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Working and Nursing

Nina Cavalier
Saylorsburg PA USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 17 No. 2, March - April 2000, p. 46

We provide articles from our publications from previous years for reference for our Leaders and members. Readers are cautioned to remember that research and medical information change over time.

I went back to work three days a week when my son Augustin was five-and-a-half months old, still exclusively breastfed, and still nursing about every two hours. I was really determined to find a way to make pumping work: I didn't want my son to have formula just because I had to go back to work. Including my commuting time, I am away from my son for 11 hours the days that I work, which initially meant three pumping sessions. I work in a cubicle office and have one hour for lunch. Getting approval for my part-time schedule was difficult, and I didn't want to ask for more special arrangements for pumping. While I have been at the same mid-size company for nine years, I knew of no one else who pumped, or who had pumped there in the past.

I found pumping quite difficult at first. My LLL Leader, Sharon, and other members of my LLL Group have been a tremendous help. Nursing Mother, Working Mother (available from the LLLI Online Store) by Gale Pryor, which I borrowed from the Group Library, gave me other hints.

I found that a good electric pump with which I could pump both breasts at the same time was essential to minimize pumping time. I rented a pump for a month before buying my own. On Sharon's advice, I practiced pumping at home once a day for a few weeks before returning to work. That really made the first few pumping sessions at work much easier.

I didn't have access to a private office. Instead, I used a ladies' room which had a small sitting area at the entrance with a handy electrical outlet. Everyone walking into the ladies' room could see me pumping, and often around lunch time someone would be there trying to rest. I found that two-piece outfits, with tops that drape over the pump flanges, kept me covered most of the time except when putting the flanges on. I got over being embarrassed. Some women who came in seemed embarrassed for me, and others asked what I was doing, so I got to educate them a little. Two told me that they had pumped years ago while working elsewhere. For a short time, I even had a "pumping buddy." One day one of the Human Resources Managers happened to walk by while I was pumping. She offered to have a door put on the lounge area, and within a few weeks, it appeared. Other women are often in the lounge resting, but at least everyone walking into the bathroom no longer sees me pumping.

From the time I left my desk until I returned, each pumping session required 25 minutes during the first few months: 1 hour and 15 minutes total each day. (In each session, it took 15 minutes to pump and 10 minutes to get to my pumping spot, set up, clean up, and return.) I took my "lunch" break in three pieces. After a few days of pumping, I could balance the bottles on my knees, and hold the flanges in place with my left hand. I always brought paperwork with me, and was able to use my right hand to make notes. I would eat lunch at my desk while I worked. (That was easier than trying to eat while pumping.) Hence, I never spent more than one hour total not working.

Being "unreachable" during working hours was a bit awkward sometimes, but manageable. I let a few key secretaries and colleagues know that if they couldn't find me, that I was probably pumping. I put my pumping sessions on my calendar (labeled as "no meetings"), to try to avoid having schedule conflicts at those times. As Augustin got older, I found it easier to change my pumping times slightly on some days, as needed.

There was one occasion when a meeting with a vice president kept getting pushed closer to my pumping time. Finally, I had to pump. I had just started pumping, when his secretary came and told me that I was wanted for the meeting, and she didn't know what to tell him. I told her to just tell him the truth. I was worried though, and rushed to finish. When I got to his office, she said "I told him 'Nina can't come right now because she's pumping milk for her little boy,' and he thought that was neat." We had the meeting, and he never mentioned it.

Another time, I had to go to a meeting at a local hotel and knew I would need to pump once while I was there. I called the sales office at the hotel ahead of time and explained my situation. I was told that I could use a private office in the sales area. When I arrived at the sales office to pump, the office door had a big window in it. My host quickly solved that by taping some papers over the window, and I just kept my back to it.

My husband, Forrest, has a home-based business and is with Augustin when I am at work. He has been extremely supportive of nursing. He and Augustin have come to visit me at work (a one-hour drive each way) about every six weeks. They even came for an unscheduled visit when I called in a panic after realizing that I left the pump flanges at home.

The months in which pumping is necessary go very quickly. By the time Augustin was nine months old, I had cut back to only two pumping sessions per day, and then when he was 10 months old, to only one. That was a big relief, because it meant pumping only during my "real" lunch break, with no need to do paperwork while I pumped. I was also able to reduce the time spent actually pumping to 10 minutes. He has never had formula.

Augustin is now almost 15 months old and still nurses one to two times during the day when I am home. He hasn't wanted any of my milk when I am not home since he was about 11 months old, but I still need one pumping session to prevent engorgement and plugged ducts. So far, I have donated about 100 ounces to a milk bank. (Augustin's and my thanks for being able to continue breastfeeding despite my going back to work!) His already brief daytime nursings have been getting to be more like "quick sips" lately, so I think I will be able to stop pumping completely in about a month. I will actually miss that connection to my son during the day.

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