Pumping – as in pumping breastmilk – is a bit like that other form of pumping. People are embarrassed to talk about doing it, especially in the workplace, but it happens.
I am passionate about breastfeeding and have been lucky enough to be able to breastfeed both my sons with relative ease (although less so the second time around, which is a story for another time), and I’d like to keep breastfeeding for my second child’s first year. Unfortunately, I am also a working mom and had to head back after three and a half months with my newest arrival.
The solution? Pumping at work, every single day, and keeping the milk on ice so it can be fed to my baby in a bottle the next day.
After my first child, I discovered after a rather awkward conversation this wasn’t something my company had ever considered. In a scramble to find a solution, it was proudly suggested I could pump in the bathroom or on the storeroom floor.
After searching online to see how other moms dealt with this, I ended up pumping in the car, which gets a tiny bit mortifying when you have to duck down to escape the person in the car next to you catching you with what must look like an industrial-strength milking machine attached to your bosom.
When I fell pregnant with my second child, I knew I couldn’t spend another 8 months pumping on my backseat and I bravely sent HR a strongly worded email about the importance of catering to new working mothers in the 21st century, along with a photo of the beautiful breastfeeding room at the Johannesburg Google offices.
I was quickly rewarded with a lovely room, equipped with a couch, for my needs and those of any other new mom who may need to get in touch with their inner cow for the sake of their new calf.
I am grateful for this room, but it is a bit close to some of my colleagues’ desks.
The noise that my breast pump makes – a rather loud, harmonious buzzing sound – followed by the way the people at the desks make an effort to avoid eye contact when I exit the room, leads me to believe that they might be under the impression I take regular vibrator breaks every day at work.
Even those that know what I’m doing are very awkward about it.
One colleague tried to talk to me about it only to find he was unable to say the word “breast” out loud without stuttering and blushing.
If you want to try pumping at work, which a few embarrassing moments aside I would recommend, the first thing to know is that, while there are many options out there, and I have tried them all, there is only one brand of breast pump that actually works. And, probably because they know theirs is the only product on the market which works, their breast pumps do not come cheap.
The one most suitable to my purposes costs R8,000 new, but we managed to get one second hand for R3,800 from a nice lady who sadly for her didn’t have enough milk and only used it twice… it’s amazing what you learn about a complete stranger when you buy a breast pump from her on Facebook.
She also threw in a special bra, which basically allows the intrepid pumper to go hands-free, something I didn’t have the first time around and wish I had. It’s the most invaluable item in your pumping bag while trying to send a client an email, eat your lunch and do a video call to see your baby in the hope of encouraging a letdown.
Pumping comes with its fair share of little embarrassments and awkward conversations, but knowing that while I can’t be at home, I can still find a way to provide breastmilk gives me a great sense of peace of mind.
And if a couple of my colleagues think that my cool and calm approach comes from my regular, daily sex toy breaks, that’s a small price to pay for being able to provide for my baby.