How not to pump at work

Aka what to do when your company hasn’t quite figured out how to accommodate the breastfeeding laws… Plus pictures!

Yesterday I had my first day in the office. It wasn’t quite a full day – I only had one meeting so I left early. I was catching up with a new manager in my team who may well end up being my (sub team) manager. My boss had said don’t bother coming in until we meet on Tuesday, and to work from home, but I said I’d try and meet this new manager as I wanted to use the time wisely and I really don’t have much (any!) work to do at home. 

The new manager is a woman (rare in my industry!). I actually interviewed her even though she’s about two grades above me. My boss tends to send me to do the cultural / female interview! As I love my company and so they usually want to work there after I’ve talked with them! (I wasn’t the deciding factor. More of an add on so a woman interviewing wouldn’t see only men!)

Anyway. It was kind of illuminating. For one thing, I got much more of an insight into the company’s stance on pumping for breastfeeding mothers. Turns out nobody has asked for it before! I suppose the law only came in relatively recently. 

The Equality Act 2010 states that it is illegal to discriminate against breastfeeding mothers. In practice this means that employers need to provide a room with a lockable door for breastfeeding and ideally with a power socket. It also means people can’t prevent you from feeding in shops and cafés, etc. 

Most clients have a suitable space in the shape of a meeting room or a first aid room. But our base office doesn’t. It’s not that fancy an office as we are a client facing business so most people who work at the company are usually out on client site. I had suggested to HR and the office manager that I could use one of the small meeting rooms and they could stick some paper over the window. But there’s no lock on the door… 

The HR woman (probably the first HR woman I’ve gotten on with so well!) was super apologetic and said that she’s told my boss they couldn’t accommodate breastfeeding mothers in that office so I should be allowed to work from home! The office manager agreed and she’s seven months pregnant and said she wouldn’t stand for it!

For my meeting, the first meeting in over four months, I had a good catch up with the new manager. She’s in her 50s and has kids and seemed relatively sympathetic. She said I definitely shouldn’t work longer hours than contractual hours, which was refreshing. (Official working hours are 9-5 but nobody ever works this. But I would have to leave at 5 or soon after to get back in time to pick up B from nursery, once he’s there all day.)

The kind of weird thing was that she said she’d gone back at 6 weeks each time she had a baby as she had to, being the main breadwinner*. And she said she didn’t need to pump at work. Apparently her breasts just adjusted and didn’t leak milk or whatever and she fed her kids when she was at home. (*I am too but didn’t feel the need to say this! But it’s the reason I am going back to work instead of being a SAHM which I would love to be.)

Now it’s a fairly recent development but B is kind of showing signs of moving towards reverse cycle feeding. He has a big feed or two at night and less during the day. So I thought in time this might happen, especially as B has been really bottle resistant. (We have tried giving him one small bottle of expressed milk a day and he typically takes 1-2oz under sufferance! And I mean sufferance! Screaming!)

However when I was out yesterday, he ended up taking way more than usual from T via the bottle. Almost 5oz in 3 bottles! When he seems only to snack during the day lately and he always resists the one bottle a day we try to give him, so this was unexpected. I was thinking maybe 1-2oz not almost 5. I don’t know if he was comforting with the bottle but he’s pretty good at self soothing with his thumb now he’s realised where it is!

So to provide for a day like that in expressed milk, I would most likely have to express during the work day. Currently I express in the early evening when I’m at home, but I feed him a little bit during the day so it makes sense that I’d have to pump at least once during the day to provide that for the next day. Today I pumped once at work and once at home. But if I do the pumping when I’m back at work, I would really rather do it at work as I want to spend the time at home re-bonding with my son, not pumping. 

I think what this woman was saying was that her kids had formula when she went back to work. This is not what B is used to, and until today he wouldn’t even take more than 2oz under sufferance. I am really reluctant to give him formula given this is the only thing my body managed to get right! It’s all very well this manager woman saying she didn’t need to express milk, but I currently do! 

The thing that really annoyed me a bit was apparently she said this to my boss when he asked her, as she’s The Other Woman in the team. (“I didn’t need to express milk so she shouldn’t really need to and so you don’t really need a room for it.” Paraphrase.) Err that’s not how it works, honey! B is exclusively breastfed and he’s drinking/ feeding during the day – so I need to pump. Whether they like it or not. It’s protected by law! 

It kind of gets my goat when women are not all sisterhood-like about these things. It does us a disservice when there’s always one woman going “Don’t make allowances for women because I didn’t need them and I was fine!” I mean, she was nice and all but perhaps a bit old school in that way of showing how kick ass she is, how she didn’t need breastfeeding laws and whatnot. I appreciate previous generations had it harder, but why should we not want positive change?

My boss – who I’ve always adored in a work way and get on really well with – is apparently really stressed in general due to our targets and reorganisation and is really p*ssed off that this is one more thing that needs to be accommodated, and that our office doesn’t have the facility. (Now since I’ve been away four months they’ve built a whole new canteen so I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect one small locking private room with power source!) It was definitely a bit demoralising to hear he’s not happy although the manager lady and HR assured me it’s not personal and he still likes me. 

I felt a bit upset as I was kind of a bit of teacher’s pet before I left and I don’t really want that to change! I feel like I’ve made a massive effort coming back so soon (most women here take a year) and they didn’t pay me for maternity leave so the least they could do is appreciate my effort! So I have to wait and see what he has in mind for me to work on, when we meet on Tuesday. We shall see. 

Anyway, I figured since I had brought all my pumping stuff I should give it a go. They had no room so I went in the disabled bathroom. I felt like I was well prepared with all my pumping gear and no idea!

Turns out that it is pretty horrible to pump in the disabled loo… Having done it once, I can totally see why HR didn’t recommend it. It was really difficult and it made me realise how much you depend on oxytocin and feeling relaxed to get the milk flowing! Suffice to say standing around in the disabled loo is not conducive to those warm smushy feelings!

Anyway, without further ado I give you: My day in pictures! This captures the full horror of pumping in the disabled bathroom… An experience I’d rather not repeat!

I left Baby B sleeping after feeding, around 08:00. You can see Tiger from our babymoon in the corner of his cot. It felt so hard to leave him. His little chubby legs!

My work outfit. It’s a Friday so I wore jeans! I’m a bit bad in that I often wear black jeans because I kinda think they just look like trousers anyway. My Sarah Wells pumping bag is in the bottom left corner. Check out the disabled loo! It’s nice and big but…


My Sarah Wells bag contains the Pumparoo (which you buy separately). If there is one thing I’d recommend pumping mums get, it’s the Pumparoo. Quite aside from the fact it’s in one of my favourite naval motifs, it is super handy for occasions just like this. It is a fabric bag which has a large waterproof zipped compartment and a smaller zipped compartment, plus a clip on/off “staging mat” (see next pic) and it folds up small when not in use. The idea is you can put your used pump parts in the office fridge in between pump sessions and you don’t need to sterilise more than once a day. 

The staging mat clips off the side with poppers and has one waterproof side. It means you have a clean surface to put your pump parts on. Believe me if you’re in a public bathroom you need this!


It was trickier than I thought getting everything set up. I do this every day at home but I have plenty of space there. I found it quite stressful!

At home I am very relaxed and I don’t have any issue getting milk out most of the time. At work, people were waking past and there was lots of noise and it took ages to get half of what I usually get. I tend to get 8-10oz in 15 min and at work I did 4.5oz in half an hour. It was a bit demoralising. But also I don’t know if my body’s used to making milk in the evening which is when I usually pump. So maybe I’m not used to milk making at lunchtime! B usually eats just little snacks during the day. 

It wasn’t much fun during this time as initially nothing was coming out and also people were making loads of noise outside the bathroom. I kept wondering if someone would be rattling the door handle trying to get in or wondering if I was depriving an actual disabled person from using the bathroom. (There aren’t any in our office as far as I know.)
 

It was pretty difficult and uncomfortable in the end. The disabled loo has no seat so I had to perch on the edge of the toilet seat, or stand up. I could hear people going past and it just didn’t get me in the zone. I kept worrying someone would come in. Turns out having a lock is important! But also knowing someone won’t try to get in is also important!

Anyone who has breastfed or pumped knows that you have to release oxytocin (“the love hormone”) to release the milk. When you’re with your baby, you naturally release it. When you’re pumping, you need to think of your baby. The pump bag even has a little pocket to put a picture of your baby in for that very purpose. 

When I left home that morning – I realised I’d forgotten the blasted ice blocks! The Sarah Wells pump bag has a section that is separate from the rest of the bag which acts as a cool bag. 

So what was I to do with all my hard earned milk?

Well, my office provides free soft drinks…


On the plus side, when I got home all the boys were pleased to see me. B was crying and he stopped as soon as he saw me. It made me feel happy!

Advertisements

24 comments

  1. Amy M.

    So best times to pump really are first thing in the am because of what you build up overnight, and at night because your body builds up throughout the day. That’s what I’ve been told anyway! I’m sorry you had such a rough time, I really hope they figure something out for you soon. Good luck on Tuesday!

    Like

    • Nara

      I feed him first thing in the morning but I can see why. Am usually in a rush to get out of the house so not sure that will work but maybe I’ll pump when I get to work. I usually pump in the evening and have a good supply. I’m thinking maybe I can move the evening one to lunchtime and I’ll have enough. But when I did it the other day, both supplies were reduced. I’m sure it is emotionally influenced!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Amy M.

        I only pump about once a week, but I do it after she has her first feed and get anywhere from 6-8oz. It does take your body some time to adjust to things, so don’t be hard on yourself!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. RC

    I had some troubles with pumping at work, especially in the beginning.
    Its so crap that pumping at work becomes such a “thing”- everyone seems to get involved, everyone’s got an (unhelpful) opinion, and all you’re trying to do is feed your baby. Gaahhh, so stressful till it gets sorted out!

    Like

    • Nara

      I know right!! Why do random people think they need to give an opinion? Like surely they just need to know what they need and sort out access for you. Given what they do for meetings and so on at work, I really don’t think a small room is a big thing to ask.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. notabroodychick

    Well done for sticking with the BF and pumping at work! I’m still BF with EJ at 15 months:) I wanted to make it to a year and then felt we would just see how things go. I initially pumped at work (although I appreciate going back at a year is different than you returning earlier) and totally get your dilemmas. They first had a room but like once our CEO was in it on a call and I didn’t feel I should disturb him so I tried to use our disabled loo – a similar experience to yours! Never repeated. We just had an office refurb and I just stopped asking for a room because it would just be a room close to other meeting rooms and desks and I feel hearing meetings etc going on very off putting for pumping. Most days I don’t pump at work now as EJ doesn’t need it in the day, and occasionally if I do (like if I need to build some stash for an evening for some reason), I go and sit in the car!

    Like

    • Nara

      That’s brilliant! T has asked when we should wean B (as I think everyone expects you to do it when you go back to work) but I want to do EBF until 6 months minimum and then baby led weaning so it really depends if he is interested in food. I want to bf until a year. Like you, I’m in no hurry to stop so I’ll see if he makes it further! TBH I’ve gone so far the other way that I can completely see myself doing it till he’s 5 or something! 😂😂
      I can completely understand why you wouldn’t want to interrupt the CEO! Ha! Yeah and I didn’t realise how much sounds of people would put me off. I kept worrying someone would try the door. That’s why it took ages to pump. Actually last night after I fed B (I was out for a hen do during the day) I found one breast was a bit engorged so I hand expressed into a haakaa and it was surprisingly easy and sort of more fun(?!) to do than using an electric pump! Although you can’t do anything whilst you pump!
      I’ll need to pump for a few months yet as he will still need some milk during the day. Sadly can’t go and sit in the car as we live in London and take public transport to and from work!

      Like

  4. MrsD

    I had issues pumping at work too- mainly that a coworker essentially harassed me to the point I wasn’t comfortable using the “pumping room,” which was really just a storage room with a gross old stained recliner surrounded by piles of junk. Plus finding time to pump was getting more and more difficult so I ended up stopping breastfeeding at 9 months, mainly because I couldn’t sustain pumping at work anymore and it was affecting my milk supply which wasn’t great to begin with (on a really good day I’d only get 1.5-2oz from each side per session). I ended up pumping in my office (had to spend my own $ and several hours at home sewing a curtain and buying tension rods to cover the window) and even with a locking door and a sign I’d get students knocking while I was pumping and the creepy janitor walked in on me several times (he has a key obviously.) I complained to my boss but he did nothing about it.
    So keep being assertive about what you need at work and don’t settle for pumping in a restroom! It should not be difficult or expensive for your employer to install a lock and put up a curtain so there’s really no need for them to make such a fuss. Plus if you had a nice room you could take your laptop and work while pumping, which you can’t really do in a restroom! So it’s to their advantage because you’ll be more productive!

    Like

    • Nara

      I remember that! He was such an idiot! I really didn’t realise how much you don’t just need space but you also need emotional space… I couldn’t pump easily when I was worried about people rattling the door and walking past and so on. That must have been so maddening and also how frustrating about your milk supply! I’ve been fortunate to have a good one, but sitting there trying to pump at work made me realise how people must feel when they have a low supply. I only got around 4.5oz total over half an hour. Usually I can do 4-5oz each side in 10-15min! I remember when you did the office pumping and how wrong it was you had to avoid the creepy janitor and so on! How awful! I’ll see what my boss has to say on Monday – he is usually amazing. Good point about the working whilst pumping! I think he may just say do it at home and work whilst pumping… which could be a good thing and a bad thing…

      Like

  5. RJ

    I pump 3 times a day on days I work. I feed baby A before leaving and the I pump right when I get to work. Usually there is about 2-2.5 hours between the feed and the pump. My next pumping session is about 4-5 hours later and the third is 3ish hours after that (usually right before my commute home). I suggest experimenting with your pumping times. I find I get slightly more if I wait longer (i.e. 4-5 hours) than if I do it every 2-3 and it hasn’t affected my supply. This will help you figure out how to maximize what you can get out. Also check out hands on pumping (literally squeezing your breasts while pumping). I can get out an extra 1/2 oz when I do this and in ensures I get as empty as I can. Hand expression afterward also helps people get more out.

    Honestly sounds like you have great output even with only 4.5 oz. I never got 8-10 so that’s amazing. I usually get 5oz (15 min) at the first, 4at the second (25min) and 3oz at the third (15min). Check out Kelly mom of you haven’t already about how much milk breastfed babies need when away from mom. It’s so much less than you think.

    Good luck with your company getting you a place to pump. We are so lucky to live places where this is law!

    Like

    • Nara

      Thank you, that’s really helpful! I am on Kelly mom a lot! That’s where I got the tip for the Sarah Wells bag!

      I’ve been pumping once a day just to build up a stash and also so he can have a bottle once a day… but it’s in the evening so I’m not clued into how my body reacts during the day when away from him. I know that bf babies don’t need as much milk as you think. But when I was away on Friday he drank 4.5oz which is way more than he ever has before.

      I actually did some hand expression yesterday and it worked really well. Obviously it’s not really suitable for work as you can only do one at a time, but it’s good to know I can deal with engorgement and get a decent supply if I run out of batteries!

      Thanks for your tips. Will bear in mind when I meet the boss!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. EmilyMaine

    Eeeep. I hope they find somewhere for you soon. That “I went back at 6 weeks and never pumped” woman is annoying. I hope she isn’t giving others the wrong idea. Ridiculous. Hope you and all those you love are safe after recent event in London 😔

    Like

    • Nara

      I know right! I’m meeting my boss tomorrow (well, today – my body clock is out of whack, haha) so we shall see what he says. Agh! So odd to think I’ll properly be back to work. It feels really weird.

      Thanks for asking re London- we are safe. Was quite scary as T was out that night nearby. I had to text him and tell him to leave and it took him ages to get home because we usually come home from London Bridge. Scary times.

      Like

  7. sbach1222

    Glad to hear you are doing well after the recent events!

    I am soooooo irate for you!!! The nerve of that woman!!! First of all, even if she did manage to make enough to not supplement without pumping at work, Good for her!!!! I can tell you that not all women are the same! My supply dropped when Baby Bach started sleeping a 6 hour stretch at night! He has been sleeping 10-12 hours at night for months now, and I STILL have to pump in the middle of the night to have enough milk for him! Not to mention the 3 times per day at work I have to pump! (Even if I COULD still make enough without pumping at work… can you imagine the pain??)

    Bottom line is, it is the LAW! You are protected and WELL within your rights to demand a room!

    I don’t know what the law is over there, but in the US, the room also is required to have a lock and CANNOT be a bathroom!

    That being said, it sure doesn’t have to be glamorous, but they have something they can give you. The room here where I work… is a closet. It was a janitor’s closet I believe. There is a rolling chair, outlet and a desk with a small mini-fridge in it. Also, it is in the lobby… which makes it awkward and uncomfortable. Especially when employing hands-on pumping techniques (which I completely second the previous poster on that – it has made all of the difference for me and my supply) can make very unpleasant potty sounds. LOL. And of course it is fun when people wiggle the handle thinking it is a bathroom, and then you are greeted by men in suits when you get out asking what that special room is and why I have access to it. Not glamorous at all, but a million times better than the bathroom!

    I hope they get your room soon. Even if it is just an awkwardly placed closet!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nara

      Thank you so much! Sorry for the late response. Yes, it’s infuriating really that something that is the law seems so difficult to achieve! Also totally agree with you about the amounts. Like if I’m not with B then I need to pump more… It’s not a question of relieving the pressure or whatever – I need the milk!

      I do have a room but it’s really not ideal… About to post some pics! Thanks for the support!

      Like

  8. Dubliner in Deutschland

    oh gosh, that sounded difficult and not a good solution going forward. Hope they can find you some sort of room you can use. Pity that other woman wasn’t more helpful either. Just because she didn’t need to pump at work doesn’t mean she’s better or something! It probably is an older generation thing like you say. x

    Like

    • Nara

      It’s so annoying but I suppose it’s first world problems!

      I hope everything is going well for you! Rooting for you! Not long to go now although I know the TWW feels like ages. Xx

      Like

  9. Dani

    Ugghhhhh that makes me mad…just because she didn’t pump, she must have been supplementing or be in pain from being full?!!? Weird. I’m sorry you had to pump in the disabled loo. It’s not cool. I wheeled in a chair so I could sit down, I’ve pumped standing up before and it definitely affects my supply and my ability to get it all out. But it’s tough to relax in those conditions. 😡 grrrrrr.

    Need to get myself a pumperoo!!!! Thanks for the tip!!

    Hope everything is going OK so far and B isn’t missing you too much and vice versa 😭

    Like

    • Nara

      Yeah it’s generally annoying. I managed to do it today twice though and I got way more than before! So I was happy!

      Definitely get a pumperoo! Much more manageable than the bag! Finding the bag a bit annoying TBH. It is a good size and I like the cool bag thing but it has rubbish straps and I need to commute a long way!

      Don’t think B is as bothered as I am! But I have been wfh a lot… 😂

      Like

  10. Pingback: A pumping revelation! | From zero to zygote

Tell us your thoughts...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s