(Posting on Behalf of Anonymous) CE PR Rep Endured Pumping at CES Twice
I endured CES twice as a breastfeeding mother. The first time, my son was six months old. Having been in daycare from 10 weeks, he was thankfully well accustomed to drinking frozen or fresh-pumped milk from a bottle. I’m quite sure he faired better than I did. Working in consumer electronics, a male dominated field, attending the largest tradeshow of the year, as a breast-feeding mother was a challenge, I clearly wasn’t prepared for. I didn’t have a choice, it’s part of my job to attend and support my clients.
Commuting to work was certainly not the preparation required to pump and travel. You take granted that you handle your pump, while well-constructed these days — it certainly still requires care and clean handling. I had a battery pack but feared what if I lost batteries or they didn’t work. There would be limited options for a power supply location other than at my hotel. I remember handing my life-giving pump over for inspection at the airport– hoping that gloves and instruments touching it were sanitary?! I also remember the look of confusion from the all male crew working the x-ray, who clearly had limited experience. They finally called over a female attendant — a lesson I learned early on — make sure there was a female involved in the process — it goes much smoother.
Once I arrived at the show — I remember setting my pump up at my hotel, thinking this isn’t so bad, private, comfortable area. The next morning, I sat trying to plan my day. I would be at the main convention center, running from booth to booth. No office spaces, no closed meeting rooms, no privacy. Thankfully I had asked a friend who traveled frequently for her sales position. In a pinch she used the bathroom. So there was I was, standing in the North Hall bathroom at CES, in my suit, with my pump hanging from the hook. I can’t recall if the porn convention was still handled in the basement at the North Hall back then or not. Thankfully I had brought an extra set of attachments — knowing I’d have nowhere to wash and need to do at least two pumps during my time at the convention center. It was horrific at best, especially having to dump the precious gold straight down the toilet.
And then my second CES as a breastfeeding mother, was five year later. Thankfully I still had my same pump — it weathered a Vegas trip once, I figured it could do it again. I was comforted by the thought of having some idea of what to expect. Little did I realize, things wouldn’t be any better. My daughter was barely three months old, I had just come back from maternity leave a few weeks before the show. She had limited experience with bottles, and I didn’t pump much. My husband would happily report how she never stopped eating and couldn’t believe how many bottles he prepared. (Which as a sidebar made me wonder if she had been starving all the time!) I on the other hand, was faced with the cold hard fact first night of arriving — no pun intended — I couldn’t let down to the pump, despite having pictures, recordings of cries and coos After a long flight, exhausted, frustrated, I gave up and went to bed, hoping for a pumping miracle in the morning. It was slightly better, although not enough, and faced with the lack of options as to where to pump during the day made things difficult. As the day went on, I had to go back to my hotel room. I hated to take so much time during the day but I was so uncomfortable and knew that I needed to be in the most private comfortable setting I could allow myself. Again, I couldn’t let down the pump. I was in agony but didn’t have the time to waste. When I finally broke for the night, I passed on dinner plans. After hours of trying I finally was able to get things moving to a level that I was able to be comfortable. The next two days followed the same pattern. Sadly — I let this dismal experience effect my decision of when to stop breastfeeding my daughter, I stopped two months shy of my goal selfishly so I didn’t have to endure the challenges I faced in my first trip.
I rarely talked about these moments but wear them as a badge of courage. I figured it was my duty as a working mother who chose to breastfeed, and the difficulties I endured finding a safe, comfortable location, coupled with physical stresses were my crosses to bear. I doubt they existed at the time, but I certainly did not inquire what options might be for space available. I was passive with choices on my how to handle my situation.
I applaud and fully support Lauren’s efforts to make this experience better for all women without awareness, breastfeeding mothers will continue to face difficult situations unnecessarily.
Designated locations would physically make the process easier but also by default provides instant support network that is nearly as important for many — especially those struggling.