Back when I was pregnant I was very confused about how pumping at work could possibly go. I knew employers in France were required by law to give you an (unpaid) hour to pump or breastfeed (if there’s a company nursery for example), but as a teacher, that’s a joke. I mean where exactly in your schedule are they going to slide that hour?
When I got my schedule last summer I immediately calculated which times I would theoretically have enough time to pump, not knowing yet how long it would really take or where I would be doing it. My schedule this year works out pretty well, in that I never have more than three hours of class in a row without a long break.
Here is how pumping, as a teacher in a lycée in France, has turned out.
I got a prescription from my midwife the first week of Littlest’s life for a Medela Symphony double pump that I rent from the pharmacy. It’s 100% paid for by the sécu so I pay nothing. I did have to buy what they call the “kit,” which is the reusable plastic bits that hook onto the expensive machine, including two 5-ounce bottles.
I bought two milk coolers from Amazon. They’re really convenient and quite compact, with ice packs that fit in built-in pockets. They’re supposed to stay at fridge temperature for up to 8 hours.
I’m currently putting the milk into Avent brand plastic bags. I go through them quickly at three or four per day, so I’m hoping after the Ireland trip (when I won’t be freezing them anymore) to use mostly bottles.
I also bought a little plastic caddy to carry the kit pieces around when they’re dirty.
Finally, I bought some dish soap and a sponge.
I leave the pump, caddy, bags, sponge, soap, and kit in the pumping room, along with a big plastic bag and a ball point pen (for marking the bags). I leave a tall tupperware container on the counter of the teachers lounge kitchen space.
I also have lots of cute pictures of Littlest on my iPhone that I look at toward the beginning of each pumping session, because they’re supposed to help with let-down. I don’t think I actually need them, but they make me smile.
I pump three times a day for now, for twenty-ish minutes, during my breaks. Up till this last vacation I had class twice a week from 1:35 to 4:20, which meant I didn’t really have time to fit in a third pumping session before going to get the baby at 5. Fortunately since last vacation my schedule has changed just enough that I now pump in the morning, at noon or 1, and at 3:30.
It does take up a significant amount of my work time—about an hour. Fortunately I’m good at time management, but it’s true that it takes dedication.
I now pump in an empty office near the teacher’s lounge, and one of the secretaries put a schedule on the door for me, so it says it’s reserved at the times I’m typically in there. (If I’m there at a different time, I put a heavy box in front of the door just in case.)
I use the teachers lounge fridge. I’ve got a tall tupperware container marked “Please do not touch” that I put the filled bags in during the day, in the fridge. I put my ice packs in the freezer compartment and leave the empty cooler on the counter where other people leave lunch boxes.
After pumping, I throw all the used plastic bits into the caddy, put them into a plastic bag, and put it in the fridge along with the bag I’ve just filled with milk. I then wash the kit parts in the bathroom sink after my last pumping of the day and leave them to dry on some paper towels in the empty office.
To and From
So in the morning I arrive with an empty cooler, and put the ice packs in the freezer compartment of the lounge fridge. In the afternoon I take all the filled bags out of the tupperware container in the fridge and put them in my cooler, which I then take to the nanny’s, unless J is picking him up that day, in which case they go to her the next morning (hence the need for two coolers).
I do carry bags of breast milk to and from the teachers lounge and the empty office. No one seems to notice.
I am thrilled with this system and so happy it’s working out. Despite the laws in place to help breastfeeding moms, I think this could have turned out much more difficult. I wouldn’t have been too excited about trucking the pump back and forth every day, for example.