Pumping in public

By Published On: February 2nd, 2015

I got a text message the other day from a […]

IMG_1742I got a text message the other day from a knocked-up friend of mine. She’s a freelancer, and she was plugging away at a collaborative workspace for creative types downtown—lots of open seating, big windows and no interior walls. The place has a real hipster vibe with great coffee and inspiring sayings complete with curse words propped against the walls. Get the idea? Now picture this: My friend was texting to tell me that a woman sitting at the shared desk space had hooked herself up to a breast pump right there at her seat and was calmly going about her work as the telltale “wuh-hump wuh-hump” of the pump echoed through the muted room. My friend is no stranger to the cause, and she made a joke about how the sound was giving her flashbacks (and flash forwards), but the very idea of this floored me.
My first thought was along the lines of, Breastfeeding in public is one thing, but pumping? Yeesh. That’s ballsy. But then I thought about it some more, and you know what? She’s probably far more discreet about the whole thing than I am when I’m breastfeeding my 6-month-old in public, which is something I blame entirely on the baby. She’s constantly trying to knock the blanket off us both, and she has a fun new habit of taking frequent breaks to look around and smile at people, leaving me to hastily cover up until she’s ready to get back to the business at hand. If I’m not instantly accessible, there’s lots of indignant squawking. And she’s a noisy eater! Lots of smacking sounds and gulping. So these days, nursing her in a coffee shop is quite the little tussling match on my end as I juggle both blanket and wriggling baby.
In my experience, an electric breast pump doesn’t fight you like a 6-month-old. Sure, it’s noisy and distinctively so—if you’ve heard one, you can pick that sound out anywhere—and my friend did mention that it was kind of distracting (even more so because this woman was meticulous about pumping every two hours). But I imagine it’s no more distracting that an actual baby doing its thing, right? And let’s consider the big picture: This is a mother doing what she has to do to make sure her baby is getting breast milk. Honestly, I’m kind of impressed. I don’t think I’d have the nerve to whip out a breast pump in a room full of strangers, even if I wouldn’t think twice about actually breastfeeding a baby in the same spot. And even if I did, I doubt I’d be relaxed enough to actually produce anything.
So I say kudos to you, public-pumping mother! I hope you read this because it’s not really the kind of thing I’d be able to acknowledge in public. A high five seems inappropriate. But really, I think pumping in public is seriously gutsy, and I don’t blame you for not wanting to sit in the bathroom for 10 minutes every two hours. You do you, mama.