IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Working and breast-feeding: Tales from the closet floor

The new health care law promises to make pumping at work easier for nursing mothers. One mom remembers crouching on the floor of a cramped closet to pump; are things any better at your office?By Christina Kelly, TODAY Moms contributorThree months after my first baby was born, I returned to work, lugging a huge, heavy breast pump. I had been exclusively breast-feeding, and I loved every cuddly mome

The new health care law promises to make pumping at work easier for nursing mothers. One mom remembers crouching on the floor of a cramped closet to pump; are things any better at your office?

By Christina Kelly, TODAY Moms contributor

Three months after my first baby was born, I returned to work, lugging a huge, heavy breast pump. I had been exclusively breast-feeding, and I loved every cuddly moment of it. (Except for the fact that the baby never wanted to do anything else, including sleep for more than 45 minutes.) I loved nourishing my baby. I loved that breast-feeding could always get him to stop fussing. And the novelty of having luscious breasts three times their normal size was fun, too.

I never had qualms about feeding my baby anywhere and everywhere. I would whip out my breast on a bench in Washington Square Park, at al fresco restaurants, inside museums, in the middle of the living rooms of elderly relatives. On Tuesday evenings, I would go out for drinks and dinner with two friends and our newborns. We would breast-feed with one hand, and drink a beer with the other. (Don’t start about the drinking whilst breast-feeding; it was just one beer, and the baby, now ten, got a perfect score on his standardized math test last year.)

Related story: New law could help nursing mothers at work

Pumping is not quite the same as nursing a warm baby, though. For pumping, you need privacy. It’s impossible to discreetly slip a breast onto a pump in public. On my first day back at “Jane,” the magazine where I worked, I parked my pump under my desk in my cubicle. I knew from a colleague that I would have to pump on the floor of the beauty closet. Mid morning, my breasts were so full they threatened to spurt, so I crouched down on the floor of the beauty closet. It was tiny and cramped, with nothing but the whir of the motor to keep me company. Sometimes there would be a knock on the door and I'd have to tell people what I was doing. Surrounded by bottles of neck and knee creams, two funnels attached to my breasts, I watched the milk being sucked through tubes and into the bottles. This was not as fun as nursing. I felt vaguely like a cow.

Very soon after my return to work, I was offered a new job at “ym” with my own office and privacy for pumping. I had guilt about switching jobs after a three-month leave, but I could not resist the luxury of pumping while seated in a comfortable chair. It was a full 60 percent of why I took the job, even though they doubled my salary and offered me a signing bonus.

I think I would have continued to pump on the beauty closet floor had I stayed at “Jane,” but I am at some level a masochist. And I don’t know if I would have been able to keep it up for a year, as I did for both babies while working at “ym.” During my tenure there several staff members gave birth, and the company put in a nice private room for nursing moms, making it just a little easier for them to go back to work. Which was good for them, good for their babies — and good for the company.

(Well, that last part is debatable, since the magazine folded a few years later.)

What about you? Did you breastfeed once you returned to work? Did poor pumping facilities make you stop nursing sooner than planned?

Christina Kelly is a freelance writer and the former editor of ELLEgirl and ym. She blogs at christinamkelly.blogspot.com.