My Pumping in Public Confession

It’s National Breastfeeding Awareness month. The interweb has been flooded with articles, stories, and pictures talking about the benefits of breastfeeding and also what it is like to breastfeed in today’s culture.

One of the trending conversations this month has been on pumping – particularly pumping away from home. If you search the hashtag #ipumpedhere on most of the social media platforms you will see hundreds of pictures of the worst places moms have had to pump. Everything from germ-infested bathrooms to chemical-laden storage closets. The goal of the hashtag is to drive awareness for working moms’ plight to demand better pumping conditions. And trust me, once you look through the pictures, you will believe conditions need to get better.

I’m new to breastfeeding and to pumping since my son was only born 10 weeks ago. But in solidarity with my breastfeeding/pumping sisterhood, here is my public pumping confession:

I didn’t set out to be an exclusive-pumper, or really a mostly-pumper. I won’t be going back to work for awhile and little ‘ole pregnant me (OK enormous pregnant me) really assumed breastfeeding would come naturally – ha. However, the days after my son’s birth were full of jaundice lights and tough decisions about how to get the most calories in him the quickest to force an exodus of bilirium. We introduced the bottle on day two. And you know what my smarty realized – it’s a heck of a lot quicker to get milk this way!

I started pumping religiously around the clock – every three hours for 20 minutes. Fortunately, I was getting enough milk and sometimes a little bit more than he needed. I should’ve gone to see a lactation consultant to keep working on our latch issues. Honestly, they just made me anxious. The pump was working and occasionally I’d offer the breast to see what he’d do. Around six weeks or so, he decided he’d give my ta-tas a shot, but by then I was really digging being able to quantify exactly how much he was consuming. 

About a month after his birth we had family come to visit from out of town. I had been mostly holed up in our house that first month – not only tied to my pump but completely anxious about exposing my baby to any outside germs (that’s another story). I’m not really a home-body by nature, so by day two of their visit I was itching to be a part of the group.

They were planning to go shopping and get something to eat. If we stay mostly outside, with baby in the stroller, I can do this, I thought. Less airborne germs that way (hey, we all have our different quirks as new moms!). The only pesky problem was figuring out the pump situation.

The first round, I pumped in the car. Man, that felt lonely and awkward. When I was done I strapped baby in his stroller and power walked to the restaurant where they were getting drinks and appetizers.

“We’re almost done here and gonna head somewhere else for dinner,” they told me when I arrived. 

We ended up at California Pizza Kitchen in Park Place because our family was staying at Aloft. I brought my pump out of the car thinking I would pop up to their hotel room when my “you need to make milk” alarm went off.

There was a whole gaggle of us so we sat at the tables outside the restaurant where we could people watch and enjoy our pizza. My alarm sounded right as the waiter sat down my cold lemonade. “I can wait a little bit longer,” I thought. But then the baby was hungry, and by the time he’d sucked down his bottle, the pizza was there. And as the doughy goodness wafted up to my nostrils and my stomach growled from I-don’t-remember-when-I-ate-last-ness and my breasts started throbbing with that new familiar feeling of overbrimming-with-milk-ness, I couldn’t stop my eyes from welling up a bit.

“Just pump here,” my husband said knowing I didn’t want to leave the group. “Yeah just do it here, no one will know you don’t have a second baby with you,” my sister-in-law encouraged.

So I tied the swaddle blanket around my neck, hooked myself up and listened to the ga-gush ga-gush of the machine start up. I was nervous at first. “You can’t even tell,” my supportive husband said. And I giggled as I looked at the sweet sleeping infant next to me and felt the tugging of the pump pulling milk from my body.

I got this, I thought, I am a super stealth mama. I leaned back in the chair with the swaddle draped across me and revelled in my ability to multitask, socialize, and fool the general public about the goings-on under the blanket.

Then I saw her. A woman stared wide-eyed and horrified at me, nudging her boyfriend as they walked past. How dare she judge me for feeding my baby in public!? Surely she assumes there is an infant suckling under here and her judgment makes her anti-woman somehow. My mind swirled with judgment back at her.

I looked down to check progress and noticed that the swaddle had tucked into the pump parts. It was now accentuating two pulsating Madonna-esque cones. Dear goodness, she probably thinks I am some kind of freak! I couldn’t help but laugh… hard. Ga-gush ga-gush ga-gush. I finished up and all was fine.

So yeah #ipumpedhere. And it’s probably some kind of privileged blindness that kept me from feeling like I needed to seek out the designated area. Or just some early exhausted newborn mommy bravado that fuzzied my brain so much I was just doing what needed to be done. Either way, I pumped in public. I pumped in public on the sidewalk in broad daylight. No one (save from Ms. Wide Eyes possibly) was really harmed in the production.

To know your rights for pumping at work or to support the movement calling for better conditions for pumping moms at work check out www.ipumpedhere.org. But since Moms know how to get stuff done, tell me where did you get it done?

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