One of the hardest things about going back to work after having Zeke has been finding time to "pump" at work. I chose to breastfeed for many reasons including the bonding experience between me and my little guy (there's really nothing quite like it!), how cheap it is compared to buying formula, the fact that it torches some major calories so weight loss is easier, but mostly I'm just a believer that it's better for him. I understand that not everyone can breastfeed, and there's nothing wrong with formula feeding, but I really want to continue to breastfeed as long as I can. In my line of work, however, this isn't exactly easy.
I work 10 hour days in the operating room. I'm in an operating room pretty much all day, minus a 30 minute lunch break and two other15 minute breaks. This means I have very few opportunities to pump. Also, when I do pump, I do so in a shower stall in the women's locker room. The hospital does having designated lactation rooms, however, by the time I walk over there and set up the pump, it's already time to come back. So I make the shower stall work and I pump during my two 15 minute breaks- one in the morning and one in the afternoon. It's not easy, but to me it's worth it.
This is certainly not the first time I've dealt with the stress of breastfeeding/pumping while at work. When I was a teacher, I had first block planning and had to pump during my lunchtime in the employee restroom or risk going all day without relief. I didn't have the guts to stand up to my principle and tell him I needed a time and place to pump. Because of this, my milk started to dry up, and I quit breastfeeding when Sebastian was 5 months old. I refuse to let this happen again.
Recently on our hospital webpage "Glad You Asked" (a website where employees can ask senior management questions surrounding their jobs and the hospital in general), someone wrote in criticizing the OR for not supporting breastfeeding employees when UNC Hospital is designated a "five-star breastfeeding facility". My boss, the VP of Surgical Services, replied by stating that there are designated lactation rooms located throughout the hospital and advised said employee to try to pump during their lunch hour each day. As if this information wasn't unrealistic and un-useful enough, she also gave an interesting piece of advice to all breastfeeding employees that I would like to share:
If another woman at your workplace is also pumping milk for her baby, arrange to eat your lunch together while you pump. This can be helpful if you miss the camaraderie of lunch with colleagues.
When I read this, I had to laugh OUTLOUD because honestly, who would do this??? And why limit it to just breastfeeding friends?? Maybe we should just forget the shower stall and start pumping in the employee lounge during lunchtime!
I know that recently there has been a lot of media buzz regarding breastfeeding mothers who have chosen to publicly display themselves feeding their children. There was the Time Magazine's recent cover story with a shocking photo of a very attractive mother striking a pose while breastfeeding her four year old son. There was also the picture of the military mothers breastfeeding their children in uniform, one of which was breastfeeding twins. I admire these women for having the courage to bring breastfeeding in the public eye, even if doing so was a wee bit controversial. For me, however, breastfeeding (and similarly pumping) has always been personal and private. I've never been the type to breastfeed my children in public. The few times I tried left me feeling exposed and self-conscious. Even with my "hooter hider" I never could get comfortable with idea of being that exposed in a public setting. So pumping with a friend is definitely out of the question for me, as much as I might miss the "camaraderie" of my fellow colleagues.
I will say that I have been caught pumping in the car on various occasions, which is a little out of character for me. Somehow the inner sanctum of my vehicle makes me believe that no one really will be able to see me. I do have a pumping bra and wear a jacket over it, so exposure is at a minimum. Just to warn you, though, if you see me in my car, just keep on driving. You never know what I'm doing :)