Milk Memos

My sister sent me two lovely books for Mother’s Day: a quilting book and “The Milk Memos: How Real Moms Learned to Mix Business with Babies – and How You Can, Too” by Cate Colburn-Smith and Andrea Serrette. I just received the books today and I am ankle deep in The Milk Memos already. I LOVE IT – it’s absolutely my favorite mommy book. Not only does it have great tips (most of which I know already, since I’ve now been going at this for 9 months), but it also has notes the authors wrote to each other sharing their frustrations and experiences while pumping at work. The writing is humorous, inspirational, and this book is the very first thing I’ve found written by people who can relate to my exact situation!

For other working/pumping moms out there, and those planning on it, here are some details about my own working and pumping experience.

I work at a hospital in a rural area. The building is old and there is very little office space (I used to share an office that had about 30 square feet of floor space), so the designated lactation room located in the Childbirth Center happens to also be the break room for the obstetrical nurses. I used the room the first day I returned to work but did not return after a nurse on break walked in on me. I wanted more privacy (it’s difficult to letdown when you are worried about someone walking in), and I didn’t want to deny the nurses their break!

After that I began using a combination of empty conference rooms (checking the schedules diligently to make sure no meetings would interrupt me) and offices whose inhabitants were not at work. Then a small office opened up right down the hall and I started using it regularly. Unfortunately, sometimes my coworkers would forget that I was using it and book meetings in the room right in the middle of my pump times, so I would get shuffled elsewhere or have to postpone pumping. I’ve been walked in on three times, although luckily I was able to cover myself. These things happen, and the lack of embarrassment I feel is surprising.

Recently the part of the hall where my chosen pump room is located became part of a construction project. I no longer have my wonderful pump room! Instead, the Facilities manager gives up her office any time I need to pump. Whenever closer offices around me are empty for the day, I take advantage of that. It would be so much nicer to have a designated lactation room that was private, but I make do.

I’ve only forgotten pump parts once. I had to drive home to get them (taking 30 more minutes out of my morning) – now I keep a spare manual pump in my car at all times. I wear breast pads religiously, so I have never had the misfortune of leaking through to my shirt. Thank goodness!

I usually pump three times a day for ten minute periods. I am able to get by with this short amount of time because I have an oversupply of milk. I only need to pump twice a day (which gives me the 10 ounces Jack takes at daycare) but I throw the third session in there so that I can add a little milk to my freezer stash and also have some left over to donate to a local mama who does not produce enough for her son (I have been donating to her for about 7 months). I read while pumping (right now I’m enjoying “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood) because pumping is incredibly boring and if I watch the bottles it’s harder to fill them. Not only that, but reading is relaxing and actually makes it feel like a break.

Just like anything else in life, I take a few shortcuts. For a while I used disinfecting wipes to clean my pump parts after each session (which was important when I was fighting thrush), but it’s generally not necessary (since fresh breastmilk can remain at room temperature for up to 10 hours) so I have since stopped – I now just keep my milky shields in a separate ziplock bag that I wash and reuse. I often combine bottles, as well, so that I have less to wash at night.

My team lead asked me a few days ago how long I think I’ll continue pumping. She has always been very supportive and reassuring to me when I expressed my worries about taking so many breaks. I think I surprised her when I answered that it would probably be at least another 8 months, though! Of course she understood when I said, “It’s totally based on Jack and his timeline. We will just have to see!”

7 thoughts on “Milk Memos”

  1. That’s great that they’re so supportive where you work, even if you don’t have a totally ideal situation in terms of space.

  2. I’m glad you liked the books – since you did have them on your Amazon wish list 🙂

    I’m surprised that a hospital does not have a more accommodating location for pumping…my work place has a room for pumping, but from what I was told, two people can schedule it at a time, and I think it’s a curtain that separates the two women. Of course, the one closest to the door gets less privacy since there is no curtain between the door and where she can sit. The inconvenience alone is probably something that can make women choose not to breastfeed, especially if it takes them long periods to pump.

    I think it is very awesome that you are not only breastfeeding Jack for so long, but also donating your milk. I have to admit, I used to think it was strange for women who breastfed for more than 6 months, but of course that was out of ignorance. I honestly did not know all the benefits of breastfeeding – (I was one of those that thought formula was just as good). As I’ve told you before, my goal when I have a baby is to breastfeed for one year, and then we’ll see from there. There is so much I have to learn, and I’m sure that you’ll be more than willing to teach me 😉

  3. Like I said, it seems to be a space issue and not that they are unsupportive. I could push it (because it’s the law in California that they must provide me with a room) but I know they are strapped and doing their best. If it became an issue of me having trouble finding a place, I would raise the issue, though.

    I wouldn’t mind sharing a room with someone else pumping (trust me, modesty kind of goes out the window after birth). It actually sounds like you have a pretty good room!

    I never knew before I got pregnant with Jack much about breastfeeding. I think I always assumed 6 months would be my goal, as well. Once I learned about the benefits of breastfeeding and the recommendations from the AAP and WHO, I made 1 year my goal. Now I can’t imagine stopping at a year, so I plan to let Jack wean when he is ready (although, honestly, I hope he chooses to wean somewhere between 1.5 and 2 years).

  4. Oh and I think it’s important to have short term goals with breastfeeding and once you get there, push yourself to see if you can go further. This is especially important because the first 6 weeks are hellish and this is when many mothers give up. I’ve actually had people tell me that they stopped at 4 weeks, which saddens me because if they had stuck with it for two more, things seem to magically get better!

  5. Hi Crystal and everyone. I happened across this terrific blog when I Googled The Milk Memos. I’m the co-author of this book! I couldn’t be more thrilled to see your comments about the book — thank you! Even more, I admire you for your dedication to pumping, especially when you have to be a squatter. I also love that you donate your milk — that’s awesome!
    All the best to you and Jack!
    Love, Cate Colburn-Smith
    Boulder, Colorado

  6. Wow! Thanks for stopping by, Cate!! Feels like a celebrity sighting.

    I really do love the book! I don’t have any MILK companions, so I appreciate reading about them. Such a great resource – I hope to share it with my pregnant friends once I’m done reading it.

  7. What a great story! I think it would have driven me crazy to have to move around to pump all the time. Makes me appreciate even more how lucky I was to have my own office (though the capitol building did actually have a mom’s room which I could have used – thank you to whoever set that up!).

    – Tanya

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