Welcome to the latest edition of “The Faces of Pumping & Working” where we learn about the triumphs and challenges of the increasing number of women working to provide breast milk for their own child(ren) while contributing their unique skills to the paid workforce.
If you meet Sarah Kallile today, you’ll know her as a mother to two daughters who is bravely fighting back against the uncomfortable, inefficient nursing bras that many a mom has tried and then relegated to the back of the drawer with all of the other rejected underthings. Her company, Lunnie, stands for the innovation and progress that the breastfeeding community badly needs as she works to reinvent this essential garment. Prior to this chapter in her life, Sarah worked in a very different type of job where just like so many of us, she struggled to reach her pumping & working goals due to a lack of space, policy and a supportive culture. Read on to hear about Sarah’s experience.
Sarah’s Circumstances permalink
After many years climbing the marketing ladder at tech startups in San Francisco and Seattle, I moved to Ohio and took a marketing job at a hospital. I was five months pregnant on my first day of work. After my daughter was born, I returned to work part-time at 8 weeks with the goal of continuing breastfeeding. It became clear quickly that I had no idea what I was doing. Looking back, I realize both myself and my employer weren’t proactive in accommodating my pumping needs. This led to lots of delayed or skipped pumping sessions and a routine of playing catch-up on my days off to keep things on track. I now have a second daughter and this time around I’m calling the shots on my work and breastfeeding schedule as the founder of a startup, Lunnie, where we are working to reinvent the nursing bra. There are still logistics to plan for but I am more confident in my role as both a professional AND a breastfeeding mother.
I wanted to breastfeed my daughter for a year, whether that meant nursing or pumping and in the end, I nursed until 18 months. I’m currently nursing my 12 month old daughter.
Sarah’s Access to Space permalink
The office space that I returned to was under renovation and there was no dedicated room to pump. In the absence of designated space, the most obvious choice to get privacy and security were two available meeting rooms. Unfortunately, those were also the only two rooms available to the entire office to hold meetings so finding and keeping time reserved in them was very complicated and not always possible. This often led to me not being able to pump at all or on a very delayed schedule.
Sarah’s Access to Written Policy permalink
There was no policy provided. This would have brought some much needed clarification to the situation for me (and my peers), especially considering my struggle to navigate the logistics of scheduling time and sharing space with my colleagues. I blocked my calendar for pumping/nursing breaks but I would often receive meeting invites at the same time that I would accept instead. This frequently resulted in sitting through meetings engorged, stressed out, and constantly checking the time so I could leave to pump. Many times I leaked milk through my blouse - not fun. In retrospect, I barely contributed to these meetings because my mind was preoccupied.
I didn't know what the expectations were and I should have advocated for myself more but without clear signals from my employer, I didn’t feel empowered to start that conversation.
Working Mom “Initiation” permalink
I worked primarily with women, many who were also mothers. They didn't have the proper space or time to pump when they were nursing so it was accepted that this was the norm. No one really knew that pumping moms deserved better!
To be honest, I wasn't even sure what I needed as a first-time working/pumping mom. Having an ally like Proud Ounces would have been a tremendous help to both myself and my coworkers!
On-site DAYCARE?! The holy grail, right? permalink
I did have the unique and fortunate situation that my daughter's daycare was onsite. This felt like a huge benefit, and it was. BUT, it certainly didn’t eliminate the need to pump and I still had to contend with the challenges of fitting either pumping or breastfeeding into my workday. If I had the opportunity to walk to the daycare location and breastfeed directly during the day, I definitely chose that over pumping but it wasn’t always available from a timing perspective so I ended up with a mixed bag each day. I was very intentional about nursing her in-person during my lunchtime. It helped both of us - I missed her so much when I was at work!
Sarah’s advice for new pumping moms... permalink
Block your schedule for pump breaks. It will take longer than you think! Setting up, pumping, storing, washing/sanitizing pump parts. The office kitchen sink was often full of dirty coffee cups and washing my pump parts there didn't feel clean. I'd bring home a bag of dirty pump flanges and bottles to clean at night instead. If you don't have time or proper space to wash and sanitize your pump parts, plan accordingly!