Discussion Thread

Working Moms and Breastfeeding/Pumping

  • 1.  Working Moms and Breastfeeding/Pumping

    Posted 10-10-2019 09:53 AM
    Here's one for the ladies!

    I recently returned to work after welcoming my 4th baby to the world. I have nursed all of my babies, and pumped milk while at work. As we all know, civil engineering is largely dominated by men. I'm sure there are a number of ladies who might be the only working mom in their office, so it can be difficult to find coworkers to talk to about your experiences.

    So, I thought I would start a thread in case there are other mamas or soon-to-be mamas, or future mamas who have questions, or just want to talk about their experiences.

    As far as my experience goes, I have been so blessed to be able to work with very supportive men and women. The male coworkers who have children of their own often seem to be very understanding. Pumping milk at work can still be a bit of a challenge. Sometimes my job requires me to be in the field, or to attend conferences. For field work, I typically end up pumping in the car. When attending conferences, I contact an organizer ahead of time and let them know that I will need a private space for pumping.

    In 2017, I attended the ASCE MRLC conference in Buffalo, NY. My son at the time was 4 months old and a really good baby. I decided just to take him along with me instead of traveling with my pump and supplies. I was a little nervous at the time because I wasn't sure what people would think about having a baby at a conference. Fortunately, everyone seemed to love having him there! I found that it worked out really well because I could put on a cover and nurse him during sessions. Otherwise, I would have been sneaking off to my room every so often to pump - and would have missed sessions as a result!

    For all my fellow new mamas out there - Congratulations and hang in there! It can be difficult to adjust to everything at first, but it is so worth it! Don't be too hard on yourself if everything does not go perfectly or how you imagined. After all - you're an engineer! You can do this!

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    Kelly Farabee P.E., M.ASCE
    Savannah GA
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  • 2.  RE: Working Moms and Breastfeeding/Pumping

    Posted 10-11-2019 08:37 AM
    Kelly,

    What a great post! I have often felt alone in this and like you am challenged by being in the field (pumped in my work truck) or traveling (I've become intimately familiar with the airport mother's rooms or lack thereof......). I have 3 wonderful children. Here's to support for breastfeeding moms!


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    Carolyn Guion P.E., M.ASCE
    EIT
    TranSystems
    Cleveland OH
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  • 3.  RE: Working Moms and Breastfeeding/Pumping

    Posted 10-11-2019 10:12 AM
    Carolyn,

    Pumping in the field is always a fun one! Especially if you are sharing a work truck with a male coworker. More than once my coworker had to stand around outside for 20 minutes while I used the work truck as my "mother's room." Fortunately, most of my working hours are spent in the office.

    With my last baby, I bought a set of "freemies" that you can insert in your shirt for more discrete pumping. They work with a variety of pumps. I only used them when pumping in my car in an effort to get a little added privacy. I don't think they work as well as the regular pumping shields and bottles though. I would not recommend them to any new moms out there.

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    Kelly Farabee P.E., M.ASCE
    Guyton GA
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  • 4.  RE: Working Moms and Breastfeeding/Pumping

    Posted 10-11-2019 09:04 AM
    I saw you and your son at the MRLC conference in Buffalo and I remember thinking how you were such a great example of being able to serve both parenting and professional roles at the same time. And of course, it was always fun to see a cute baby in the room!

    The engineering world is all about finding solutions to serve our clients' needs. While I understand not all firms feel the same, I don't see why this mindset can't also be applied to serving our employee needs as it relates to parenting or family issues. I'm not a parent, but I've fortunately only had good experiences with my current employer when I've needed flexibility to handle aging parents and other family matters.

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    Erin Rooney P.E., M.ASCE
    Coastal Engineer
    HDR
    Metairie LA
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  • 5.  RE: Working Moms and Breastfeeding/Pumping

    Posted 10-11-2019 10:13 AM
    Erin,

    Buffalo was definitely a fun time! And the warm welcome that everyone extended to my son was a huge blessing for me! I already love being a traffic engineer, but it's even better when I get to work in a field with so many awesome people!

    Having supportive companies and team members really goes a long way to helping employees maintain a more positive attitude - whether in the diaper changing stage of life, or the sending kids to college, or the caring for parents stage. Like you said, we all have personal/family issues to deal with at times.

    We often discuss how the field of engineering can attract more women. I think that having flexible schedules and being supportive of young mothers can certainly help!

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    Kelly Farabee P.E., M.ASCE
    Guyton GA
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  • 6.  RE: Working Moms and Breastfeeding/Pumping

    Posted 10-11-2019 10:12 AM
    ​I am a mom in structural engineering.  My office was supportive.  There were still hiccups and I was of course exhausted and fighting for every on time work day and non-spit up covered shirt, but work was supportive.

    Four months sounds like perfect conference baby age - old enough to be content and young enough to stay put :-)  I like to think if the Prime Minister of New Zealand could bring a baby to the UN without causing an international incident, it's probably just not going to be a big thing at a conference.

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    Stacey Brown P.E., M.ASCE
    Stantec Consulting Inc
    Berkley MI
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  • 7.  RE: Working Moms and Breastfeeding/Pumping

    Posted 10-12-2019 10:41 PM
    Hey Women Civil Engineers &Working Moms, who are turning situations that may look like "Lemons" into "Lemonade,"
    wondered if you might also be interested in a post from an ASCE woman civil engineering colleague, 

    Peyton Gibson, titled "THE GENDER WAGE (AND WORKFORCE PARTICIPATION) GAP IN CIVIL ENGINEERING."

    No doubt this issue is one, as civil engineers and working moms you have a strong interest in.

    You will find Ms. Gibson's insights on this subject in the "Professional and Career Topics" section of ASCE Collaborate.

    Cheers,
    Bill Hayden Jr.



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    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880
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  • 8.  RE: Working Moms and Breastfeeding/Pumping

    Posted 10-17-2019 12:03 PM
    Kelly,

    This is such a great post and should definitely be talked about more often. As a fellow pumping working mama cheers to you! I just finished pumping/nursing my second child and I can say that it is not an easy thing to do. There are so many times that it was inconvenient, but my employer has been so supportive throughout this stage. They understand that it is important to me and were flexible whenever they could be. I also took my baby to a conference, my mom was able to come with me and help out but I was able to leave the conference on breaks to feed him. What I thought would be a stressful experience turned out to be great because I didn't have to leave my baby at home and I was able to attend the conference.

    Being a pumping working mom can be such a daunting task at first but as I look back, as with most things, it can be done with hard work and determination. I set a goal to make it to a year with both of my children and I made it with both even though there were so many times that I wanted to give up. From pumping in the car to understanding that a missed pump session because a meeting ran late is not the end of the world to having to supplement because you aren't producing enough milk, to me it was so worth it in the end. It definitely could not have been done without a supportive team. To all the fellow mamas who are in the middle of pumping, thinking about pumping for your new little one, reminiscing about pumping, it is a good day because you are doing/will do/did what is best for your child (even if it's not pumping) all the while having an engineering career.

    Some things that helped me: be open and honest with your employer about the importance of breastfeeding to you, join the facebook breastfeeding working mama support group where you can ask questions or read others stories, be graceful with yourself and understand that you are doing what you can with what you have, and enjoy it as much as you can as it goes by way too quick


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    Camille Miller P.E., M.ASCE
    Project Engineer
    ID
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  • 9.  RE: Working Moms and Breastfeeding/Pumping

    Posted 10-18-2019 11:57 AM
    Kelly,

     I have had a similar experience to yours's. My colleague's were all very supportive of the needing to pump at work in a private space or leaving on my lunch break to go and breast feed my son at daycare. There once was a time I had a meeting 2-3 hours from the office that I had to attend with my Boss.  He was so understanding and stopped and waited for me to pump during the trip. I couldn't have asked for better support system at work. It's really nice to know that even though most of our colleague's are men, they are still very supportive. Thanks for sharing your story!


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    Manda Catterlin A.M.ASCE
    EIT
    Civil West Engineering
    Albany OR
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  • 10.  RE: Working Moms and Breastfeeding/Pumping

    Posted 10-21-2019 07:47 AM
    Thanks so much for posting this. I have been married for about two years now and my husband and I want to start a family in the next year. I am nervous about what that will do to my reputation at work, and how I will be able to juggle things like breastfeeding. I am in heavy civil construction so I am in the field every week, but not all day. I have concerns about using porta-johns, and being in the field for long periods of time while pregnant. I am glad to hear that you've found a way to pump in the truck. I feel like you would still be pretty exposed depending on how close the truck is parked. Was that the case for you?


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    Lauren Reiter-Mailloux P.E., M.ASCE
    Sterling Heights MI
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  • 11.  RE: Working Moms and Breastfeeding/Pumping

    Posted 10-21-2019 09:58 AM
    ​Hi Laura,

    I'm a mom and structural engineer in Berkley, MI; my youngest just turned one.  You're right down the road from me.  Let me know if you'd like to meet up for lunch.  You can find my e-mail in the directory.

    Stacey

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    Stacey Brown P.E., M.ASCE
    Stantec Architecture
    Berkley MI
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  • 12.  RE: Working Moms and Breastfeeding/Pumping

    Posted 10-22-2019 10:06 AM
    Lauren,

    My advice for surviving pregnancy is to make sure you keep plenty of snacks and bottles of water with you while out in the field. And, yes, you probably will be getting a lot of use of the porta potties if that's the only thing available. But, even though the pregnancy seems like forever at the time, all the little difficulties and annoyances are soon forgotten when you have a baby in your arms!

    As for pumping in the truck, I typically try to park in as private a location as possible. Despite the windows, I do feel like I have a decent amount of privacy in my car. Also, I often dress in layers, so my top shirt can provide a little coverage. If you are concerned about additional privacy, you can always use a nursing cover or a scarf - or possibly even your safety vest - to provide some extra coverage while pumping. Honestly, it's almost a little easier when pumping versus nursing in public because you never know when the baby might let go or move around. I have never bothered with using a special pumping bra.

    During pregnancies and while pumping on the job, I have typically been blessed to work with understanding men. I always joke about how they "better not get between a preggo and her food!" Typically they seem to be understanding of my special needs - especially the ones who are fathers. Don't be afraid to let your coworkers know if you need a bathroom break or a snack break. I would recommend talking with your HR rep when you do become pregnant to make sure you are all on the same page about what kind of support you need.

    If you ever have any questions, I am also in the directory and you are welcome to send me an email!

    Kelly

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    Kelly Farabee P.E., M.ASCE
    Guyton GA
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  • 13.  RE: Working Moms and Breastfeeding/Pumping

    Posted 12-09-2019 04:35 PM
    Kelly, I completely remember you at the MRLC! I thought it was awesome, and a great demonstration of how things have improved for women in the industry!

    I have pumped in the car both before meetings and on the way to a business meeting (it was a 3 hour trip one way) with a cover, in a supply closet (because that was the only non-bathroom place in the office with a door), and many other places.  In the car, I would park facing a wall or away from other people if possible.  I would put the cover over me before I started doing anything else. A button down shirt makes that easy, and really discreet. I 100% agree with the comment that it's harder to actually nurse a baby with the cover than pump with the cover because the baby grabs it.

    One thing I wish I would have known about pumping earlier - even a little milk is better than none, and don't be afraid to supplement (unless there is a medical reason not to). With child 1, I was determined to do only my milk, and it put undue stress on me. With child 2 and 3, I pumped at lunch during work (my supply dropped off a lot with a pump, even a good one),  but then still fed them at home in the morning and evening, allowing me to do a full year of that, whereas with child #1 I gave up after 5 months because I wasn't getting enough milk when pumping. I didn't realize you could combine the two. Supplementing with #2 and #3 took a ton of pressure off me to pump at work, and let me actually leave work earlier because I wasn't trying to pump 3x's a day (for me, it was about 20 minutes to pump each time).

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    Stephanie Slocum P.E., M.ASCE
    Founder
    Engineers Rising LLC
    www.engineersrising.com
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