Friday, September 01, 2006

The pump room

The NY Times has a great article on the inequities facing new moms returning to work and trying to continue to breastfeed. While it is low on actual statistics, I tend to believe the article's anecdotal evidence that white collar, highly paid workers are more likely to find it possible to pump at work than waitresses, casino employees and Starbucks baristas.
My experience lands somewhat in between the tales of lactation rooms outfitted with plush lounges, internet connections and company-financed breast pumps and the horror stories of huddling in the bathroom at a restaurant or warehouse only to be ridiculed by uncaring co-workers.

I work for a marketing agency where moms were furnished with a private room within the women's bathroom. It was something I advocated for since the work space was being built out while I was on maternity leave and none of the glassed-in new offices would offer any privacy. The room is spartan, furnished with a chair, table and sink, but eventually the three of us pumping at the time managed to get management to provide us with a lock for the door and a sign that indicated the room's purpose (it was being commandeered as a dressing room, coat room and smoking lounge). We shouldered our own pumps and disguised our milk bags and bottles inside insulated lunch bags in the office fridge. I had to block off time on my calendar to ensure I wouldn't miss one of my twice-daily pumping sessions, but it worked out pretty well for me. My colleagues were understanding--although there were plenty of times I walked out of the office with my Ameda tote only to be asked where I was headed ("You've got a meeting at the client?" "Er, no...just off to milk myself...").

When my daughter was 9 months old, the pace at work intensified and I felt it would be OK for met to quit pumping and supplement with formula, nursing just in the morning and at night until her first birthday.

I'm really glad I was able to breastfeed my daughter for a year, even though I returned to work after 3 months of maternity leave. I felt connected to her and I liked knowing I was able to provide her with all of the emotional and physical health benefits of breastmilk. It saddens me that our society (private industry and government) doesn't show a greater commitment to women and children when there is so much evidence demonstrating the benefits of breastfeeding.