If a baby is the fashion accessory of 2001, the breast pump is bound to be the personal electronic device of 2002. Even the best-dressed mommies (perhaps especially the best-dressed mommies) have got to work.
But where, oh where, to pump? Private offices are a thing of the past and few businesses offer even a cubicle where a woman can pump in peace. It is this dilemma that has forced many of us into the only semi-private sphere where a working woman can have some control: the car.
It is not uncommon for nursing working mothers to make a mad lunchtime dash for a car, plug into the cigarette lighter and pump away in the parking lot.
But not me. I pump on the road.
Sure, I could wait to pump until I get home, but that would mean getting so engorged that my breasts might explode all over the windshield, and that is not safe. And yes, I could pull over; but then I'd arrive home 20 to 40 minutes later, and that is time I prefer to spend with my baby, or, truth be known, asleep.
Surprisingly, few tasks are as compatible as commuting and pumping. First, they're equally boring. Each requires one hand and a fraction of one's brain power. But most important, they're both jobs that are impossible to delegate. Your husband or sister can pick up the dry cleaning, but they cannot pump your milk or assume your commute. Lastly, both tasks are improved immensely by a book on tape.
But, I must confess, the real reason I pump on the road is because it is deliciously subversive. When I power pump, as I've taken to calling it, I feel like I'm getting away with something. Responsible mothering offers few rebellious pleasures, and if I have to drive home standing on the accelerator with a funnel-shaped pumping flange hoovering my boob in order to experience this rebel joy, just call me "cc" Rider.
Not every mother will want to try power pumping, but for the intrepid members of the Class of 2002 who are compelled by either circumstance or cussedness to try it, I offer the following tips:
Dare I suggest the supersized gas-guzzling SUV or minivan? Forget the tonnage differential that flattens any vehicle that dares to jump the median strip and threaten the precious offspring. Ignore the fact that some of these behemoths come with factory-installed, fully integrated booster seats.
We power pumpers buy these things because they ride so high, no one can see if your nursing bra is open.
Unfortunately, what is missing from the nursing mother's arsenal is a serious commuter pump. The battery-driven breast pumps on the market now are a good start, but you have to be an octopus to use one while driving. You've got the funnels on your breasts, the suction tubes on the funnels, the bottles collecting the milk and a suction power knob so tiny that it can be difficult to control with a tweezer on a stable night table, much less with a free hand in the passing lane on the Friday before a long weekend.
What power pumping mamas really need is for Chrysler/Jeep to make a car with an integrated breast pump as a factory option. Freeway pumpers don't want flimsy or demure, we need push-button operation, dairy farm efficiency and a three-year/20,000-ounce warrantee. Something bulky, something rubberized -- imagine if that bucket seat really wrapped its arms around you and went right up under your shirt.
Laugh if you will, but the last thing you need is the whiplash of a 10-pound machine stretching your nipple all the way to the passenger seat floorboards in the event of a sudden stop. Experienced mothers know that if an infant can suck a nipple halfway down his windpipe, one's breast tissue will hold all the way to the floor mat -- we just can't guarantee that it'd ever snap back.
Sure, at least one company markets an alarming "Hands Free" nursing bra that's supposed to hold the pumping funnels in place for you. But, unless you're willing to walk around all day at work with three rubber bands pre-loaded into each cup of your brassiere, you're going to need to hold the funnel up to your breast to get the suction started.
Do not stretch your hand to hold 'em both up at the same time. Once the pump has created good suction, you might be able to let go for a second to take a swig from the ever-present water bottle, but you'll want to save one hand for the steering wheel.
Or you can do what I do: Pump with a T-shirt up around your neck going 70 mph at 2 o'clock in the morning. Then you know you're really getting away with something.