Thursday, 7 February 2013

Express yourself at work

Many women, particularly those who work in shared offices, experience practical difficulties with continuing to breast feed and expressing breast milk on their return to work.
When I returned to work when my daughter was 7 months old, we had already moved on to formula milk. Part of the reason for early weaning was to avoid having to pump at work, which would have been very difficult:

  • The whole ‘kit’ would have included breast pump; extra batteries; bottles and cool bag in addition to my laptop and books
  • My job involves conducting fieldwork which is not conducive to discretely pumping and refrigerating breast milk
  • I work several hours from home and the milk would probably have gone off during the long journey home
The only time I pumped at work was during a conference that I had organised along with a colleague, when my daughter was 8 weeks old. I took along a Medela Swing pump (a hand-held, motorised little number), rather than my normal super-dupa industrial-sized, double pump (a rather large Aveda Elite, which I borrowed for several months). During the afternoon session, I sat in the disabled toilet for 45 minutes to express. I had to miss some of the papers and the coffee break – and if there was one thing I needed it was a strong coffee.
Yet there was no way I could have expressed in public – I would have been mortified (along with the delegates no doubt!). Like most mums, I would quite happily breastfeed anywhere, but expressing is quite a different matter. I have only once before 'done it' in public (well, at a baby group surrounded by other new mums) but there is something quite horrifying about others watching this process. Pumps are noisy but the weirdest thing is seeing the milk squirt into the bottle. It feels highly personal and something I am only happy doing at home. I have not worked out why expressing breast milk is much more taboo than breastfeeding in public. It’s the same action. If expressing were to become more accepted in the work place, women would be better able to continue breast feeding for longer.

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