Oh, the Places We’ll Go… to Breastfeed!

Published December 25, 2012 under Blog

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Read below about a mom pumping breast milk in Turkey – awkward pumping interruptions – traveling globally with a pump – and the dedication of women balancing work and breastfeeding.  These are excerpts from one of the winning entries in HealthConnect One’s breastfeeding photo contest last year.

Maybe your entry will be the winner in 2012!

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Milk Mamas

We are the “Milk Mamas” of American Jewish World Service (AJWS)!!

We are 10 women (that’s 10% of our staff!) who are deeply grateful for the love and support we have received over the last year after being thrown together in our office’s lactation room. There is NO private pumping time in our lactation room. Therefore, we consider ourselves more than lucky to accidently form the most wonderful new mom’s group.

At least twice a day we rise from our desks, sling the pack over our shoulders and head down to the pump room.

We meet there in twos and threes throughout the day to express milk, problem-solve the challenges of motherhood and joke about the constant foibles of being a nursing mother in the workplace. Despite struggles with supply, thrush, mastitis and travels (and pumping!) around the world, many of our children are approaching their first birthday and we are all still pumping!

Our lactation room consists of 4 chairs, 2 computers, a mini fridge, hand sanitizer, adorable pictures of all the babies, a notebook where we can ask each other questions and provide notes of encouragement.

We’ve included below a few personal stories from the AJWS Milk Mamas, though our stories should be called “Oh, the Places We’ve Pumped,” but as every working mom knows, there is no breastfeeding without pumping…

(Kate Greenberg, AJWS Milk Mama)

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I was in Turkey for my first work trip away from my almost one-year-old daughter. Everything had gone fine. By all accounts my daughter was sleeping well, enjoying her father and grandmothers. I had pumped in airport and airplane bathrooms and during the breaks at my conference and was looking forward to a little time away from the pump when I returned home and would go on vacation with my little girl.

I was finally on my way back to see my daughter and I was waiting in line at airport security. My bag went slowly down the conveyor belt and through the metal detector. And then they pulled me aside. I knew instantly why I was being pulled aside. My pump looked suspicious – what was this little black box with all the knobs, wires and suction cups? The young man who pulled me aside spoke very limited English and I spoke no Turkish. He pointed at the bag and pulled out the pump.

“What is this?”

“My pump.”


“My breast pump. For milk.”

Still nothing.

“For breastfeeding mothers.”

Nope. I hooked up the tubes and the cups as if this would help him identify it.

He looked at me blankly and called another man over who also spoke no English. He picked it up, turned it over and pulled it out of the black case to examine the parts of the pump.

“For your mouth?” he said. Signing a breathing apparatus.

“No” I said “For milk.” grabbing my breasts.

“Oh!” one of the men said, “massage?”

“No” I said. And then I turned the machine on.

They both stood there looking at the little box sucking air in and out and shrugged and waved me on. Determining that I was of no danger and only going to embarrass them further.

A year and a half ago, I would’ve been just as befuddled by this gadget as these two Turkish men. Now it’s as familiar to me as my tooth brush and while it has the potential to make me feel isolated – I’m the one person who has to get up every four hours on the airplane and block up the bathroom for 20 minutes while I pump – it has mostly been the impetus for great conversations and overwhelming solidarity.  Even now, as pumping has recently come to an end for me, I keep feeling the urge to get up, grab my little container of pump parts and join the other mothers in the lactation room.

(Jesse Wrenn, AJWS Milk Mama)

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Knock, Knock

Our office pumping room doesn’t have a lock, so we developed a system: knock on the door and when you hear “come in,” – well, you can come in!

That worked fine for a while, until one day I was sitting at the table with a fellow mom, both of us hooked up in full pump regalia, and we heard a hesitant knock. The knocker didn’t open the door at our cheerful “come in!” but knocked again. We figured “she” hadn’t heard us, and so we both just said it louder—“COME IN!!!” We had gotten so used to our routine and the supposed privacy of the room that it hadn’t occurred to either of us that the knocker might not be “one of us.”

You should have seen the look on the guy’s face when he opened the door and came face-to-face with two colleagues in such an oddly compromising position! Needless to say, we don’t knock anymore. The rare colleague who knocks on our door will hear: “just a minute, we’re feeding babies in here!”

(Leah Kaplan Robins, AJWS Milk Mama)

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Meet*Pray*Pump was the theme (coined by my fellow pumping colleague) of my recent work trip to Boston. As a development officer for AJWS, I have the privilege to travel to other cities and meet with our fantastic donors. On this particular trip, I was fortunate enough to be accompanied by our Indonesian colleague, Arti*. The goal of the trip was to meet donors for breakfast, lunch, dinner or coffee to update them on our work and for them to hear firsthand from Arti who is working directly with our grassroots partners in Indonesia.

When planning the logistics of the trip, Arti mentioned she is Muslim and prays five times a day. I said, “Great! I pump five times a day. We will be a good team!” The next task was to diplomatically ask/explain to donors we needed a private space for me to pump and Arti to pray after we finished the meeting. And I promise you every donor’s response was incredible! Not only did they applaud AJWS for providing us the flexibility and understanding to carry out our personal livelihoods but they also made board rooms and private bathrooms available stocked with water and Halal snacks.

The highlight of the Pray-and-Pump portion of the trip was right before we were about to leave the hotel. We asked the manager if there was a private place for the two of us and of course they immediately found an empty office (just say pump and pray in the same sentence and you, too, will receive VIP treatment). The manager said no one would enter for the next 15 minutes so we made ourselves comfortable. Arti was in one corner of the office praying while I was topless pumping. Unfortunately, a young bellman entered our room. He took one look at both of us and froze. I waved and smiled and said it is ok (it wasn’t really ok for him, but after pregnancy and birth, being topless in public is nothing for me!). Unfortunately the poor guy was so shocked it took him a minute to say sorry and then leave. Arti and I had a good laugh afterwards!

*Arti’s name has been changed.

(Julie Tilson Stanley, AJWS Milk Mama)

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Visiting Grandparents

While on a weekend stay at my parents, I was sitting on the couch nursing Ben. My 3-year-old niece came and sat down next to me with her doll, lifted up her shirt and said, “My baby is hungry. I have to nurse now.” She proceeded to hold her doll in place for a few minutes. When she was done, she burped her baby, placed her gently on the floor, walked over to my pump and said, “I need to borrow your pump so that I can make milk for my baby for when I go out later.” I told her that she should just take her baby with her!

The funny part is, her mother never once pumped. She nursed until she was 2 and never drank from a bottle. I guess she has seen me pump and thought it looked like fun.

(Aylah Cohen, AJWS Milk Mama)

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