It takes two

03.08.12 Why it's so hard to say goodbye to my breast pump.


Little did I know that when I had my son I would also gain a permanent accessory—my breast pump. (The pic at left is a self portrait of me, my son and my breast pump—stashed in my carry on bag—at LAX) My pump went with me to work, traveled with me on planes and had an almost permanent place on my kitchen table for the better part of a year. I wasn’t expecting to use my pump until I returned to work, but I had a post-delivery complication that resulted in a low milk supply. To boost my milk production, I nursed my son every three hours. Then, my husband would feed him a few supplemental ounces of formula and I would pump for 10 to 15 minutes. My son would sleep, and then we would do it all over again three hours later—for a full month. It was grueling, but I was determined to exclusively breastfeed my son and a low milk supply was not going to get in my way. Luckily, I had a husband who was fully on board—and willing to wash his fair share of pump parts and bottles every day. Fast forward two months and I was finished pumping after feedings, but I was now using the pump when I wasn’t nursing to keep up my supply—and filling my freezer with the extra milk for when I returned to work.

All that pumping experience came in handy when I was back in the office after my maternity leave—with my pump in tow, of course. I kept a pad on my desk that noted the times I needed to pump each day and, to let people know why my door was closed, I jotted “pumping in progress” on a purple sticky note and stuck it at eye level. But after three months of nursing my son every three hours, I couldn’t believe that I was missing my pump times because I was involved in an email or editing a story. I would glance at the clock and realize, “Ack! I’m supposed to be pumping,” and rush to shut the door, get my pumping bra on and breast pump in place. There were a few times I forgot my pump, which I didn’t realize until I reached for it and it wasn’t there (thank you husband for driving 25 minutes to my office to deliver my pump!); or, I was so involved in an email that I didn’t notice the milk bag overflowing (spilled breast milk is definitely something to cry over!); or, I would only get a few ounces and know that it wouldn’t be enough to send my son to day care with enough breast milk the following day (thank you formula for filling in when needed).

But, pumping at work also had its benefits. I was thrilled that even though I was working full time, I could still breastfeed my son; it was so satisfying to have a good pumping day when my efforts meant enough milk for my son—and some to bank; and, it was really nice to be able to be able to close my door for a pumping session and know that no one would be knocking for the next 20 minutes.

Even with the perks, when my son turned 1, I was elated to stop pumping cold turkey. No more scheduled pump times! No more washing pump parts in the office kitchen! No more lugging around a bulky bag! It was a relief to give away the storage bottles and I was happy to pass along the shoulder bag, but I can’t seem to get rid of the actual pump. Every time I try to toss it out, I physically can’t let go. All I can think about is all the work we did together to breastfeed my son. We’ve been through a lot, my pump and I. So for now, it’s tucked away in my closet and maybe, someday I’ll get rid of it. Or, maybe I won’t.

What’s been your experience pumping at work?