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Making It Work

Establishing a Pumping Area

From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 18 No. 6, November-December 2001, p. 230

"Making It Work" is a regular feature of the magazine NEW BEGINNINGS, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of NEW BEGINNINGS to help mothers who wish to combine breastfeeding and working. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's life-style. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.

Situation

I'm planning to pump when I return to work. My office doesn't have the luxury of a special room for pumping right now, but my employer is very willing to work with me to find a good place. What have other mothers found to be important when setting up a place to pump?

Response

You must feel safe in this room; privacy can be a big concern. I pumped in a storeroom accessible only from the conference room; it made me feel vulnerable. Your pumping room must be near your normal work area. If you have to walk five minutes to get to the pump room it cuts down on your time and decreases your ability to relax. The space should also include reasonably comfortable furniture, just a chair and a small table of some kind. You also need access to a sink for washing up.

One good thing you can supply is a distraction of some kind: pictures of your baby, a magazine to read, or a radio to listen to soft music. When I focused on the pump and the bottles, I found it harder to relax and produce a strong let down, so I liked having music to listen to or something to read.

Colleen Perez
San Pedro CA USA

Response

Do you realize you are about to create history? Do you realize how many future breastfeeding mothers you are about to influence? Do you realize how many happy babies there will be because of you? You are going to be that one individual that many mothers and babies will thank years from now. If your company is willing to work with you to set up a nice lactation room, ask for the world! Keep in mind that whatever you don't ask for, if a mother in the future asks for it, they may say "Oh, but so and so didn't need that." When you present your employer with a list, admit that you overdid it and indicate what the minimal requirements are for pumping at work.

I pumped at work twice a day for six months in a tiny little shower room that had a folding chair, an outlet and a door that locked. I consider those three items the bare minimum. If I had the opportunity, I would ask for a separate room, preferably close to the ladies restroom that is specifically labeled "Lactation Room"-just to make the point that working breastfeeding mothers do exist and are here to stay. I'd also ask for a comfortable chair and table combination. It was awkward for me because my pump was at a different level than my breasts. I would often end up with the pump on the chair and me kneeling in front of it, which was especially awkward when I was wearing a skirt.

Two more important things to have are a sink nearby so you can clean your equipment and a refrigerator to store your milk for the day. I ended up purchasing my own small refrigerator and kept it in my office. Not only did having the refrigerator in my office remind me to take my milk home every night, but it was also a nice place to store the extra food and water that I needed while lactating-something that is easy to forget when you get too busy. Last, a written company policy stating that breastfeeding mothers are allowed to pump in privacy with reasonable accommodations will ensure that mothers in the future have support if they choose to pump. Pumping at work can be a real challenge, but it's well worth it. I'm happy to say that I was able to stop pumping when my son turned a year old and at 18 months he's still an avid nurser. I wish you the best of luck!

Teresa Hyde
St. Paul MN USA

Response

After my first child was born, I worked part-time at an office, but I pumped while I was there. I used a room that was used by lots of people at different times, kind of a community computer room. It didn't belong to anyone. I just put a post-it on the door that said something like "Do Not Disturb" and closed the door. It was nice because there was a desk with a plug next to it where I could set everything up, and with the door closed it was nice and quiet. Nobody minded waiting a few minutes to get in to the computer or files.

Joy Nguyen
Dallas TX USA

Response

The idea of juggling conference rooms or pumping in the bathroom did not appeal to me. Instead, my employer bought me a privacy screen so that I could pump at my desk. It was a simple cubicle closer that I hung a sign on so people would know not to bother me. The electric pump I used was so quiet that even my next-door cubemates had no clue when I was pumping unless they saw the privacy screen. I was able to pump at my computer, learning how to use the desk to prop up the pumps, so that I could use the keyboard. I only worked part-time, but I never had to take time from work in order to pump. I won't have to pump for my third baby because I recently became a stay-at-home mother. But I am eternally grateful for my previous employer's generosity in coming up with a solution that worked for both of us.

Laura Luster
Olathe KS USA

Response

Before I left my office for maternity leave with my first baby, I had a meeting with my boss and clearly explained my intentions. My purpose was to make him feel comfortable about my eventual return to work, and also to let him know that my priorities would be different.

Not only did I describe my needs for flexible break times and privacy for pumping, as well as personal use of the break room for cleaning my pump equipment and storage of milk, but at the same time I was able to explain the benefits for him and our company.

Since the most comfortable place for me was my office, my boss arranged for blinds to be installed on the inside of my windows; I can pump right at my desk. It was a terrific, supportive gesture and I am very appreciative. Now, when my children visit the office, my boss always comments how healthy they are growing!

Lisa Abendroth
Torrance CA USA

Response

I pumped for both of my children for about a year, although my situation was a little bit different as I have a private office. Here are some things that I would suggest for a separate room designated for pumping: There should be a lock on the door or space should be configured so that each woman using the room has privacy while using it. This may require covering a glass window on the door, for example. A sink (preferably with one of those super hot water spigots); paper cups (so it's easy to get a drink of water); adequate electrical outlets and spacing (depends on whether more than one woman will use the room at a time); and a comfortable chair and table (in each area if it is to be set up for more than one woman to use at a time). A computer hookup would also be great-many women can get work done, read email, or just use it to relax while pumping. Also a high-quality pump or pumps (each woman would purchase her own tubing and flanges). Ideally, I think I would also want to have literature in the room about where to turn if a woman needed help with breastfeeding.

Debra Rosenberg
Lindenhurst NY USA

Last updated Thursday, October 19, 2006 by njb.
Page last edited .


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