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 both provide breast milk for their own child(ren) while also contributing their unique skills to the paid workforce. Today’s post is about Marta LaRusso’s experience integrating breastfeeding and working after the birth of her children, Mattia and Nico.
I, Marta LaRusso, pumped breastmilk to feed my own babies while working at a major global bank in New York City.
Did you set any breastfeeding goals for yourself before returning to work?
To feed only breast milk to both of my kids for 1 year.
Can you give us an idea of what your physical workspace and business travel needs were like?
My primary workspace was a large office building in New York City. Getting to that building from my home required a 1 - 1.5 hour commute by train. My job also required occasional travel by plane.
Did your employer provide a private & secure space for pumping?
I had access to a separate pumping area that had divided personal rooms. The area was only accessible by employees that were pumping and each individual door could be locked for appropriate privacy. There was also a central coordinator on site for any questions.
What about during business travel, how did you handle pumping accommodations during your trips?
Pumping on a plane was a bit hard. As I accumulated milk through the trip, I would ask the hotel to freeze it and then transfer the frozen milk to a freezer pack and fly it home with me. Security at the airport can be tricky but they were fine with it as long as I allowed them to test the milk.
Tell us about the most challenging moments that stick in your mind when you think about the experience of pumping.
Scheduling was the hardest part. I had to find 20 mins to get to the rooms which were on another floor, pump for 15 minutes and get back to my office. I initially did it twice a day but then quickly moved to once a day because it was burdensome and I found I had enough of a supply to support my goal of feeding only breast milk.
I also recall an Amtrak train trip I took to a friend’s baby shower. It was a real humbling moment trying to pump while the train swerved. I distinctly remember my dress covered in milk by the end of the pumping session. I also pumped in the bathroom at NY Penn Station which was interesting because it’s very crowded, but you got to do what you got to do.
Was the actual experience of integrating breastfeeding with work different from what you anticipated?
Pumping was easier for me once I got into a rhythm, breastfeeding was harder.
My first only nursed for 3 months because he had a real problem with my very fast letdown and huge supply and he would not take a bottle despite introducing it when he was one week old. My second had the same issue and nursed to 6 months. Because bottle feeding was required for me to return to work, I went to great lengths to make it work. I tried over 50 different bottles and hired an amazing specialist to help them get comfortable with it. Both of my kids eventually accepted bottle feeding after a lot of crying and trying different bottles. That was by far the hardest thing for me. Now I know my oversupply played a role because a bottle would never flow fast enough to mirror their breastfeeding experience. In the end I’m so glad I moved to 100% bottle feeding because there was no other way in my situation.
What type of support could your employer/colleagues/manager have provided that would have improved your breastfeeding and working experience?
I felt well supported. More private lactation spaces across the many floors of our building would have minimized my time away from work and given me more options. Having the lactation spaces located on a main floor of the office was really helpful but with so many floors (39), it could still take a bit of time to get there.
What do you wish someone would have taught you about integrating breastfeeding & working before you started?
That each of our situations when it comes to breastfeeding, pumping rhythms and specific professional ambitions are unique, it’s important to trust your gut and stay flexible.
Did you end up hitting the goal you had set for yourself prior to returning to work? If not, what was the biggest roadblock to reaching the goal?
Yes I made it to 13 months for both. Had to throw in that extra month to beat my own goal. I’m super competitive with myself.
What was your proudest pumping & working moment?
The fact that I pumped enough to make it 13 months with both my kids. It requires A LOT of discipline and is certainly not easy but it was the right path for me.