Look, Mom, No Hands!

So, I’m into Week 3 of working out of the home office–a.k.a. my dining room table–and I feel like I might be embarking on a new career as an efficiency expert.

It’s a lot to juggle–an infant and a job–so I’ve got my mornings planned and organized right down to the minute so that I can take care of baby (and husband and animals) and get my work done. I know exactly in which order to do my morning tasks so that it takes less time to do them. For example, I always throw a load of laundry in the washer when I feed the cats or take the dog out for his walk through the back gate so I can take the recyclables and trash out.

So, in my quest for efficiency and efficacy, I started thinking about the time I spend pumping. This is usually a 30-minute, twice-a-day activity, during which I do nothing more strenuous than press the “next page” button on my Kindle. (Incidentally, the Kindle is the greatest thing to make the time pass when pumping or nursing; I’ve read more books in the past three months than in the past three years.) In addition to the Kindle, I generally have my Blackberry right next to me so I can check my e-mail. (I wasn’t kidding when I said I was all about efficiency.)

Now, responding to any messages with a more than a one-line answer  was a little awkward since I only could type with one hand. The other hand was basically useless because I needed it to hold the plastic flanges tight to my chest to keep the suction going.

That’s not bad multi-tasking, but I thought I could do better. So, I busted out this hands-free pumping contraption that a friend of mine gave me. She never used it, but thought I might give it a whirl. (I’m not sure if that says anything about me or not…)

At any rate, this thing is called the Pumpin’ Pal. First off, seriously? Who names these products? Ranks right up there with the My Brest Friend nursing pillow in that there’s nothing cute about the name or the product.

But I digress. Basically it’s made out of this cord-like material that reminds me of what older people attach to their bifocals so they don’t lose them. You pretty much put the cord around your neck and in cats-in-the-cradle-like fashion it attaches to a skinny, antennae-like flexible stick that holds the pump’s flanges place.

Or at least that’s what it’s supposed to do.

Let me say that my first attempts at using this thing were a little rough. My husband came downstairs one morning to find me at the dining room table with my shirt off and this thing twisted around my neck. I was hunched over with my forehead nearly on my keyboard, trying to get the flanges to stay suctioned so I could sit back with comfort and go through my inbox, as promised on the packaging.

It wasn’t a pretty start to the experiment, but I persevered and finally got to the point where I was more or less hands free. A piece of advice for soon-to-be and newbie pumpers looking to try this at home: The trick is to hold on to the flanges in the contraption until there’s about an ounce of milk in them; the milk gives them some weight, which helps them suction on for the long haul. Also sitting straight up and pushing your chest out definitely helps, too.

Although I finally achieved success with my Pumpin’ Pal, I started researching to find out if there were other hands-free aids that might be more secure. There are, but I don’t see them as any less disturbing than what I’ve got. It’s a case where fashion and function will never meet.

A Picture of Perfection?

Take for example, this model, pictured at left. Oh, to count the ways that this photo is perturbing. I saw this and was trying to imagine myself using this while trying to maintain a shred of professionalism. I mean, who would actually try to make or answer a phone call while pumping? The sound of the pump is more of a groan than a whisper, so there’s no doubt in my mind that the person on the other line could hear it doing its job in the background. (Curiously, the one I use sounds a little bit like the adults in the Charlie Brown cartoons–wanh whan, wanh wanh, wanh wanh…) How awkward would that be to explain?

“Excuse me, could you repeat the question? I didn’t hear you. There’s some background noise. Are you driving or at a coffee shop or something?”

“Uh, no, it’s just my breast pump. I’m multi-tasking.”

The other issue I have with the photo–besides the fact that the woman is also smiling–is her outfit. I don’t see any bra, camisole, or tank top scrunched up around her neck or pulled down around her waistband, where mine usually are when I’m pumping. So, this begs the question: Does she wear this thing under her sweater or does she just wear the sweater with  nothing underneath? Because the idea of leaving mom boobs unleashed might be as troublesome as the idea of wearing this thing as a full-time undergarment.

Of course, I’m not full time in an office anymore, so I probably shouldn’t really worry so much about the logistics of using one of these things when wearing anything nicer than jeans and a t-shirt. But probably more important, I should just come to grips with the fact that short of someone inventing a Bluetooth for boobs tomorrow, I’m going to have to just take a timeout from my to-do-list of a life if I need to pump. I was getting pretty good at one-handed typing anyway.


Filed under babies, bottle feeding, breastfeeding, daily life, infants, lactation, newborns, nursing

11 responses to “Look, Mom, No Hands!

  1. Stacy

    sarah, this is hysterical. i really enjoy your writing style 🙂 keep up the good work!

  2. Jen

    I totally feel your pain. I’m currently on my third go-round of pumping while working full time. I always read as well, although I don’t have a kindle. I go with the more traditional book held open with a stapler method.

    It’s inevitable when I close my office door to pump that my phone rings. I always, always switch off my pump because what’s even worse than sitting at your desk with your boobs out, is letting the person on the other end of the phone in on your little secret. Everyone knows if my door is closed that I’m pumping, but they don’t actually need to KNOW I’m pumping. They really need to patent a quieter engine on those puppies.

    The picture of the lady pumping at her desk is hilarious and I have to say that I’ve seen about a gajillion versions of that ad, all which I find very disturbing. There’s really nothing about that photo that screams “buy me”, which is the very reason that I’m still going old school with my pumping and just using my hands to keep the bottles in place. It’s already an incredibly unsexy activity and something about that bra with the flanges hanging off of it just flushes your self-esteem right down the toilet. After doing this for 3 kids, I’ve gotten pretty good at pressing up against my desk to hold them there when I absolutely need both hands to type, turn a page or return a text. No ridiculous hands-free contraption needed.

  3. Some days I find pumping no big deal. Other days I consider it a godsend. And still other days I get frustrated with having to be hooked up to a machine all the time. There’s no simple solution, is there?

    But I give you super kudos that you’ve been able to make it through the months of awkward pumping moments at work–three times over. That’s serious commitment to the whole art of breastfeeding. I don’t know if I could do it. So, I guess it’s a plus that I can telecommute for the time being. And I totally agree with you–despite the many contraptions-cum-solutions, both store bought and homemade, to give mom’s some hands-free time, sometimes I don’t think it’s worth the effort. By the time you get them working properly, you probably could have pumped out an ounce or so and sent a couple texts.

  4. Melissa

    Oh my gosh…I am laughing so hard I am crying….”because the idea of leaving mom boobs unleashed” that has got to be one of the funniest lines ever….because it is so true!!! And the part about your husband seeing you at the dining room table totally fumbling with this “contraption” ….poor guys they never get to see us the way they used to!!! LOVE your blog!!! Hope all is well

    • But it is true! Gone are the days when the built-in-bra in the tank top was enough. I don’t know if I’ll ever be the same. It doesn’t feel like it right now. 🙂 Glad you are doing well and congratulations again on that beautiful baby boy! I hope I get to see him before next summer.

  5. Yvonne Busch

    You should check out PumpEase! It’s a hands-free pumping bra that (believe it or not) IS fashionable. And they have an organic one too!

  6. Sarah-

    This is great! Pumping and breastfeeding are truly the most selfless tasks in mommyhood! It controls your world but it also so rewarding to you and baby! Keep up the good work- as a working mom and a breastfeeding mom!

  7. Yeah, I don’t think anyone would want to see a picture of me working my contraption. I’m surprised you even find me attractive anymore. 🙂 And trust me, the dining room table is much cleaner, neater, and more organized than my cube ever was. I’m not using the floor for filing purposes.

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