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  • brittain sobey

pumping problems


i've had my share of pumping problems since i began this journey almost eight months ago.

problem #1: the first time i had to dump my milk

our first trip with bina was to northern michigan to see my michigan family, and for bina to meet her great-grandparents. she was nine weeks old. i was pumping twice a day, morning and night. i would pump after her first feed to build up my supply for when i went back to work and then her last feed of the day for david to give her a bottle.

at the end of our time in michigan i had probably 20oz of milk in the fridge. we had talked about the possibility of shipping it back to austin via fedex or something. but that was going to cost like $200 and that seemed a little nuts for 20oz of milk. well, it seemed nuts to my husband. to me, on the other hand, that was 20oz of liquid gold and $200 was nothing.

so on the last day of our visit, i told my husband that i needed him to be with me to dump the milk or for him to to dump the milk for me because i couldn't do it. for whatever reason we had a miscommunication and i ended up dumping the milk by myself. and then i cried. and then i got really mad and hysterical. and my poor husband, he was like "what just happened?" i'll tell you what happened, dear husband. your certifiably nuts wife just had to dump 20oz of her blood, sweat, and tears. her mama milk. her liquid gold. ON HER OWN.

needless to say. it all worked out and i got over it. i had plenty of milk stored up when i went back to work 12 weeks post partum. but man. that first milk dump was rough.

problem #2: peeping toms

i love my graduate students. most of them, anyways.

when i went back to work my supervisor graciously bought a curtain and hung it over my door to cover the two windows in it so that i could pump in private. the curtain was awesome. however, i learned the hard way that it didn't quite completely cover the door if nosy creepers wanted to use their little peeping eyes to see in the slit of window between the edge of the curtain and the edge of the window frame.

i think it was my first week back. i was still getting into my pump-at-work groove. i would get all my stuff setup, expose the boobs, add some lanolin to make the pumping more comfortable, then put on the gear and get started. i had just gotten to the expose the boobs part when i heard a KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK. rattle rattle (of the doorknob). then i looked and could see a tall male figure trying to peep through the slit between the curtain and the edge of the window.

i froze. the figure eventually went away. he sure got a show of my milk jugs in all their glory if he successfully peeped through. mortifying.

after that incident i taped the curtain to the door frame to ensure no peeping was possible. and i printed off a little door hanger that said "please do not disturb. pumping in progress."


shockingly (or not so shockingly), i still get a few knockers and rattlers. i know who they are, my special students. i don't say anything. what am i going to say? CAN YOU READ? I'M NOT GETTING UP... they get the point eventually when they don't hear anything and i don't open the door. david so nicely pointed out that the "do not" is kind of small so it almost looks like "PLEASE DISTURB." well. whatever.

problem #3: pumping paraphernalia strewn across my desk and visitors

my desk is arranged in an L shape with my computer at a diagonal in the corner. the portion of my desk closest to the window (farthest from the door) is where i keep my pump, lanolin, pumping bra, and pumping accessories. i try to ensure that the stuff doesn't make its way to the other portion of my desk that students and others sit across from if they come in to talk to me.

one day, i failed to return my pumping bra to its proper place. i left it on the portion of my desk closest to the door. nice little pile of pumping bra.

two of my male students came in with a problem for me to resolve. by the time i noticed the bra, it was too late to sneakily relocate it. i weighed my options. try to explain that it's not what it looks like: i'm not braless, that's just a pumping bra and see where the flanges fit through the slits? yeah no. that would be way too awkward. so i just muttered sorry under my breath and moved the bra to the other side of my desk. and tried not to be totally mortified.

so lets solve that problem you came to talk to me about... pretend like you didn't just see a bra on my desk, please...

problem #4: missing in action borrowed hospital grade breast pump

in october of 2015 i went to a conference in tampa for work with bina and my mom. my mom was on sabina duty while i was working. thank god for grandmas with the flexibility to be able to do that!! i brought my borrowed hospital grade medela symphony breast pump. the one that costs over 2k retail. i had sabina with me so obviously the babe was getting most of the milk. but i was pumping every morning before her first feed to keep up my supply and add to my milk stash. this is why i brought the pump with me.

i always carry the pump on me as i travel because i'm scared to death of losing it. it has its own black duffel bag. when we flew to tampa i had it on me at all times until we caught a taxi from the airport to the hotel. i remember going back and forth in my mind deciding whether to put it in the back seat or the trunk. the taxi was crowded so i decided the trunk with all of our other luggage. what's the worst that could happen, right? it's just our bags.

when we got to the hotel, the hotel staff emptied the trunk (or so i thought) and put everything on a luggage trolley that came up to the room with us. when everything was unloaded in the room i surveyed the bags and realized. THE PUMP DIDN'T MAKE IT. commence controlled panic attack.

luckily i kept the taxi receipt with important information on it since i had to provide receipts for reimbursement upon my return to work. otherwise i would have discarded it before i got to my room. i called the taxi cab company immediately. when they realized it was an airport taxi i had taken, they were a little concerned. but they took down all my information and said they would be in contact. i didn't have time to continually follow up because i was working the conference booth for my department with two colleagues. my husband saved the day by being the relentless caller who wouldn't back down until the pump was in hand.

after 48 hours and a lot of passing the buck back and forth between me and the hotel staff (guy who unloaded the cab trunk insisted he got everything - i knew he was wrong), we got the call that the cab company had found the pump and it was available for pick up. the hotel staff went and got it for me, and all was right in the world. i had never been so happy to see that yellow pump. i had told the faculty member whom i borrowed it from that i was prepared to buy her a new one if it didn't show back up. thank god it did!


lesson learned: when traveling, NEVER LET THE PUMP OUT OF MY SIGHT EVER AGAIN. i am the only person i can trust with that little yellow guy.

problem #5: the day i pumped with a torn membrane

the membrane is not a part of my boob, in case you were wondering. the little contraption that goes onto your boob to suck out the milk contains a membrane. if it is torn, it doesn't suck properly and performs poorly.

one day at work i went through two pumping sessions with a torn membrane. i thought: what the heck is going on here? right boob, you normally don't measure up to leftie but this is getting a bit ridiculous. i checked all the connections, twice. and then finally it occurred to me to check the membrane. and of course, that was the culprit. it was torn.


DARN IT ALL. I WASTED TWO PUMPING SESSIONS TRYING TO PUMP WITH A TORN MEMBRANE. and sorry rightie, you aren't a complete and total loser. i am.

problem #6: traveling with breastmilk

the first time i tried to travel with breastmilk was when we flew to michigan for my brother's wedding in early november 2015. i knew you could travel with it and i also knew that TSA would want to inspect it because that's what they do with breastmilk.

so we went through security and of course they wanted to check out the pump and the milk. the pump always holds me up when i travel. it looks like a big yellow bomb i guess. totally used to that. they open my little milk cooler and tell me they also have to check the milk. yep. i know. please proceed. then they tell me they have to stick it in this little contraption that shakes it.

blink blink. shakes it. SHAKES IT?! that is the ONE THING you are NOT supposed to do with breastmilk because it messes it up. you SWIRL. you NEVER shake. i had to tell my husband this information fifteen times and show him published material to back up my claim before he believed me, so i guess i shouldn't be surprised that TSA wasn't privy to this information. anyways. so my two little bottles of milk are out of the cooler and being taken to the evil shaking machine. they shake it up, then bring it back to me and assure me: see? same milk. it's all okay. everything is fine. blah blah blah. all the while my milk is out of it's nice safe little cooler. and i just want to scream PUT IT BACK IN THE DAMN COOLER. NOOOOOOW!!!!

milk finally goes back in the cooler. everything is fine. we don't even end up needing it, so see again problem #1 regarding dumping milk.

problem #7: the day i forgot my flanges at home

this one actually happened this last week. idiot me. i've been back at work pumping two to three times a day since late august and have never forgotten my pump parts. i stopped bringing the pump back and forth with me after christmas vacation because i had stopped doing my 5am pump. it stays at work now. so i'm just bringing the attachments and bottles and milk cooler back and forth. much nicer. except when i forget the attachments.

the morning it happened i had last fed sabina at 4:15am. usually i feed her at 6am before i leave for work. but that morning she had woken at 1:15am and then again at 4:15am and i decided she didn't also need to eat again at 6am. so i fed her on both sides at 4:15am and called it good. i pump at 10am and 2pm so i figured i would just get a decent first pumping session in.

what i forgot was that i was in meetings all morning and that i wasn't going to be able to pump until after my last meeting that ended at 11am. when i got back to my office around 11:15am, SEVER HOURS after i had last fed bina (when i normally only go four hours between), i realized: OMG I FORGOT MY FLANGES AT HOME. for a second i ran through my options. which were basically: hand express. kill me. then i remembered that my wonderful husband works from home on fridays so i quickly called him and asked him to do me a HUGE favor. and of course, he complied because he is the best ever.

about 20 minutes later david arrived with the dogs and my flanges, including a spare set for me to leave at work in case i ever forget to bring them again. i ran back to my office to begin pumping, sure that i would get 10oz or more. i got 8oz. angry face. whatever. it could have been worse. i could have had to hand express 8oz of milk.


all in all, i've fared pretty well so far. four more months until i meet my goal of breastfeeding for a year. hopefully nothing crazy goes down in the meantime. we shall see.

#pumping #pumpingatwork #medela #liquidgold #breastfeeeding

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