Adventures of a bicycling, breastfeeding mom at work
MedAmour invites their resident breastfeeding mom at work to share her unique perspective.
The universal funny-ness of breastfeeding
It seems every breastfeeding mom has an adventure story or at least select, funny ones. These are stories they probably never imagined: pumping for a half hour and then spilling the milk all over yourself, accidentally unplugging the business’s internet router to plug in your breast pump, having someone walk in on you, top and bra down, nursing in all sorts of odd places like a bathroom stall, the backseat of a car, under a tree in a park, while walking, etc.
The decision to be a breastfeeding mom at work
I was pretty committed to nursing my son. Besides all of the amazing health benefits and having those moments to bond with him, it was incredibly cost-effective since I wasn’t spending hundreds per month on formula. It seemed obvious: if the milk was flowing, I should nurse. After about a month and a half being out of the office and attempting to work from home, it was time to get back in the office. With my free Obamacare double electric Ameda breastpump in hand, I was ready to have the best equivalent of alone time that I’d had in months.
At this point, I should mention that I don’t drive. It’s not that I can’t or can’t afford it. I just choose not to. I like riding my bike. I like being able to see, smell and hear everything around me. I like knowing that my body is capable of taking me from one point to another. Especially after slowly recovering from 16 hours of labor and one and a half hours of pushing, I was eager to get moving again.
Biking to work already requires a lot of planning. Since I don’t like showing up to work sweaty, I always bring a change of clothes (including underwear) and make-up. Since I live in the desert, I always need water and also need other necessities like my wallet, notebook, phone, etc. Add to all of this the breastpump, 5-6 empty bottles, cooler pack and ice packs. Get it all loaded up on the bike and it can total to around 20 pounds of gear.
The mission: strategically time nursing, pumping, milk available for while I’m away, work departure time, work arrival time, work breaks, eating (very, very important), hydrating, to pump or not to pump before leaving for home, and nighttime nursing time all to coincide with optimal baby fullness and happiness.
- Wake up, nurse baby.
- Spend an absurd amount of time getting ready, picking out clothes, preparing lunch, checking bike tires, putting on sunscreen, packing bike panniers. Spend so much time that it made more sense to pump before leaving (I somehow had it in my head that if I didn’t pump before I left, my milk would get too warm from me bicycling!)
- Pump for 15-20 minutes, wash pump parts and then remember (this is crucial) to pack them in bike panniers. Leave one bottle on the counter for his next feeding, put the rest in the fridge.
- Finally get out the door 2-3 hours after having woken up.
- Two hours after arriving at work, go to one of the two women’s bathrooms at work where I have my pump stashed in a cabinet and a chair set up. Door is locked. Try to wait inconspicuously until the person in this bathroom departs.
- Pump for 15-20 minutes while performing Lumosity brain tests. Gauge how much smarter (or not) I am after only 3 hours of solid sleep.
- Stuff paper towels in sink since there is no sink stopper, wash pump parts with paper towels and hand soap, arrange on towel inside cabinet to dry for next pumping.
- Wash up, re-dress.
- Attempt to inconspicuously leave bathroom with milk bottles in cooler pack without anyone asking questions about why it looks like I just brought my lunch out of the bathroom.
- Hope that no one accidentally throws out my “lunch” in the work fridge.
- Repeat steps 6-10 after 3-4 hours.
- Divert questions about where I was when someone paged me. I liked to say “in the warehouse.”
- Decide whether to pump before leaving work or to time it exactly so my son will be ready for dinner as soon as I get home.
- Add freezer packs to cooler bag, load up bottles, load up pump, change clothes to ride home, back bike panniers.
- Arrive home, nurse.
- Divide bottles of milk into servings for the next day.
- Put remaining milk in milk storage bags in the freezer for donation (I donated through a local Facebook group).
- Nurse before bed.
Going the distance
My goal with breastfeeding was to manage at least six months. If I could do that, I figured I’d give my son the advantages he’d need to start off as a healthy child. We managed to make it to ten months before my body finally called it quits. I remember feeling very sad about this but also sighing a bit of relief. I thought about all the mothers who weren’t able to nurse, including the woman I donated milk to. I thought about how grateful I was to be able to be a breastfeeding mom at work. It was difficult, but also a privilege. In retrospect, I realize what a monstrous task each day was. Not nursing gave me so much free time! What on earth would I do with myself?
A fist pump for every breastfeeding mom at work
You did it! We all did! Congratulations for all the hard work you do and all the multi-tasking you’re capable of! Breastfeeding is no easy feat.
Did I mention that my son didn’t sleep the night through until 11 months? Well, that’s another story…