Priorities: why I pump at work

Two major articles out right now: The Economic Consequences of Breastfeeding (Wall Street Journal) and Study: Lack of breastfeeding costs lives, billions of dollars (CNN). I’m going to start with the latter.

Nearly 1,000 (991 to be exact) lives and BILLIONS ($13b) of dollars would be saved if women would just breastfeed for the first 6 months of life. This is in the United States alone–yes, we have that poor of breastfeeding rates.

In 2009, a report by the CDC stated that 74% of women start breastfeeding at birth (not too bad), but that falls to 33% at 3 months of age and a measly 14% are still exclusively breastfeeding at 6 months of age. It’s kind of disgusting if you ask me. 14%?!?!

Where is that $13 billion in costs coming from? Mainly premature deaths attributed to SIDS, necrotizing entercolitis, and lower respiratory infections (like pneumonia). How does breastfeeding help lower costs? It has been shown to reduce the risk of these AND seven other illnesses.

Are the women to blame? Not always. There is such little support out there for breastfeeding moms. Some formula-feeding moms don’t like to be alone (with feelings of guilt) and formula used to be the norm, so breastfeeding moms who are having trouble are often talked into switching to formula rather than working through it. Hospital breastfeeding support in the US scored a 63, “that’s a D.” How is this happening with all the research being presented about not only the benefits of breastfeeding, but the harm of feeding formula?

This brings me to the other article… The Economic Consequences of Breastfeeding, published 3/3/10, written by Ruth Mantell. Most shocking? Author Ruth was a breastfeeding mom herself. Possibly the main difference? She got 6 months of maternity level. Me? 6 weeks. The majority of working mothers? 6-12 weeks.

Go ahead, read the article, but it’s going to piss you off. She suggests feeding formula while at work so you don’t have to pump. Why? Pumping at work is hard and some moms can face penalties (lower pay, less hours). Her words: “…my husband and I have financial goals, such as saving for retirement and a healthy portion of our daughter’s education costs, I don’t want to quit or downshift my career to accommodate a regular pumping or breastfeeding schedule.”

JAW DROP. I have financial goals too. I have health and happiness goals for my son too. I also have no plans to quit or downshift my career to “accommodate.”

She also cites the costs for pumping and breastfeeding moms–a breastpump, all those fancy nursing shirts and bras, and a lactation consultant. 1) Some insurance companies cover the cost of a pump. 2) Formula will cost you more. 3) I have 2 nursing tanks and 1 nursing bra. Regular bras and tanks work just fine. They may not be AS convenient, but certainly not so much of a pain that I’m going to quit feeding my son what’s best for him because I can’t afford those special shirts. 4) I was offered the use of a lactation consultant at the hospital for free. I used DVDs made by consultants that were a tremendous help as well (and not nearly as expensive as a one-on-one).

This one gets me the most: “There are also non-financial opportunity costs. While a can of premium formula comes with a premium price tag, feeding infants with formula uses less of one of mom’s most precious resources: time.”

Seriously? Sure, it takes time to pump, but you pump in replacement of a feeding (which has to take place whether you’re using boob or bottle). And what would you rather do at 3am: roll over and have your baby latch on or get up, mix up some formula, and sit with a bottle? Which is taking more of your precious time? When you leave the house would you rather grab your baby and go (pretty sure those breasts will leave the house with you) or make sure you have formula and water and a bottle and a cooler to keep it in? Which is taking more of your precious time?

The notion that you will have to cut work hours or accept less pay because you’re pumping at work is ridiculous. There are now laws in place to allow work breaks for this purpose. I know of a woman who sat in her car during her break at work to pump because she had no where else to go. Did she quit? No.

Am I losing money because I’m breastfeeding? No. I have a pump (1 electric and 2 manual, actually), I have nursing outfits, I have breastpads. The cost does not come close to what I’d be spending on formula. And what do I get? Irreplaceable bonding with my son. The best nourishment he can get.

So why do I choose to pump at work? Priorities.

25 comments to Priorities: why I pump at work

  • SarahBee

    I was one of those moms who had to pump in the car, but it was worth it to me for my daughter to have breastmilk over formula. I didn’t have much support for breastfeeding. In fact, I didn’t really have any at all. After the first six months, I ended up supplementing with soy formula.
    This time will be different. I will be able to pump at work and have a more flexible schedule which will allow me to bring my son along with me to work some days when he is born (just over 2 weeks to go!) This is due to the great blessing of having a boss who “gets it” and a wonderful support system on Twitter of women with priceless advice.


  • Hello,
    I breastfed our 3 children and found it to be a rewarding experience for myself and hopefully for my children. I also was a working mom and at that time the maternity leaves were just a few months, therefore I would pump for the feedings I missed.

    Thankfully my daughter breastfed her 3 children also. I say thankfully because the second one was born at 2 lbs 14 oz! Her pumped milk was given to this tiny little girl struggling to servive ONE DROP at a time! The hospital staff encouraged her mom because this was the best nourishment for the child. She is now a healthy 7 year old.


  • First and foremost – I want to address one statement that you made in your otherwise well-thought out article. ” Formula feeding moms don’t like to be alone (with feelings of guilt).” I was a formula feeding mom and I do not feel one bit guilty about it. I was not comfortable with breastfeeding and chose not to. I applaud anyone who does choose to breastfeed – I do not condemn them – and I expect the same respect from you.

    My sister breastfed both of her children and struggles with pumping while at the office. I have talked to her while she was driving in her car, on her way to an appointment, pumping as she was driving. She would NEVER give it up, nor would anyone be able to talk her out of it.

    If companies are really punishing women because they are breastfeeding – we have a serious problem – and I would say a lot of women have valid lawsuits on their hands. From the sounds of the article – I would say this woman was looking for an excuse to formula feed and wanted to push the buck off on someone else.

    The bottom line here is – women should do whatever they are comfortable doing. It is every woman’s INDIVIDUAL choice and quite frankly – no one else’s damn business.


  • Sara – thanks for your comment. I agree, it is a woman’s choice and she should receive support either way. I did not mean anything negative toward formula feeding moms, only that we are lacking greatly in support for breastfeeding moms, which more often than not is the cause for them quitting. I am glad you feel no guilt, most formula feeding moms I am friends with say they feel it on some level. My post was not intended to be “breastfeeding vs formula,” more of just a breastfeeding article to show more support and awareness is needed.

    SarahBee – best of luck!! Support on twitter truly is amazing 🙂
    Lorna – that is wonderful, thank you for sharing your success stories!


  • I am currently in my 4th week back at work (was able to stay home for 12 weeks) and it’s hard work. Exclusively breastfeeding/pumping is dedication!! My goal is to breastfeed for the first 6 months and then take it from there. Some women have supply issues and have to give their baby formula. I expect they hate having to use formula, but they can’t let their child starve either. I don’t think that people just quit breastfeeding for no reason if they’ve been successful. I feel like if I’ve been able to do it for this long, then I can go another 2 months. And if I can make it to the 6 month mark, then I can go to a year. I’m just taking it day by day, week by week. I absolutely love breastfeeding more than I ever expected and I believe it is the best for my baby. I would be heartbroken if I had to stop sooner than planned, but unexpected issues pop up and supply can decrease months into breastfeeding. So I wouldn’t call the 14% statistic disgusting, just a little disheartening. I know that I would do whatever I could to be able to continue nursing and pumping but I also think that it’s better to have a stress-free mother than a breastfed baby. I do think that moms need more support and need to be proactive. I was at a friends house with a ton of other moms and there was seriously 6 or 7 of us nursing our babies while we were there. It was great!


  • I breastfed Nolan until I had to have an operation and my pump died. I borrowed one from the hospital (rented, actually) but my milk supply disappeared due to the drugs and the depression of being away from him. When I got home, I couldn’t afford to buy a new pump right off the bat. Formula it was, plus I was dealing with recovering from surgery.

    BUT. Next time around, when I am pregnant, I will be buying a very good electric double pump because I WANT to breastfeed the first 6 months, I wanted to with Nolan too but I couldn’t for the reasons I listed.

    Great post though!


  • Good points – I know there are women who cannot breastfeed for whatever the reason. By no means do I want to attack any formula feeding mommy.. especially those with circumstances that caused them to not even have the choice.

    My post is for those that stopped breastfeeding because of lack of support–whether at home or at work. It shouldn’t be that way–women shouldn’t have to pump in their car. You know? And the article written in the Wall Street Journal is just another example–telling everyone that breastfeeding isn’t economically beneficial… that it can cause issues at work… etc. If a pregnant woman who is still deciding what is best for her reads that article, she may be swayed to formula feed, but she is getting wrong information.

    All mommy’s do what’s best for their baby–breast or bottle. And what’s best varies from person to person, mom to baby. They just need to have the ability to make an informed decision.

    Sarcastica- I am sorry you went through all of that! Nolan has a wonderful momma 🙂


  • HIGH-FUCKING-FIVE. I love you.


  • omfg. That Ruth lady make me want to find her and smack her!! WTF is she thinking!!

    I love ALL the points you made.

    seriously, I’m lost for words right now. Sry.


  • I EXCLUSIVELY pump for my 8 month old former preemie! We were never able to get him fully to breast, so I continue to pump and feed breastmilk in a bottle. I am in college, and pump while driving, while studying, wherever/whenever I can.

    I have spent money on a pump (Lansinoh Double Electric – $140), bottles, many Lansinoh freezer bags, and have been recently using domperidone to help my supply. All of that PALES in comparison to what I would spend on formula. 5 months of domperidone cost me $135 – how long would $135 of formula last? Not 5 months, I’m pretty sure! And on the domperidone, I’m pumping 40 oz per day – E only eats like 28. I’m freezing 12 oz per day for future use!

    I don’t hate formula. It has its place! E was on 2 bottles a day of Enfamil Enfacare in NICU and until he reached 40 weeks gestation for extra calories and iron. I gave it to him gladly at the recommendation of his neonatologist. But I quit asap too 🙂

    We have been very lucky and E hasn’t been sick once since his birth. A lot of that certainly is luck, but I think it may be partly due to the fact that he’s been exclusively breastfed for 8 months!


  • I thought I was going to be a BF mom. I had my heart set on it, actually, but things have resulted in a different outcome. My baby would fall asleep at the breast no matter what I did to wake her up. She lost a lot of weight and the pediatrician freaked out. I started pumping exclusively and supplementing with formula since my supply only provides about half of what my baby needs.

    I’m still pumping about 8 times a day, but my milk supply doesn’t seem to be increasing. I’ve taken fenugreek, I’m on Reglan, I’ve tried beer, and I drink Mother’s Milk tea and lots of water. I saw several lactation consultants and I went to a La Leche League meeting. None of it seems to be upping my supply. I lost a lot of sleep (literally) over giving my baby formula in addition to breast milk, but I’ve finally realized that it is made and sold for a reason and there’s nothing wrong with that.

    I applaud your passion; just remember that as with pregnancy and labor, every woman’s situation is different, and often it turns out differently from what she envisions. Adjusting to the reality of the situation can be really hard (just as with your C-section), so don’t beat up on formula-feeding moms too hard. 🙂


  • Beth

    Excellent post, Emily! I am so proud of you! You are passionate about this and you certainly gave your reasons why! Wish I would have bf longer with u and Jeff, but yes, formula was the way to go back then! Bf in public in 1980? That was not too acceptable! It is definitely time to fight the fact that some workplaces frown upon pumping at work. You go, Em! You remind me of myself when I have something I am passionate about (RPS205 lay-offs, hitting kids….etc.) 🙂


  • Every time I read your posts I get all teary-eyed. You always say exactly what I’m thinking! 🙂

    We are 6 days away from being EBF at 6 months! Woo-hoo! We are going strong and I plan on going til at least a year, if not more. I have been successfully pumping at work since I returned in the beginning of January. I had issues with my supply decreasing in the beginning, but I worked (and cried) through it. I added pumping sessions around the clock and on weekends….Yes, it was so hard and so stressful. I was so frustrated, but the thought of giving my Baby formula made me feel beyond guilty. With the extra pumping sessions my supply got back on track and I was able to cut the extra sessions out after a few weeks.

    I pump three times a day at work. No, I don’t have a nice office with a door I can close. I go up on a different floor to the bathroom where they have an empty stall (no toilet, just a chair) and I pump in there. I didn’t even know about it, but one of the cleaning ladies saw me pumping in the bathroom my first week back and told me about it! So far, no one has questioned what I’m doing…I work with mostly men and I’m sure they have a good idea but are too embarrassed to say anything. The other (female) secretaries I work with know and don’t mind at all. I live in Illinois, so there are provisions in the law for breastfeeding moms if an issue would ever arise. I would definitely NOT say that my office is “breast-feeding friendly”, but they are tolerant.

    I don’t have any nursing tanks I wear to work, I really don’t even need to. I have 2 nursing bras, one I won on a blog giveaway 🙂 and one I bought from Target for $9.99….I actually don’t even need to wear a nursing bra to pump I just do bc it’s more comfortable and has no underwire….So as far as all the “fancy” equipment you need, I’d say a comfy bra, a Pump and a few bottles to pump into are all that you REALLY need. I don’t even think that even slightly COMPARES to the cost of formula.

    As far as support goes, I am the only one of my friends that has breastfed. My cousin (in another state) breastfeeds, but I don’t get a chance to see her ever. My other cousin that just had twins, BF for about six weeks, then switched to formula. I don’t think any of my friends really “get” why I think Breast-feeding is so important.

    My parents are a wonderful support system. My Mom was big into La Leche League and had all of her children at home. She is not your typical “crunchy” Mom either. You would never guess by looking at her she went through three natural births and breastfed each of us for 2 years. She really encouraged me when it was tough and really helped me with making sure my son was latching right. She always stressed how important it was to me starting when I was little, so it was never a question to me. I really didn’t know that people gave their babies formula when I was growing up. I just thought that everyone breastfed because that’s all I had seen. I think that’s the way it should be now. It should NOT be the NORM to formula feed. Breastfeeding is such a scary, hidden thing. It shouldn’t be.

    Thanks for posting another great one, Emily!!!!


  • No worries hun, in the end my babe’s was still getting fed and growing 🙂 I do wish we could have had longer breastfeeding, but if I didn’t get the surgery right then I probably would have even more difficultly walking and playing with him. Lesson learned: get things done RIGHT AWAY and don’t procrastinate or things end up sucking more haha.

    And I totally know your point; I had good lacational help for the most part, but there isn’t a whole heck of a lot that they can do when the meds and depression from being so far away from your baby destory your milk supply 🙁 bananas and fluids and all! SIGH.

    Oh well, like you said we just have to get better resources and support for the breastfeeding mama.

    I also believe that our first goal should be feeding the wee ones! And that we shouldn’t attack each other (Ms. Single Mama had someone actually yell at her when she went to purchase formula for her friend’s sick baby when she was pregnant, for instance). Not saying that you’re attacking anyone sweets, just that I agree with you about the needing more support.



  • Kelly L.

    Ok, here are my two cents as a non-mon.

    That lady is on crack.

    Not one but two of my coworkers, upon coming back from maternity leave, take regular breast-pumping time whenever they need it, no one says anything, no one cares. It’s like the equivalent of having to use the restroom. Are you going to get paid less because you pee a lot? No. I don’t know where the hell this lady may have worked, I suppose maybe some jobs it’s more convenient than others (I work at an ad agency), but… I have never ever heard of anyone being penalized – especially monetarily – for having to pump breastmilk at work.

    Also, I’ve never purchased formula (obviously) but from what I know, it is super expensive.

    And, from what I’ve heard from you, it sounds like breastfeeding time is invaluable for building a relationship w/ your baby.

    I dunno. I think this lady is smoking something. Again, I can’t speak from experience, but yeah.

    Plus, aren’t breastfed kids supposed to be smarter? Isn’t that, like, scientifically proven? Just sayin…


  • Kim

    I have never understood the argument that bottle feeding saves time. I breastfeed my son and bottle feed the newborn that I babysit – breastfeeding is definitely easier and more convenient! Can’t beat the cost either – free food!!


  • Wow, this post hits home.

    I breastfed my first exclusively for the first 6 months and then continued with solids until he was almost two. My second is one month old and I plan on doing the same.

    I had to go back to work at 8 weeks with my first and I am taking a full 12 with this one.

    Pumping was a lot for me. I even had quite a few business trips. Try lugging a pump through the airport (and it doesn’t go through the X-ray well – I would get stopped almost every time), or sneaking off during a 10 hour conference to pump, or running back to the hotel room after a conference because it ran over and I have less than 15 minutes to pump and change to meet the transportation to a business dinner 🙁 It was hard and I know I’m not alone.

    It was worth it to me so I did it. But, there were plenty of male counterparts who did not appreciate it and they let me know it. There are people who understand, but many do not. When you are a guy you can “focus on the business”. Even though I was focused on the business my having to pump singled me out as a MOM. Not always a good word in a corporate workplace. It means I have priorities other than the business.


  • I was all about breastfeeding because it was best for baby *and* free. I was shocked to find out that isn’t always true. My experience was more like Laura’s. I had to go back to work after 6 weeks and my supply was never quite good enough to feed my son breast milk 100% of the time.

    I spent the following:

    $250: A quality double-electric pump that just worked OK for me.
    $250: Rental of a hospital grade pump for 4 months to see if it would increase my supply. You have to buy a tubing kit too so this cost is including.
    $40/month: Fenugreek + Blessed Thistle to increase supply (This stuff isn’t cheap and you have to take a lot of pills every day!)
    $10: Reglan Rx to increase supply
    $75: Lactation consultant (my insurance didn’t cover)

    So 4 months of breastfeeding and pumping cost me about $745 (not to mention tanks and bras). All of that and I STILL had to supplement with formula because I never made enough milk to give him a full days breast milk, much less freeze extra milk.

    Now that I do exclusively formula, I only spend about $100/month on formula.

    I typed all of that to say that Breastfeeding isn’t always cheap! 🙂

    While I was pregnant, I did purchase a good and expensive double electric pump.


  • Oops. I didn’t mean to leave that last random line at the bottom of my post.


  • Great post! I have pumped at work through two babies in the last few years. There is sacrifice involved, but for me it was SO worth it! IMO there’s not enough personal support and experiences out there to give women the courage to go for it. Glad you provided some of that here. I have a pumping and working post in my mental cue!


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  • Shawnta Haza

    Good day in your opinion is the next world war close?


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  • @Jane While this subject can be very touchy for most people, my opinion is that there has to be a middle or common ground that we all can find. I do appreciate that youve added relevant and intelligent commentary here though. Thank you!


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