Adventures in Pumping Breast Milk On the Go
Women are pumping breast milk everywhere; at work, cafes, Ubers, planes - wherever we happen to be. Moms are out there making it work, but I don’t think we talk about it enough. For me, I learned quite a bit about breastfeeding before giving birth, but I never gave a second thought to pumping. Yet now I find it to be one of the most challenging parts of breastfeeding; at least once you get over that initial two week hump. Trying to figure out where to do it, when to do it while maximizing output, without leaking is no easy feat. And forget missing a session or I’ll either have a wet shirt or melons for breast (too graphic? :))
I just know I’m not alone, so I went ahead and interviewed three other amazing mamas to hear about their experiences pumping breast milk on the go.
Yours Truly : Veronica Horner
Children: 2 Boys, 2.5 Years and 5 months ~ Career: Co-Founder of Maia Moda ~ Pump of Choice: Medela Pump In Style Advanced Double Electric Breastpump or when in a pinch the Medela Manual Pump
“Skiing around with a backpack full of pumped milk is a pretty empowering feeling”
Overall Pumping Experience: I work from home so don’t have to deal too much with pumping. When I am out I simply pump to emulate the schedule of our breastfeeding sessions. Thus it also means my son and I are very much in-sync from a milk production perspective and I have difficulty pumping any extra milk for storage. It’s not something I stress about though, if extra milk is needed I just supplement with formula.
Most Memorable Pumping Experience: I had my most adventurous pumping experience just recently, hence the inspiration for this blog. I’ve been an avid skier since I was ten and it has been difficult going out less after kids. Therefore when I got a chance to visit my in-laws in the mountains of Alberta, Canada my husband and I definitely planned to get some ski days in.
Thinking through the logistics I quickly realized my massive Medela Double Electric Pump was not going to work. I couldn’t imagine lugging it through the mountains and where was I going to plug it in? So, just before leaving I bought a manual hand held Medela Pump for $30, it’s small, compact and would get the job done.
While on the slopes, although I didn’t always feel like jetting in for a pump break, it was a small price to pay to be on the hill. I ended up pumping in the bathroom, the hand-held manual pump isn’t too discrete! Hanging out in a stall while manually pumping is a bit awkward, but at least it went relatively quickly even as my hand muscles cringed in pain. I probably built my wrist muscles more than anything else — manual pumping takes some strength!
Once my milk was pumped the outdoors became my fridge. Skiing around with a backpack full of pumped milk is a pretty empowering feeling. With the temperatures below zero, my milk stayed nice and cold for my little one while I enjoyed the beautiful slopes.
Best Part of Pumping: My favorite part of the experience was the solidarity with other women. While cleaning up my parts in the washroom sink another women warmly commented that she used to do the same thing to spend a day skiing with her father. In that moment, although it was annoying to take pumping breaks in cold washrooms, I knew these would be days to remember. I felt proud I made it work while allowing myself to continue to do the things I love.
Children: 1 Girl, 10 months ~ Career: Love coach and founder of The Worthy One ~ Pump of Choice: Spectra S2 when there is power/outlets and when there isn’t (like the movies), I use the Medela Harmony manual pump ~ Social: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter
“But I say we #normalizepumping — not just breastfeeding. Every time I pump in public, that’s what I feel I’m doing.”
VH: What has been your overall experience pumping? LE: These days, I pump EVERYWHERE because I don’t give a duck. But I used to be super nervous about it. I used to hide in the bathroom at a restaurant or wherever I was for 20 minutes to pump. Until about a month postpartum when some other moms said: “You can do it in public if you want, it’s fine.” And it IS fine.
I’ve pumped at bars, coffee shops, movie theaters, in Ubers, at the airport, in the audience of a live show, in conference hallways, and so many other public places. I cover up but I don’t hide. I don’t run off to a bathroom or a corner. I don’t even ask for a room to pump in most cases. I just do it because I’m feeding my baby. Every moment away from her is precious so I choose to live to the fullest and soak in those moments too.
VH: Best Pumping Tip? LE: My best tip is to wear a cardigan backwards. It’s the best cover because it stays in place unlike blankets and looks like normal clothes too.
VH: Funniest Comment? LE: I’ve had people guess what I was doing and I’ve heard all kinds of wacky things. “It’s an air purifier,” someone said. 😂 Unfortunately this happens because a lot of moms don’t pump in public. And it’s ok if that’s you. But I say we #normalizepumping — not just breastfeeding. Every time I pump in public, that’s what I feel I’m doing. And as a result, I’ve had a lot of great conversations about parts of breastfeeding that many people didn’t even know existed.
VH: That’s really great! I agree a lot of women can feel uncomfortable pumping in public, what is your advice for them? LE: I hope I can inspire other moms to feel comfortable to pump in public too. We do not need to be banished to some far off room to feed our kids. You can keep living your life, talking to your friends, and doing whatever as you pump. Motherhood is isolating enough. When you get those few hours away, enjoy every moment.
The Kooky Aunt from the Big City
“I work as a freelancer which presents it’s unique challenges with pumping. I don’t have the luxury of going to the same office everyday with a dedicated nursing room so I need to be creative and flexible.”
VH: When was the first time you pumped in public? PZ: The first time I pumped in public was at the gym in the women’s locker room, which I thought would be a perfectly comfortable place to pump. Being surrounded by all-women I didn’t bother to cover myself up. Unfortunately, this resulted in a lot of unwanted attention. Everyone was perfectly lovely, but I got comments like “you are amazing!”, “go mama!” or “does it hurt?”. The amount I am able to pump is so heavily dependent on my comfort level, so needless to say I wasn’t able to pump much that day. Now when pumping at the gym I just wrap a towel over my shoulders and most people just go about their business.
VH: I know you have family in Mexico and have recently visited, do you find the pumping cultures there are different from New York? PZ: Yes, most definitely! In Mexico women pump a lot and often go on a pumping spree shortly after the baby is born to build a good milk stash. I was a little nervous about taking that approach as it can lead to oversupply and the issues that come with that such as mastitis, leaking boobs and blocked ducts. As a result I generally pump on demand.
When I went to visit my family in Mexico most recently I just pumped with my family around, which they thought was a little strange. At first they gave me a bit of a hard time about it, but they quickly came around, chalking it up to me being the kooky aunt from the big city :)
In general I find you just need to do it. When I was getting my hair done in Mexico prior to my daughter’s baptism I had missed a feeding and needed to pump. I simply let the hairdresser know I would be pumping, covered myself up with a swaddle blanket and she had no problem with it at all.
VH: What do you think is the most challenging part of pumping? PZ: I work as a freelancer which presents it’s unique challenges. I don’t have the luxury of going to the same office everyday with a dedicated nursing room so I need to be creative and flexible. It would be great to have more women out there pumping in public so that it’s more culturally acceptable and unremarkable. Recently, I joined I joined The Wing after struggling with this issue which has a pumping room in all of their locations (unlike WeWork which only has them in some and they are not really dedicated pump rooms). This has been so so great for the pumping experience for me.
In addition, even though the Medela Freestyle Pump is marketed as compact, it is still rather big with all the cones and hoses! More innovation is needed to make breast pumps faster and more discrete. MIT is actually hosting a Hackathon this month called “Make the Pump Not Suck and Make Family Leave Not Suck.” I’m very interested in the subject so applied to be a part of it, however I’m currently on the waiting list of over 440 applicants! I guess I’m not the only one looking for improvements!
Children: 1 Girl, 10 months ~ Career: Digital Marketing Consultant & Postnatal Fitness Specialist ~ Pump of Choice: Medela
“Then all of a sudden sparks started coming out of the outlet and my pump was out of commission!”
VH: What has your overall pumping experience been like? JS: Initially, I had a lot of difficult breastfeeding. It was a very frustrating, emotional and painful experience, it got to the point where my nipples were bleeding. Therefore, early on I ended up switching to pumping exclusively. I had myself on a very tight schedule, pumping every four hours and getting up at night to do it as well. My husband felt like I was always on the machine!
VH: Wow! Good for you, that’s a big commitment. What was the most challenging aspect of pumping exclusively? JS: The hardest part was when we were travelling, as everything is out of routine. When my daughter was 3 months we decided to take a 2 day trip to Cuba. I did my best to fully prepare by bringing my electric and manual pump as well as some backup formula, but there were plenty of unexpected challenges. My manual pump takes up a lot of power and didn’t work with the outlets! In addition, I was nervous about the water quality, so was constantly boiling bottles water to clean and sterilize all my parts. On the first day, we came home to find ants in the pump — I was horrified! I ended up giving up on the pump and manually pumped or breastfed as best I could most of the time.
Unfortunately, the travel stories don’t stop there. Almost immediately after the Cuba trip we were off to Slovenia to visit my husband’s family, thinking that this time I was prepared. During our layover in Portugal I went to the washroom to pump. I surprised a couple of ladies coming in with my boobs out, but at least I was in Europe and they couldn’t have cared less. Then all of a sudden sparks started coming out of the outlet and my pump was out of commission!
Once we landed it was a mad dash to try and find a replacement pump along the Croatian countryside. We were in and out of pharmacies for over and hour-and-a-half. I finally found a manual pump, which was better than nothing.
VH: Yikes! What a string of bad luck! Have you made any changes since then? JS: Slovenia was the push I needed to really try and start breastfeeding again. It took a lot of effort and was still painful, but I finally got through the hump and am now primarily nursing my daughter. I don’t regret switching to exclusively pumping, as it was the right decision for me at the time, however happy to now have the option of breastfeeding too.
MAIA MODA Co-Founder