing its ugly head. How was I going to pump at work? I had a cubicle without a door. Sure the walls were high but anyone could walk in at any given time. How was I possibly going to figure this out? The months I spent trying to figure this out prior to giving birth had rendered no answers.

I talked to my administrative assistant person and she referred me to the the company nurse. She offered up the 'sick' room. Great! Except that the 'sick' room had an entire wall made of glass that anyone could look into on their way to and from the company gym. I called the lactation consultant who urged me not to use the office restrooms. "Try to find a quiet office that is empty or a conference room." I tried. Oh I tried. Unless I wanted to post to the entire building that I would be taking three or more twenty minute meetings a day in various locations throughout the building I was stuck. Plus, the higher ups were not too keen on my reserving conference rooms all "willy nilly" like that for months at a time. We were also extremely short on offices so there were no empty ones to be found. I felt I had run smack into a brick wall.

When my daughter turned colicky and I knew my maternity leave days were numbered I just up and quit. I turned to formula and didn't look back. Sure I harbored some resentment for not being offered a solution. But it seems in this day and age that all that talk about having a breast-feeding friendly work environment is just lost lip service for many woman. That despite being required by law in many states we already exhausted mothers choose to pick other battles to fight and we give up the pump and just close down the store so to speak.

If you fight this battle good on you. You are a better woman than I am. I was simply too sick of the wall of men and the empty promises. If you are lucky enough to be able to pump at work in peace and a sanitary place get on the floor right now and praise something higher up because you my sister have found one great place to work. I'm just relieved that next time around I'll be working from home and won't have to worry about fighting for fridge space or "accidental" walk-in's while I'm at the pump.

Cross-posted and archived from DC Metro Moms. Original post from October 3, 2007.


LawyerMama said...

Oh, V, that pisses me off! We had a similar problem for some of the staff in my office being given a hard time for pumping in a records storage room that almost no one ever used. I don't think the administration really realized how horrible they sounded until they were called on it & I offered up my office for them. I know what you mean about picking your battles though....

Reply October 03, 2007 at 10:19 AM Julie Katz said...

I was lucky that a woman who came before me convinced my company that we needed a nursing room. So for 9 months after I went back to work I pumped three times a day in a tiny room with an industrial pump and a refrigerator. I didn't know so at the time, but what a luxury!

Reply October 03, 2007 at 04:02 PM Jenny said...

I hadn't realized how lucky I've been. My second daughter is 8 months old and I've pumped at work since I went back. I did the same with the first. I teach elementary school so I can pump in my classroom during lunch - it means I have to eat really, really fast to do both things in the 20-25 minutes I have, but it's possible. The biggest downside is the lack of hot water in elementary schools. Clearly we're afraid kids will burn themselves. So, I keep a hot pot to boil water to wash the pump stuff each day. And I keep a dorm-size fridge in my classroom. I'm counting my blessings!

Reply October 03, 2007 at 05:41 PM K said...

I pumped in the handicap stall of a basement rest room.

For 18 months.

Yes, you read that right. Two kids. 9 months of pumping for each kid.

I brought down a chair and a little table and set up shop.

There was nowhere else. Every office was filled, and there was no storage room or anything else that I could use. Trust me, we looked everywhere for a better solution.

But, this is the same company who has given me a completely flexible part-time work schedule for the last 7 years. I've gone from 20 hours/week up to 30 hours/week back down to 20. I've worked from home. I've worked odd hours. They never even blinked. As long as I got the job done, they were flexible.

Ironically, I have fond memories of "my" wasn't a perfect solution, but neither kid ever got a drop of formula, so for me - it worked.

My last company had a "pumping room" - a whole room dedicated to pumping. It was amazing. But they didn't offer part time or flexible work arrangements.

For me, the part-time was more important than the pumping room. Someday, maybe all workplaces will have both?

Reply October 03, 2007 at 08:30 PM Nicole/wksocmom said...

I didn't even know we had rooms for my first, and used a handicapped stall and my shared office occationally. Turn out each campus has a room, so if you aren't in the building with the room it's the bathroom or walking to the other building, but still better than what lots of women get. The second time I discoved a "meditation room" - but you had to sign up before using it, get a key, return the key, again inconvenience but not too bad. It just pissed me off when I really needed to pump and a stupid guy was in there, which happened a lot.

Reply October 03, 2007 at 10:30 PM Whymommy said...

I hear you, oh, I hear you.

I pumped in a dusty and dirty "lactation room" in our office's clinic downstairs, twice, until it was taken for the annual flu shots (and never given back).

Desparate to pump for my oldest at work, I turned on a fan for noise, turned my back to the door, and pumped in my cubicle. It was a terrible solution, and I was interrupted more than once by a clueless individual who would stand there, talking to my back while I pumped and sent him the message to GO AWAY NOW.

Ugh. It still makes me shudder. Why don't all breastfeeding women have access to a clean, secure lactation room and the time to pump when they need it? It takes no more time than the average "smoke break" used to take ....

Reply October 04, 2007 at 02:07 AM Jen Gathman said...

I know that I have definitely been fortunate to have been able to pump in my office for the last 5 months. But even having a place to pump doesn't eliminate all of the challenges. My boss and coworkers are very understanding but how do you tell a no I can't meet right now because I have to pump. In any case I have found that pumping in the car isn't too bad (just went to a conference at a hotel and had to do this)...medela makes an attachment that allows you to plug into a car cigarette lighter. For those of you challenged with having to pump in the restroom it's a clean alternative.

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