me less than thrilled about pumpingIn some bizarre wave of enthusiasm I thought it would be a great idea to extend our already generous 54 weeks of parental leave by working for a few weeks this summer while Scott took care of Jessica. Poor Scott; I forgot that while I’d tied up most of my work obligations, he’s in the middle of a pile of them, such as preparing for the coming semester’s teaching and organising the September electronic literature conference he’s chairing. And as you academics know, just because you’re “on vacation” doesn’t mean you can stop working. So Scott’s “vacation” involves working afternoons, and this week I’m sitting here in the office finishing revisions to a long overdue paper (sorry Lisbeth and Jeremy, I promise you’ll have it very soon!) – and pumping breastmilk. I’m lucky enough that my sister lent me her double electric breastpump – the pump-in-style (great name, eh?) that she used with her kids, and I must say, it’s a different world from the cheap hand pump I used last time round. This thing rocks – I can read blogs while I’m using it and I produce far more milk than with that nasty hand thing. But I’ve got to admit, one day in I’d decided that pumping at the office is a total nuisance. I kind of like the achievement of seeing all that milk (you never see it when you’re breastfeeding) but the coolness of the new gadget (yes, I had that geeky gadget-love for it at first!) wears off pretty fast once you’re rinsing the “horns” in the sink in the hallway and trying not to drop the membranes down the drain. And heck, I have my own office to pump in – many mothers have to use their car, or sit in a toilet booth. Ladies, you have my whole-hearted admiration! I love nursing Jessica, but I don’t know how long I’d stick this pumping business out.

Just a very short time of this back-to-work business has made me very appreciative of my long parental leave – and of Scott, who says Jessica barely notices I’m gone so long as he has enough milk for her (oh no! I’m expendable!) – and of being employed by the state, which gives me two hours paid leave a day since I’m nursing, so I’m working a very pleasant 5 1/2 hour work day. And of course, the work of an academic is highly flexible, especially in summer time. And we’ll be very happy to have ten extra weeks of leave next year before we have to start thinking about day care for Jessica. But oh dear, I’d far rather be with my baby. And I think next time round (because oh yes, another baby would be wonderful, in a while, if we can) we’ll not be doing this…

I wonder whether I’ll need to pump at work when I go back in January and Scott takes his semester’s parental leave. Jessica will be eight months old and I’m sure I’ll still be nursing her – but she’ll be eating solids too and I imagine I’ll be nursing less frequently. I sort of hope I can get by without pumping at the office, with those nice 5 1/2 hour days so I can run home and nurse her instead (yay again for nursing leave!) but I suppose I’ll deal with it if I have to. Does it get easier with time do you suppose?

10 thoughts on “in which i have a go at being a pumping mum

  1. LK

    I like the Medela Swing. Granted it’s not a double-pump but it’s fast anyway and easy to carry around. But maybe my needs are simpler: I’m mostly home with baby and pump to be able to have her father take care of her when I go out.

    I do think it gets easier with time. At least, when my daughter was still in the hospital it got easier even just within that week (I pumped at the hospital during the day and at home in the evening – though I drew the line at actually getting up in the night).

  2. grumpyABDadjunct

    It got easier with time for me, and then harder. The hard part was the time it took, when I was teaching I was on such a
    tight schedule that I never had a moment to spare and that felt too hectic, if I had meetings or anything it became a bit
    of a nightmare to schedule the pumping in too. I wasn’t a great producer, though, so it took me at least 30-40 minutes
    to produce anything reasonable. I say hang in there, though, it is really such a short time in the scheme of things!

  3. Jill Walker Rettberg

    I guess I don’t really mind the pumping – when it’s once a day or less. Pumping morning, midday and afternoon is, however, an utter pain. Ah well, it’s clearly worth it 🙂

  4. Lilia Efimova

    Jill, life gets much easier if you get an extra set or two of the “horn” (nice name – I never know how to call them 🙂 and membranes. I used to pack two clean sets with me and wash everything at home. I also wrote a blogpost on some of the experiences –

    I’m still breastfeeding now (almost 1,5 years). I love it, not only for the bonding, but also for the practicality of it. Like recently, when Alexander had a stomach flu and wouldn’t eat most of the “solid” food we tried. Pumping got easier – I only do once while at work and usually skip it if I go for a day trip to avoid carrying all the stuff.

    For me, the real long-term challenge is going to a conference: not only finding moments to pump, but mainly figuring out the “milk logistics”, like getting cooling elements into a freezer and figuring out how to pack litres of milk. That experience was the reason not to go in a couple of cases (or go with the whole family – 🙂

    Anyway, good luck with continuing as long as you both want!

  5. Jill Walker Rettberg

    Lilia, you were writing all manner of blog posts last year that are just what I need to read now! I just spend a half-hour reading through it and recognise so much! Thanks for blogging it all!

  6. nick

    Allow me to recommend Kelly Stuart’s play Demonology, which I just recently read and which is (in part) about pumping in the workplace. The workplace in this play happens to be a baby formula company.

  7. […] And then I’d add that the real culprit, it seems to me, is the total and complete lack of support for mothers in the United States. Obviously there’s none for working mothers. I’ve heard from a couple of friends who went back to work at three months that they stopped breastfeeding because the whole pumping thing was just impossible. Not that they didn’t try to continue. I just don’t think pumping can ever really replicate the way a baby nurses (me: sometimes I can’t pump more than an ounce even when I know I’m nearly bursting but the baby? she can get the milk out just fine). Meanwhile, if you are a state employee in, for example, Norway, you get two and a half hours off every day you work while you breastfeed (you also get a year – maybe more? – of payed maternity leave… which is not even the longest in Europe). […]

  8. jill/txt

    […] I pump at work these days. But I was able to stay home (at 80% pay) with my baby for eight months, and we still have five months left for her daddy to stay home with her. It’s nice that our baby can drink my bottled breastmilk, but far more importantly, she gets to spend her days with someone who loves her insanely, she gets to continue building a strong relationship with her daddy (and I get home at 3pm and get lots of time with her too!). […]

  9. Kyra Gaunt, Ph.D.

    Dear Dr. Rettberg,

    Thank you for your simple, direct and amazing book on the complex aspects of Seeing Ourselves Through Technology. I am teaching your book for a Winter intercession course (just January we meet daily for 15 classes M-F) along with What Happens in Vegas Stays on YouTube by Eric Qualman. I LOVED the chapter on Filtered Reality so far the best as an African American who presents often online. I’m reading the entire book with my 11 students for the first time. Found the text just a few days before I began.

    We are taking selfies, doing ethnographic study, and will publish a small project by the end of the mini-term. Just wanted to thank you also for the free download!!

    I do research on Black Girlhood on YouTube. I am exploring presentation of the self and symbolic interaction around 1000 videos my students and I collected together this last year. My mentor Michael Wesch at Kansas State Univ has been an inspiration to this work.

    I hope to stay in touch!

    Dr. Gaunt

  10. Jill

    Dear Dr. Gaunt, thank you so much for such a generous response to my book! I am so glad that it’s been useful to you. I would love to hear more about your Black Girlhood project – that sounds really interesting. Have you seen the Selfie Researchers Network and the lesson plans and suggested assignments there?

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