Friday, December 10, 2010

Pumping in the Bathroom Is Like Putting a Blanket Over Your Head

My first attempt at breastfeeding I consider unsuccessful. I nursed my daughter for the first 4 months of her life and then returned to work. I bought a pump and was determined to use it but found lack of support for the ability to continue to feed my daughter breastmilk.
When I approached the subject of a place to pump in my workplace, my (female, childless) boss was kind and supportive and offered to let me use her office space. As the weeks went on and I visited her office at the same time every day (there was only ONE short break in my schedule that allowed time) it became more and more inconvenient for her. Some days she had a meeting, other days she had too much work to get done and could not spare her office for that time, and some days she was just gone at the scheduled time and the door was locked.

The toilet is no place for a breastpump.
The only other option was the public bathroom. The pump was LOUD. It sounded weird coming from one of the stalls, and I was the only woman on that campus that recently had given birth. Somehow, pumping in the bathroom made me feel ashamed. I was so stressed-out by the situation that I was not able to relax, not able to release as much milk, and I wanted the bathroom horror to be over as quickly as possible, so I would sometimes give up pumping after only going at it for a few minutes. You can imagine what happened.
The office availability became less and less, which led me to the bathroom more and more. The stress of being forced to pump in there, combined with my lack of authority, led to days where I had less and less milk to bring home to my baby. I then resorted to pumping while driving home at night in my car for my hour-long commute. This did not work either but was a last-ditch effort that my hormones told me was a good idea.
I was an emotional wreck to say the least. You can ask my husband; I was not a fun person to live with. I would come home every day and just cry almost uncontrollably for hours over the guilty feelings I was having. Not only was I leaving my first born to the care of someone else to go back to work, but also now I was faced with a situation I was unprepared for. I am a breastfeeding advocate, just like I am a natural birthing advocate and here I was, giving up nourishing my daughter with the best food I knew was available, her momma’s milk.
I did not choose to stop breastfeeding my daughter. I was forced to by a society that does not place value in breastfeeding. I believe it is the same issue as nursing in public. Why is feeding a baby breastmilk so unsupported by our society? Why are new mothers made to feel bad about this? What I am hearing is “cover your head with a blanket,” “pump in the bathroom.” Why are we doing this to our mothers? It’s an outrage that our society is treating ANYONE this way. Why are we made to feel shameful for something that is natural and that we know is right in our hearts, bodies, and minds?
If anything, this negative experience has made me a stronger breastfeeding advocate. This is a human rights issue. The next time around I choose not to be quiet. I choose not to be ashamed. I choose not to feel guilty, though I will always suffer from the guilt of quitting the first time around. I am nursing my next daughter come hell or high water. And watch me do it - whenever and wherever she needs it.
__________________

We are honored to host a guest post today from Amy. Amy is trained as an Art Therapist and Marriage and Family Therapist. She currently resides in Sonoma County California with her two young girls (16 months and 2 months), her husband, and dog. Both of her girls were born naturally, the first one at a birth center and the second at home. Her interests which fuel her writing and artwork include women's rights, natural parenting, natural childbirth, breastfeeding, attachment parenting, green living choices including cloth diapering, and vaccination choice.
Amy's creative ventures include oil painting and honing her writing skills at birthactivist.com. She has also recently started doing graphic design for a photographer and produces photo cards, announcements, etc. You can see some of her work on Modern Heritage Photography and Design's Facebook page.

This article is edited from a previous version published at birthactivist.com

6 comments:

I'm a flight attendant. I don't see where else I can pump at work (no, I don't get to leave the plane between flights...I have 25min to deplane, clean, get a head count, and board the next flight and we don't have 1st class, just lavatory or cockpit*eww*) I find it very hard to pump in there, besides the smell, I worry that I'm needed or worse, if we're not on the ground that we are going to land before I get out which basically stresses me to the point my milk can't let down. My company is very family friendly, supportive, and loving but I can't think of a solution to even ask them for. Any ideas? Right now I just try not to work much and have a stash of milk in the freezer, and take comfort in Eats On Feets being available if this causes my supply to waiver. Any ideas would be appreciated! I do not want to be quiet about this but I don't know what to ask for. -Kelli

Hi Joe,
I'd love to offer support. How long are your flights? How old is your baby? These will influence what you might be able to do and whether pumping is even necessary while you are working.
Let us know!
-M

You're right - you don't have a lot of options. Honestly, I felt that stressed out feeling even pumping in my classroom - which had a heck of a lot more room! Over time after I got used to it that feeling went away. Perhaps listening to your ipod or meditating might help your milk let down more easily. Right now I pump in a large staff bathroom (large enough that they placed a desk and chair in there for me) and I wipe it down with lysol wipes before I start pumping. Perhaps the smell of the wipes would cover up the *potty* smell and be helpful to you.

Lastly, if you haven't read The Milk Memos - consider reading it while pumping. It's a great book, and it helped me to know that other moms out there are feeling the same way as they pump for their babies ever day. Good for you for doing the best you can for your baby!

Kelli, I know you said you only have 25 mins between flights - is there a chance that there are other routes that are more flexible than this, or is that how all the routes are?

Have you considered pumping in a place that might be a little less private? Like... could you pump in the cockpit or in the galley but use a cover? I lost my embarrassment regarding pumping quite a while ago. If I need to pump, I need to pump. I've done it in semi-public places but used a cover. I try to wear a shirt with easy access that I can pull down (or an undershirt so I pull my regular shirt up and my undershirt down) then pump away. A small blanket or breast feeding throw can give you plenty of privacy.

I wish I had some good suggestions, but I just wanted to say that I found airplane lavatories to be one of the better places to pump. Something about the super close quarters made things more convenient... I guess compared to an airport bathroom stall it was nice :). Good luck and hang in there. My favorite part of pumping is that it isn't forever... There will be an end to it someday!

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