In Their Own Words: Courtney
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Sweet Peas, Pods & Papas: All About Birth, B@@bs & Babies

In Their Own Words: Courtney

"In Their Own Words" is a blog series we share to bring you "real life" experiences from other mothers and their families.  Would you like to share your story? Please email me at krystyna{at}sweetpeabirths{dot}com to get started.

Birthing From Within and Bradley Method® natural childbirth classes offered in Arizona: convenient to Chandler, Tempe, Ahwatukee, Gilbert, Mesa, Scottsdale, Payson

Today we are featuring a Q&A we did with one of our pumping and working-out-of-the-home mothers. She shares her insight gained from pumping for both of her sweet peas, for a combined total of 34 months...and counting.

What was your vision of what pumping at work was going to entail?
I thought I knew what pumping at work was going to be like. I thought it would be a nice break in my day to sit and think about my baby. It was inconvenient and awkward to constantly explain myself. I had read all these books about breastfeeding, gone to support groups, talked to a Lactation consultant, talked to friends, and when it came down to it, I still had to find my own way. 

All the knowledge helped, but each relationship and situation is unique. I knew it was going to be work, and I knew that I could do it. I didn't realize how long I would be doing it. 2 years. I pumped at work for nearly 2 years.

I think that the most important step of the journey was making the commitment and educating myself. The most important part of making that successful was being surrounded by people that supported that commitment, and talking about it.

What was the reality?
At first, I was lucky. I worked with a group of women who were extremely supportive, including my best friend, who was still pumping for her son, 7 months older than my daughter. We brought in a couch, and ate lunch one handed, pumping side by side, while chatting with our colleagues, who breastfed their children. This gave me confidence that I didn't realize I would need later. Everything was normal.

What I didn't count on was leaving that job and starting over at a new school. I knew that I would pump when I went back to work, but I never really thought about how long I would do it. My daughter was 9 months old when I started at my new school. Though still supportive, there was no couch and no camaraderie. I was isolated and lonely. At about 12 months, I was starting to hate it. I would pump in my car, but hooking up with the stupid hands-free bra in a car that had been sitting in the sun all day while trying not to expose myself to passers-by. What a sweaty, frustrating ordeal. But! I kept doing it until she was nearly 2, sometimes cursing about it, but I did it.

Who did you have to talk to to make it happen?
Empowered by the ease of my first experience with pumping at work, in my new school, I knew what I was entitled too, but most of all, I was open about talking to people about pumping and breastfeeding, especially  the”extended” relationship. I wrote a very professional, informed, and informative email that sent to the entire Administrative team at the high school where I teach. My principal thanked me for the information that I provided and we even chatted for awhile about the inequity of motherhood in the workplace and how we both hope to see it change in our lifetime. As a single guy, he had never thought about it. I developed a view of myself as an advocate and found ways to normalize and  remove the stigma of  breastfeeding and pumping at work for an extended time. The more I talked about it frankly with those around me, the less I got a reaction; which I think is awesome! That's normalizing, right? Now that I am pumping for my 2nd child, my co-workers don’t bat an eyelash when I say, “I'll be back in 20. Going to make lunch for my son.”

What kind of provision did your employer make; and was it easy, or did you have to push hard?
I took the lead on advocating for myself in the workplace. I took the attitude of, “If I walk in like I own the place, no one will question me.” When I wrote my email to my administrators and had follow up conversations, I made sure to be informed and provide links to state and federal information, guidelines, and statutes that supported me. I informed my administrators of what was legally expected of them and what I was entitled to. I also provided them with my pumping schedule, and the location that I planned to pump. It was more like, “this is what I’m doing, and this is why you have to let me.” It wasn’t that I expected backlash. I wanted to be clear and straightforward.
My department head was very accommodating in scheduling my prep period for a time that was best for me to space out my pumping. I believe that all of this seemed “easy” because I was well informed and took the role of educating and informing my workplace, advocating for myself, and for other mothers in the future. I didn’t expect them to know what to do, and I didn’t expect anyone to change they way they went about their day to accommodate my needs. My commitment to my child would come first if there were any issues, but there were not.

What kind of support did your partner provide that was helpful?
My partner is extremely supportive, but didn’t quite get why I feel dejected when he would tell me “just pump” when I was trying to schedule my life around feeding my baby. We talked about it, and I explained rather than getting frustrated and shutting down. I would describe how frustrating it was to try to hook up to my pump in the car, in the heat, with a hands-free bra, and a nursing cover, or how I couldn’t do “x” because it was too close to feeding time, or wouldn’t allow me time to feed... and then I ran across an ad for the Freemie on Facebook! He bought me a set. I loved it. Then I complained that I had to wash them every day, and he bought me a second set, so I didn’t have to wash them every day. Best. Husband. Ever.

How much time should a mom plan for each pumping session? Any tips for better/easier letdown?
I usually pump for about 15 minutes. If I reflect on how I got to that, I started by pumping until I wasn’t ejecting any more milk. That would usually take about 20-25 minutes, which was about the length of my commute to work. I discovered that I was pumping more than the baby was eating, I would end up engorged on the weekends. I cut down to 15 minutes and now I end up about even with what baby consumes while I am gone.
To trigger letdown, at first I would just talk about my baby with my colleagues. Especially pumping side-by-side with another momma, let down was not difficult to achieve. Now, I start to let down a few minutes before I start pumping. When I changed schools, it was a little more difficult. I didn’t have that camaraderie any more. On more stressful days, it would take a little longer to trigger letdown. On these days, I sit quietly, turn off distractions, and breathe. Looking at pictures hasn’t worked for me in the past, but closing my eyes and visualizing nursing my baby has helped.

How long did you make the pumping commitment work - how did that match your expectations?
When we decided to breastfeed my husband and I talked about it. I wanted to do at least a year, but thought about continuing the more I learned about extended breastfeeding. Hubby was super supportive of extended breastfeeding, so I made the commitment to nurse as long as my daughter wanted to. I ended up weaning her when I became pregnant. She and I made it 22 months. I am now on month 12 of nursing and pumping for my son. I know that I probably sound like an ad for Freemie, but with Freemie, I don’t see myself stopping until he’s not nursing during the day anymore.

What words of advice would you give to someone who is ready to go back to work and wants to pump for their baby?
Be informed. Inform others. Have a plan. Have a backup plan. Keep perspective. This is for your baby, everybody else can take a number. You are legally protected. Get comfortable saying things like “expressing milk” and “breastfeeding” to complete strangers. They don’t understand euphemisms. I’ve pumped in many places that weren’t schools and I’ve never been told that they couldn’t help me. I hope it was because I was confident and informed. If I were being completely truthful, I smiled inside when I saw someone squirm. I thought to myself, “I’m making them change. This is good.” This is your right and my right to provide for our children. The more we make people uncomfortable, the more comfortable they become and the more “normal” feeding babies breastmilk will be for future generations.

As for the bottle, ask friends to borrow different types of bottles before you spend a fortune. Both of our kids like the Dr. Browns bottles, but that isn’t what we had a full set of. . .
I took twelve weeks off with both of my kids. With my daughter (first born) we tried a bottle with her the week before I went back. This was not soon enough because she wouldn’t take a bottle and I went to my first day back thinking, “my baby isn’t going to eat.” She did, and everything was fine, but I was stressed, which made it harder to pump and made it harder for me to do my job. I think even two weeks out would have been good. 

Don’t be the one to give baby the bottle. Have a partner, friend, or family member do it so the baby will actually try. I had to leave the house to get my daughter to even attempt a bottle. From our experience, don’t wait until they are starving. Giving a crying baby a bottle for the first time didn’t work out for us.

Bottom line? Be confident. Be informed. Inform others. Find your path. Ask for help. Be an advocate.

Thank you to Courtney for sharing her breastfeeding journey today <3 I hope it has touched you and inspired you in some way, and that you will take heart and courage in your own breastfeeding journey.

Phoenix La Leche League: Live, Latch, Love
As part of the LLL area conference
August 26th, 5-7 PM
Embassy Suites Biltmore
La Leche League Conference
August 26-28, 2016
Embassy Suites Biltmore

Birthing From Within and Bradley Method® natural childbirth classes offered in Arizona: convenient to Chandler, Tempe, Ahwatukee, Gilbert, Mesa, Scottsdale, Payson
The material included in this blog is for informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult her or his healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation.  Krystyna and Bruss Bowman and Bowman House, LLC accept no liability for the content of this site, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided.  This blog and related videos contain information about our classes available in Chandler, AZ and Payson, AZ and is not the official website of Birthing From Within or The Bradley Method®. The views contained in this video and on our blog do not necessarily reflect those of Birthing From Within, The Bradley Method® or the American Academy of Husband-Coached Childbirth®.

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