09 May A WORKING, NURSING MOM – Making Time To Pump
How did you handle nursing after returning to work?
I became a mom a little later in life. You know, an age doctors find it necessary to test mother and unborn child for almost every possible issue. I was a career woman; dual careers in the military and civilian sector. I had lived on my own in different cities, traveled many parts of the world and always considered myself a woman who sought adventure and different experiences. It took me some time to adjust to married life and we waited a few years before planning to expand our family. Before actually becoming a mother, I thought I’d be the type of woman who would give birth and get right back into the swing of things with regard to my career. My husband would be the primary caretaker and I would carry on. That is precisely the reason why I continued moving forward with my new career as a law enforcement officer. I had already interviewed and accepted the position when I found out I was pregnant. After a conversation with my husband, we thought it would be best for me to continue on with my dream job.
Breastfeeding was a topic of discussion months before my son was born. I honestly didn’t plan on it. I was a career woman; I didn’t have time for a baby to be attached to me that way. I may have said something like “I can’t have a kid attached to my tit.” My husband insisted and I continued to fight it. After giving birth, the lactation consultant was on hand to encourage and support breastfeeding so I gave it a try. Although I was willing to try, I didn’t think things would work out. That was until a nurse impressed upon me the importance of nursing. I decided I would do it, at least for three months. My husband asked that I nurse for at least a year. I laughed at the thought. I knew I would be returning to work and going away soon for new job training. I returned to the office and pumped during the day. My supervisors may have questioned what I was doing and how long it took to get done. I didn’t hide what I was doing and I was not embarrassed. I made it clear that I had to pump, I think this made my male bosses uncomfortable. There was no nursing room in my male-dominated office. I pumped in a rarely used dusty file room. I sanitized the area as much as possible and did what I had to do. During my military drill weekends, I faced similar challenges but I handled it the same way.
My willingness to breastfeed for three months turned into six. When my son was six months old, I left for law enforcement training. I knew there would be no way I could maintain my supply for months while away from my son; especially in a training environment. Well, I did. Fortunately, there was another nursing mom in my training class. We leaned on each for strength and figured things out. We had to fight some battles and challenged some rules but we did what was required to maintain our supply the entire time. We found ways to take the breaks we needed throughout the day wherever we had to take them. In addition to all of our gear and textbooks, we carried our breast pumps and nursing supplies. Even if we could only pump for minutes, we pumped. In small rooms, empty classrooms, racing back to our dorms, rushing through lunch, skipping lunch, having engorged breasts during physical training and defense tactics. We sucked it up and did what we had to do. Some were understanding, others not so much but we deserved to be there as much as the next person. Certainly we were not the first nursing moms attending law enforcement training. We met a student who told us her agency said she had to stop nursing before she attended training. Is that even legal? My experience taught me that there is always a way. It may not be easy but there is a way.
So now that I found a way to pump my milk during the training day, what about the storage and shipping? What was I going to do with all of this milk? Our dorms had the standard small dorm room refrigerator with a small capacity freezer. After requesting and receiving a second refrigerator for my room, I quickly filled that one up as well. Both me and the other nursing mom in my class began asking our classmates to store our milk in their freezers. Yeah, not something I ever thought I would do. Not something I ever thought the other students would agree to, especially the men in our class. But thankfully they did. As for shipping, I researched as much as I could before making a decision. I decided against the dry ice and took a chance shipping my frozen milk via FedEx. While my milk arrived to its destination mostly frozen, the cost to ship it made me consider alternatives. My first shipment cost almost three hundred dollars for overnight delivery. That was after only two and a half weeks; I had months to go. I decided I would rather purchase an airline ticket and take the milk with me. Shipping my milk overnight and flying home cost about the same but I couldn’t put a price on seeing my baby. Finding the right cooler, packing the right amount of ice for the frozen milk and making sure to avoid TSA inspection each time was a learning experience but I got through it. You can keep your milk with you. The most important thing is making sure most of the milk is frozen. If your ice begins to melt on the plane, ask a crewmember for more ice.
I almost allowed my career and training to keep me from continuing one of the best bonding experiences of my life. I would never tell a mom whether they should or shouldn’t nurse but if you have chosen to nurse and want to continue, don’t allow a work schedule to prevent you from maintaining your supply, if you can. Everyone woman’s body is different and we will all have a different experience but give it a try. It’s not easy but it sure is worth it.