Tag Archives: back to work

Working and Pumping, 8 months and 5 pumps in.

I got a new pump from my insurance company on Monday.  It is my fifth pump.  It’s also my favorite.  It’s the Spectra 2.

I started pumping when my daughter was a week old.  My sister had given me tips on starting pumping right away, so I would get used to it and also so that I could build a freezer stash.  I went back to work at six weeks with a full shelf of milk bags.  As my baby wouldn’t eat at daycare, I added to the stash.  Around six months, I started to experience a supply drop.  It was pretty consistent.  Nothing seemed to help much – not eating more, not hydrating more, not taking fenugreek or drinking the mother’s milk tea.  I rented a hospital grade pump for an overnight trip away from the baby and kept it for two weeks, hoping it would improve my supply.  I returned it and my supply went back down.  We started supplementing with the freezer stash.  Which gave me irrational anxiety.

My friend gave me her coworker’s old pump, which I took gladly because I am a forgetful person.  I did not want to run the risk of forgetting my pump for work one day, so I wanted a home pump and a work pump.  I got the work pump (my main pump) from my insurance company last fall.  My home pump and work pump were both the Medela Pump in Style Advanced and I had two sets of parts.  It was great, until the motor wore out in my home pump.  Around that time, an Ameda Purely Yours came up on our listserv for $20 and I picked that up.  I already had the parts because I had used a hospital grade Ameda pump in the hospital, so it was fine.  Except the Ameda Purely Yours is not a great pump.  It doesn’t have an auto let-down feature and they don’t make bigger flanges for it – the ones they make insert into each other and it’s weird.  I just used my Medela flanges inserted into the Ameda flanges and that helped.  But I consistently got less than I got from my Medela pump, so when my friend was selling her barely used Medela Pump in Style, I snapped it up.

For another two months, I continued to have supply issues, which I addressed in my last post.  After I decided I still wanted to make nursing work, I tried to get my insurance to cover a hospital grade pump.  I had changed insurances from last year, and so I was hoping that even though I had already gotten a pump through insurance, my new insurance might cover a hospital grade rental.  (You can get either a pump or a hospital grade rental, depending on your insurance.)  My insurance provider was iffy when I called about covering a hospital grade rental, but would absolutely give me a second free pump.  I emailed my doctor for a prescription and they directed me to edgepark.com, which is where I had gotten my original pump from.  I browsed through to see if they had hospital grade rentals (they don’t, my OB was confused), and when I put in my insurance info, it told me that I could get one of a number of pumps, which included the Medela PISA, the Ameda Purely Yours, the Freemies Pump (I seriously considered that one, because I think it would be so much better for pumping while driving) and the Spectra 2 Hospital Strength.  A quick review search on Amazon and Google revealed GREAT reviews, a couple of which compared it to the Medela or Ameda hospital strength pumps.  I added it to my cart, “checked out” and a week later it showed up in my office.  It is awesome.  It is super quiet, and generally extremely cool.  It has a built in timer, which is my favorite feature, and the massage/letdown feature is really cool.  It buzzes instead of suctioning the way other pumps do and I’ve gotten consistently higher yields out of it.  I pump into those free Avent bottles they give you at Motherhood Maternity, which is nice because then you don’t have to buy the stupid extra nipples for them.  I can also pump into MAM bottles but they don’t fit as perfectly.

Pumping at work is 100% possible because I have my own office.  This is a luxury that a lot of women don’t have, carting their pumps and their parts to either lactation rooms, supply closets, or even the handicapped stall of bathrooms (technically, that place also had a lactation room but it was really far away so they set up the handicapped stall as well.)  When I go to a training, I demand a private place to pump and our training director is super supportive and finds me one.  Nobody has ever walked in on me while pumping, nor have they banged on the door demanding to know why I’m in a closet with secured files, nor have they walked in to perform maintenance and commented that they “like the smell of breast milk”.  All of these are true stories.  I have pumped in the occasional bathroom, and it’s gross.  I pump in my car all the time.  I pumped in the manager’s office at a wedding.

I did hit a point around 6-7 months where I was SO OVER breastfeeding.  I was over pumping, I was over being punched in the throat and fish hooked and kicked while the baby was nursing.  I pushed through it in the hopes that it would get better, and because after a long day of work, I wasn’t willing to give up my snuggle time.

For the first time in awhile, I’m feeling like I might really make it to a year of breastfeeding.  At the one year mark, I will stop pumping, and see whether I still want to nurse or not.

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Can I breastfeed and litigate?

Monday found me, for the second time, standing in a bathroom stall at the courthouse using my hand pump to pump 5 ounces.  Then I remembered that I had cleverly loaded a bottle onto the hand pump, and I had then left the cap in the car.  Even with an oversupply and a decent freezer stash, I didn’t want to just pour those 5 ounces down the drain.  I felt so angry with myself, and so frustrated.  I had planned ahead, and all for naught!  I wound up just leaving the cap part of the hand pump on and putting the bottle upright in my bag.  When I took it out later, I only had two ounces left.

Let me lay out a typical court day.  Court is an hour away and starts at 8:45 or 9am.  Most hearings take a minimum of 1-2 hours. I usually pump around 8 or 9 am after I get to work and again 3 hours later.  Traffic varies by day and weather.  So here is probably the ideal plan:

-5:30 or 6:00 – wake up, get ready for work
-6:30 or earlier – feed the baby when she wakes up
-6:45-7:00 – leave for work, drive to my office or directly to the courthouse, if traffic is too bad to stop off at my office, drive to court and pump in my car.
-8:00 – stop at office, get whatever files I forgot, pump
-8:35 – pull into parking lot, pay for parking, go to court
-11:00/12:00 – hearing ends or breaks, go back to car and pump or drive back to work and pump.

The courthouse actually has a tiny office that I can get a key to, but I don’t have one yet.  So I’ve been doing an uncomfortable combo of bathroom pumping and pumping while driving back to my office.  The parking lot is a 10 minute walk from the courthouse, and today it was freezing raining.  So pumping in the bathroom was actually preferable to going back to my car and pumping and then going back into the courthouse.  But as I lugged all my stuff up the hill to my car to feed my meter and set my bottle of milk in the car and realized that half of it had leaked into my purse, I started wondering whether breastfeeding is really worth it when it is making my life this difficult.

There are women who just nurse at night and on the weekends and formula feed at daycare.  Nursing, and breastfeeding, remains really important to me.  Our kiddo has a hard enough time taking a bottle, I think feeding her formula would actually really upset her.  So, continuing to pump it is.  I just don’t know how to make this work.  Of my coworkers, one exclusively pumped, and the others were in court less and have less of a commute.  (Exclusively pumping would be easier because I could pump in the morning instead of depending on the baby’s timing.)

I spent some time looking at the Freemies system, because the idea of wearing something that I could wear under my clothes and discretely pump in court is pretty appealing.  However, based on this review, they don’t look that discreet.  I will be getting a key to the closet my organization has at the courthouse, and I will be working really hard to be more organized so that I do not have to stop at my office before court.  The end result of this, for now at least, is that I will have to get ready to leave a full hour before I actually leave the building.  I will make sure I have everything for court the next day, if I’m going straight to court, and then I will pump and clean my pump parts, and then I will make whatever final notes I have to make, update whatever to-do lists I have to update, make sure I sign out on the office clipboard, and then head home with all my files and documents for court.  I will also have to use the same rule I use with the baby for everything else in my life – assume it takes another half hour to get anywhere.  If I have an extra half hour when I get to the courthouse, I have time to pump and make sure I have everything for my case.  I have time to talk to the clerk about the docket and maybe let her know that I’m breastfeeding and if I’m not in the courtroom around noon if they call my case then, it’s because I’m pumping and can they pass the case until I come back?

I have never been an organized person, but as my last therapist used to remind me, if you do not practice a skill, you do not get better. So I’m going to practice being organized and put together, and see where that takes me.  Every month, I tell myself, “at least I’ve made it this far.” Then I ask myself if I think I can do another month.  Which feels manageable.  And so, we go, onward.

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How to go Back to Work at 6 Weeks

First of all, do everything you can to avoid going back to work at 6 weeks. If you have the option of unpaid leave, take it. Whether it’s not buying a bigger family friendly car or not ordering takeout or not doing anything fun during your pregnancy, do it. But, if like me, it’s not a matter of money, but because your job will not give you more time off because they don’t have to, and you are stuck with six weeks, here are what has helped us.
1. Save your PTO. My company let me take 6 weeks unpaid, then use my PTO to come back part time. This also helped a lot when we got the flu. A lot of companies make you drain your paid leave to take unpaid leave, but if, like me, you aren’t covered by FMLA, you may be able to get around this.
2. Enlist help. We cobbled together caretakers to keep the baby out of daycare. It was exhausting and stressful but we felt so much better leaving our teeny baby and going back to work with her aunt or grandma watching her.
3. Cosleep or at least learn to side-lying nurse. At six weeks, you are getting a few 4 hour stretches and a few 2 hour stretches. I think if we had just coslept from 5-8 weeks, it would have been easier than me getting up in the middle of the night.
4. Be prepared. Learn when growth spurts and wonder weeks are. The period from 9-10 weeks was really hard for us but was over a 4 day weekend over New Year’s. I highly recommend the Wonder Weeks app which warns about these periods. If you can adjust your work schedule accordingly, do it.
5. Study sleep. Start learning about good sleep habits before your kiddo shows up. Watch the Happiest Baby on the Block DVD. Read at least one book about baby sleep habits, whether it’s Babywise or Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child or Ferber’s book or whatever. I really liked Baby 411 for laying out and reviewing sleep theory. We swaddled from day 1, we started using white noise early, we rock/bounce/nurse to sleep. We started a bedtime of 8ish early on because it gave us a couple hours to get things done (or I slept and my spouse got things done.)
6. Shop. Going back at 6 weeks sucks, among other reasons, because none of your clothes fit. If you can, only buy maternity/nursing shirts. This will help you be prepared. Otherwise, look for loose, v or cowl neck tops. The test is, can you pull the neckline down over both boobs at once? Buy 1-2 sizes up. I wear a small normally and I’m wearing a large right now. Order nursing bras in advance. Order at least two one size up and one two sizes up. I wear the sleep bras for daytime activity as well. You will need a new suit jacket. Buy pull on pants (love NY&Co for this) or demi panel maternity pants. Wearing full panel pants post partum sucks.
7. Take a breastfeeding class before you give birth. We did a free one at Babies R Us, otherwise the hospital one would have been $40 and so worth it. I knew the positions, latch techniques and whatnot before I delivered, which meant we got the hang of nursing sooner. This made all the difference for us.
8. Introduce bottles at 3-4 weeks. Hopefully you will have the hang of breastfeeding by then. This means you will learn to pump, and also you will get a break. Go to a bar, get a drink, go for a walk, get a haircut, go shopping, let your partner feed the baby. After you introduce bottles, make sure the baby is getting one every day to practice.
9. Walk. Start getting back into shape. This is especially important if your job is physically demanding.
10. Get a therapist. This transition sucks. I am so happy I made my mental health a priority, and it helps a lot on tough days.
11. Vitamin C. I got sick because I was burning the candle at both ends and my immune system basically collapsed. Try to sleep if you can, when you can. Do whatever else you can to stay healthy.


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Lawyering while Mom

Friday, a day a quick 9am hearing I offered to accompany my coworker on turned into an all day hearing. We were at court until 2:30. This was problematic for two reasons. My baby was at home with my parents and I was supposed to be back at 1pm, and I needed to pump.

I recently bought a manual pump for middle of the night and on the go situations. Since it was my second day back, and I was going to pump before and after court, I didn’t want to figure out lugging my electric pump and pumping in the car or at the courthouse. Since it was a morning hearing, I only brought one 5oz bottle.

And so, at lunch, I went into the bathroom and pumped 5 ounces. I could have pumped more but I didn’t have bottles. I could have pumped more but my hand and feet hurt. I was poorly prepared and am trying to figure out my lessons learned.

I think it’s best to assume all hearings could go a full day. It’s best to know beforehand where you can pump in the courthouse. It’s best to always have a spare bottle and your lunch. A spare blanket or cover in case you have to pump in the parking lot. A burp cloth just in case.

Any other tips, tricks, or thoughts?

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