Pumping at Work: Part II
Stress – the silent killer inside your body. It can lead to heart attacks, memory loss, and increased illness and decreased milk supply in a nursing mom. If you’ve been following along, you already know that breastfeeding pretty much dominated my life during Micah’s infancy. I loved that I could provide my baby with everything he needed. It was our time of quiet bonding, and no one could take it away from us. Well, no one but me, myself and my stress.
My first few weeks of being a working mom were smooth and trouble free. I enjoyed being around adults each day and completing my work. I missed Micah like crazy, but I called Kids ‘R’ Kids (atleast once) daily to check in. I was able to use the Watch Me Grow cameras throughout the day to see him explore tummy time activities, new toys and other babies. All was well in both our worlds.
I previously mentioned that upon my return to work, I was tasked with a deadline-driven project. I struggled to find time to leave my desk. Although I had received nothing but support from management and my coworkers, I still felt awkward each time I had to stop work to pump. I imagined all eyes on me as I walked through the building with my “stylish” (that’s what the pamphlet inside the case said!) bag containing the big ole pump. As I rode up the elevator, it often felt like the ride of embarrassment. People loved to make innocent comments such as “Duty calls?” or “Is it that time again?” I’m sure it was a way to ease any discomfort they felt, but boy, did it stress me out. There were days when I felt like I had a sign that read “breastfeeding mom” as I walked through the building. It was a label I wore proudly but a part of me couldn’t get over the uncomfortable feeling I felt each time I had to go upstairs. That feeling, coupled with the perceived judgment and the act of pumping itself (no one tells you just HOW unnatural it feels), all contributed to this mama’s stress.
The experts recommend aligning your pumping with baby’s feeding schedule. I was able to do that for a couple weeks. Even then, I had to supplement with formula. I was one of those women who just never yielded a lot of milk from the pump. It was always slightly less than what I needed for a bottle. By the end of the day, I was about one bottle short. As my work schedule got busier, I was bringing home way less milk than what was needed for the next day. I tried to add pumping sessions at night and in the morning before work and was literally losing sleep as a result. My freezer stash began to dwindle, and I began to stress.
I spent endless hours researching ways to increase my milk supply. I was willing to try anything within reason. I drank teas, popped pills, ate lactogenic foods. At my most desperate point, I followed the suggestion of the Internet and used my phone to record the sounds of Micah crying. I used the visualization techniques that were suggested to me by other desperate moms. Every morning when I arrived at work, I prepared my “Mother’s Milk” tea. I would chase it with a tall glass of water and a couple fenugreek pills. Then it was time to pump. I would make my way up to the penthouse and play the video of Micah and scroll through my phone to look at pictures of him while I was pumping. I made sure to eat oatmeal for breakfast and salads full of kale, barley and garlic. There were no significant changes. I was so worried about not being able to provide Micah with breast milk that I was profoundly affecting my ability to breastfeed. The worry created more stress. The stress took its toll, and by the time Micah was six months old, almost half of his bottles were filled with formula.
Micah’s pediatrician assured me that he was not at a disadvantage because I was supplementing with formula and I mostly believed him. I still wanted Micah to reap whatever health benefits he could from breast milk, so I continued to pump at work. There were some days it seemed completely pointless. I would come home with barely enough milk for one bottle, and as depressing as it was, I needed to keep at it so I could continue nursing when we were together. On the other hand, there were times where I would be pleasantly surprised by the amount of milk I was able to pump. Those were the ebbs and flows of being a pump-at-work mom. I learned to roll with it for the sake of my baby.
As time went on, I gained perspective and began to stress less. I became more comfortable with my role as a working mom and no longer felt guilty about taking time out of my day to handle my mom duties. I was now a mommy, and I couldn’t leave that at the door. I carried it with me all day, every day, even when I was at work—right next to my pump!