Oh, the breast pump! Such a gloriously functional contraption, am I right? Mine enabled me to continue to supply my babies with breast milk for as long as my heart desired, even after returning to work when my babies were only three months old.
For my friends who had trouble breastfeeding or chose not to breastfeed for various reasons, pumping enabled them to provide their babies with their breast milk even though they were not physically breastfeeding. They’re pretty great inventions. But, they also come with some…awkward conversations. Especially by people who are not familiar with the specifics of pumping. Here are some of my funny stories as well as a few from other pumping mamas like me. Enjoy…possibly on a pump break!
The Awkward Man Interaction
After having my first baby I came back to work for a fairly male dominated company. They, as required by federal law, set up a lactation room. The only spare room that could be found in the building was at one end of the facilities office. Every single person who worked there was an man. And I’m not talking young men with babies, I’m talking the almost retired set. Every two hours I would weave my way through their cubes, pump bag in hand, to the lactation room. One day the head of their department stopped me.
Awkward Man: “Hey, so… you’re going to your, you know…your…er..room?” Gestures to my pump bag.
Awkward Man: “So, um, I know the woman who runs the milk bank place.”
Me:“Er…Milk bank place??”
Awkward Man: “You know. The place where they take milk donations. I just thought you would want to know about it. Um. In case you need it.” Then he hurried away.
Me: Blink. Blink.
To this day I still have no idea whether he was suggesting that I donate milk or that I get donations from the breast milk bank!
Knock, Knock, Knocking On My Door
By my third child I was an old pro at pumping. One afternoon I was pumping in my office, but at the same time working away, typing furiously on my keyboard, when there was a knock at my door. All of a sudden I hear a woman’s (extremely loud) voice saying loudly “Beverley! I know you are in there.” There was a long pause. “Hey, why aren’t you answering. I can hear you in there! Helloooooooo.” Five minutes later, when I was done, I went to her desk and said loudly, “Sorry, I was pumping. You know. My breasts,” and pointed to my chest. She never loudly knocked on my closed door again.
Lactation Room Fail
As a Human Resources professional I have had to set up several nursing mother rooms. My first set up was the most memorable for several reasons, but mainly because it was almost completely finished by the time I got to it. They were so proud that it was all set up. Problem was, it was set up by a man who had no idea what is appropriate for a nursing mom’s room.
First of all, the manager of the building thought it would be really nice to have a mural painted on the wall. This was lovely. Until I looked closer at the really lovely mural of Mt. Hood and realized that, bang slap in the middle, the painter had painted a bunch of dairy cows in a field. Dairy cows? In a nursing mom’s room? Really?
Then, when I was touring the finished room, the manager of the building proudly opened these very nice cabinets, so that each individual mother would have her own cabinet. My thought was that they could store their pumping supplies here. The manager had a different idea. He said, excitedly, “And this is where they can store their mason jars.” It was then I realized he thought that women pumped milk, like one would milk a cow, by hand on the farm, into mason jars.
And now for some stories from the mamas of Portland…
“I travel a lot for work but was determined to keep my supply up and was meticulous about pumping every two hours away from my baby. On one flight I was seated on the airplane in between two business men with the flight attendants asking me to secure my baby for take off. The looks on their faces when I lifted the cover to show them my electronic child was absolutely priceless. I am also a big fan of pumping in the car while driving using hands free bra. The rental car attendants at Sea Tac Airport may never be the same.”
– Katie J.
“Our pump room at work was being used so I was told to go into the director’s office to pump. Well, someone else with a key walked on in and saw me pumping away. Super embarrassing!”
– Jenny K.
“I am a home health provider and when I returned to work I sometimes found myself having to pump in my car between visits. (My choice, not my employer’s.) One day I was about to burst at the seams, so I decided to stop at a Taco Bell parking lot. I got all set up in an unused part of the lot, so as not to disturb anyone and to feel more privacy. Suddenly, an unsuspecting couple pulled up beside me hoping to enjoy their lunch. We exchanged awkward smiles and they backed out and drove away. I can only image what they thought I was doing half naked in a parking lot with a machine stuck to my boobs! Not something people do out in public a lot!”
“There was a little room across from my classroom that was the designated “pump room”. There were at least four of us pumping at the time. One day I walked into the room and someone had put a “got milk” ad poster up on the wall with a picture or Amanda Bynes in it… Got a good chuckle out of that one.”
“I travel for work some and most of the places are in the middle of nowhere. I was in Northern Idaho near the Canadian border, I had just finished my inspection and had about a 30 minute drive back to the hotel, so I decided to multitask and pump while driving. So I got all hooked up, threw on my nursing cover and away I went.
Mind you, I’m driving a rental car with Florida plates and I’m in middle of nowhere N. Idaho. After a minute or so, a Border Patrol vehicle starts to follow me. He followed me for a while and after my 15 minutes of pumping was done, I found a place to pull over and put everything away. Of course Mr. BP pulls over behind me and comes up to my window to see what I’m up to. I still have my nursing cover on and I told him that I was “making food for my baby”. I don’t think that’s what he was expecting, then he asked me a few other questions about what I was doing in the area, etc. and then went on his way. I packed up and continued to my hotel!”
“My husband and I went out to the symphony when my son was three months old. I was exclusively pumping and we brought along an adapter that would allow me to plug my pump in to the car (we didn’t have a car adapter yet). Well, the adapter he brought blew the fuse in the car and both of the ports stopped working. I thought they would have outlets in the women’s lounge downstairs, but they didn’t. Desperate for a place to pump I asked one of the ushers. She went to the coat check counter and they decided I could pump in the coat check. The only thing preventing people checking their coats from seeing me was a stack of cardboard boxes. Had anyone opened the door to the coat check, everyone outside would have been able to see me as well. Needless to say I ordered a car adapter as soon as we got home.”
Thank you to the mamas of Portland Mamas and Portland-area Working Moms Facebook Groups for sharing their pumping stories!