pump it up

Wednesday, dec. 2, 2009   |   40 comments

Extracting milk from your person while on the job is a complicated business. First you need a portable pump, which costs a surprising number of dollars (thankfully I got mine secondhand from a friend), then you need an ample supply of freezable storage containers, plus an insulated bag for transporting the goods.

At the office you have to reserve the “Mommy Room,” a strange Microsoft Outlookian process that involves inviting the room itself to series of recurring meetings. You may find yourself doing this incorrectly the first go-round, resulting in a “Mommy Room has refused your invitation” email that will leave you feeling oddly spurned.

Once you and the Mommy Room come to an accord and you have your designated timeslot, it’s time to get pumping. The pump itself is incredibly, conspicuously loud. Luckily the Room is conveniently located right off the main hallway, so there’s always a steady parade of people walking past, perfectly positioned to hear you in there, chugging away like a little engine that could. Also there’s a sign posted in the Room instructing mommies not to lock the door. So there you are, separated from your coworkers by just one thin, unlocked door, with your exposed nipples twisting in the wind. Feeling exposed? Like a sheepish milking cow? Yes and yes.

When you’re done, you can put your haul in the provided mini-fridge, however there’s no place to clean the detachable suction-cup apparatus. That you have to rinse off in the employee kitchen up the hall, right where everyone’s preparing their lunches. (My apologies, gentle coworker, for splashing human milk on your pulled-pork sandwich! Oh, this? This is my suction cup. For my naked breasts, which I ask you to please stop visualizing. Hey, is this decaf fresh?)

The logistics are challenging enough, but the truly hard part is the dent the twice-daily pumpings leaves in your schedule. All told, you’re pumping at least an hour a day. This means the length of your workday, a day already truncated to the barest minimum by your need to get home to be with the baby, is even shorter. Also you’re brain damaged with sleep deprivation. And your chest is leaking.

Best of luck to you!

more words on: babytime, motherdom


  • marychen 14 years, 7 months ago

    1) I feel like Liz Lemon /has/ to get pregnant at some point just so they can address this and

    2) I just want you to know, you are such a power blog updater now that after I was done catching up on unread entries, I absentmindedly hit refresh on the page, in case any late breaking updates had wandered in while I was reading, like you were the Huffington Post or something.

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  • susan 14 years, 7 months ago

    I know, it’s hard. Hang in there for Desi. And I WOULD lock the door. I used to pump at a cubicle, with a flimsy screen. I think the scary noise keeps them away.Also, buy a second set of flanges so you don’t have to do dishes at work. Just bag em up and wash them at home.

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  • Beth 14 years, 7 months ago

    For god’s sake, can’t they make things a little more pleasant for working mothers! I think a working mother should be entitled to a “mommy’s room” complete with a chocolate bar and spa. (or at the very least a sink and a door you’re allowed to lock) I’d say a regular bar, but that probably conflicts with the whole breast feeding thing. Good luck

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  • Ami 14 years, 7 months ago

    Oh, I remember the days of the bovine impersonations. Sigh. That was probably my least favorite part of working motherhood, right there. Thankfully, where I work it’s a lot of women who handled it well (except for one jerk guy who asked if women menustrated while nursing); anyway, I’m with susan up there — fight the power and lock the door.

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  • hi, it's me, evany 14 years, 7 months ago

    I’ve actually since discovered that the posted request to leave the door unlocked supposedly only applies to when you’re FINISHED pumping. Since multiple bovines use the room, and store their milks within its fridge, we all need to be sure we can access to the room at the end of the day. So the world isn’t quite as insane as I’d thought.

    Also I’ve received some excellent emails about how it’s okay if you don’t clean the sucking unit between each use…so waiting until you can take it home at night to clean is actually okay.

    That said, you have to actually remember to bring it back the next day, which I sadly neglected to do today. And I feel somewhat reluctant to use older-fashioned hand-milking techniques to get the job done? Looks like I’ll be in for an uncomfortably ENGORGEOUS afternoon!

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  • Erica 14 years, 7 months ago

    As an employee of a very small non-profit organization, I had to pump milk in the supply closet. I felt so glamorous.

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  • Megan 14 years, 7 months ago

    I don’t work, but I have pumped some pretty unusual places: the parking lot of the Greek theater in L.A. before a Tori Amos concert (I’ve never felt so uncool at a show),the car as my husband drove us to the Bay Area (hi, passing truckers who can see right into my car!), and in countless bathrooms. It’s totally ridiculous what we go through to keep this up, isn’t it?

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  • jive turkey 14 years, 7 months ago

    A huge supply decrease and a disinterested baby finally ended my 7-month pumping-at-work run a few weeks ago, and OH MY GOD I am so happy to have that hour of my life back. Our “quiet room” is always freezing cold, and there’s nothing like having to yank up your shirt and make sweet boob love to the pump when you’re covered in goosebumps.

    Also, they removed the fridge from our Boob Suite because it broke, and then they refused to replace it because they didn’t want to be liable if it broke again and someone’s milk spoiled. And THEN I was informed by HR that I couldn’t keep my b-milk in the regular fridge because it was a bodily fluid. Their solution? They told me to bring a COOLER WITH ICE to work. EVERY DAY. H-whaaat? What a load of shit. I just bought an insulated lunch bag and put the damn milk in the fridge.

    Oh, and I love your blog. Love it. Congratulations on your adorable son!

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  • Klay 14 years, 7 months ago

    WOW – I can’t tell you how close to my own reality that is. The only differences were that I locked the door and there was a sink there. I remember my first week back to work this summer, my in-laws came to help with the transition (not such a great idea as it turns out), My baby wasn’t taking the bottle at all and I was so freaked out about being able to pump enough milk. It seemed like my son was nursing ALL the time when I was home with him. Anyway, I got there, started pumping and it was going ok until my MIL decided to feed my son more than double what he needed, resulting in a depleted supply and the certainty that my nursing days were over. Oh the extra milk also made him sleep for like 4 hours during the day – great! Anyway, eventually we got to a manageable routine and I didn’t have to give up nursing – we didn’t even have to supplement. I guess what I’m trying to say is – It’s hard and weird and work people don’t get it but you’re doing great!

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  • alyce 14 years, 7 months ago

    Oh, so funny. I was lucky enough to pump next to our server, which was crazy loud. And the door locked. Unimaginable luxury! Hang in there, Evany—this time next year it will seem like such a distant memory.

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