No Pump? No Problem. How A Broken Breastpump at Davos Forced Me to Get Creative

By Cristiana Falcone

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This was going to be the 13th time I would be working at the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum, so I assumed I was prepared for almost everything. Granted, I am not a spring chicken, and in medical jargon my pregnancy was referred as “geriatric,” yet I still feel young and with energy above the average, so I decided there was no rational reason why I should not work in Davos. After all, my daughter was now two months old, the emergency C-section scar was healing, and with a bit of planning and family support, Davos should not be different from any previous year.

While I am writing this, I am recovering in a village nearby happy but exhausted!

It all started on the Saturday before when, after having ensured my baby had a sufficient amount of milk in the fridge, I boarded the flight from London to Zurich alone.

That was followed by the usual two-hour-long car ride up in a snow storm, and my well planned next step would have been pumping as much as I could using the reliable travel machine with portable fridge I had purchased just for this.

The master plan was to stock a few bottles to gain an advantage on my voracious baby by Monday morning, the day of her arrival.

Once in the hotel, I sat on the most comfortable chair in the room and set up to begin what I refer to as the “cow session,” eager to get on with it and finally enjoy a seven hour sleep. Switzerland, after all, was the perfect place to be a relaxed happy cow!

Something at that point went wrong — the machine, despite hundreds of attempts, was not working.

It was 8 p.m. in a Swiss mountain village, so there was no chance to find a new one. Not to worry! In full Davos crisis mode with my troubleshooter hat and my superwoman cape on, I called the concierge and asked them to go and buy a manual pump at the closest 24/24 pharmacy. When the pump arrived at 10 p.m. I was quite proud of my ability to remain calm and was convinced the milk crisis was over, and the threat of engorged breasts was averted. Now I know better; the manual pull was not sufficient to get the job done. Long gone was my dream of a night of decent sleep. I started searching the internet for videos and procedures on “manual” pumping — literally — with my own hands.

Giving up was not an option so I tried various techniques until it was clear it would have taken me several hours to produce just one ounce (my daughter takes 4 every feed). I was about to let myself go down the spiral of the always-blamed hormones when the female ingenuity at its best kicked in and I managed to rebuild the travel pump using parts of the manual pump and other devices found in the room including an empty bottle of Swiss mineral water. Of course the machinery I had built was taking an hour to deliver what was needed and was not going to last for the entire week of hectic Davos speed-meetings when finding 5 minutes to breathe is a luxury.

But with the spirit of resilience, agile thinking and adaptive skills only a mother can have (now I get it), I resisted and on Monday, just in time for the first day of the meeting, my professional hospital-grade rented pump arrived. In the Congress Center in the comfort of the lactation room, my 13th Davos ended up being my best ever!


Cristiana Falcone Sorrell is the Senior Adviser to the Executive Chairman and Founder of the World Economic Forum. She serves on the board of Viacom and Revlon as well as the advisory board of the school of nutrition at Tufts University, Internews and the Paley Center for Media. Cristiana is also the CEO of the JMCMRJ Sorrell Family Foundation focused on Heath, education and eradication of poverty.