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Productive Pumping Breaks

Productive pumping breaks

I’ve been wanting to write a post about how I used my pumping breaks back in Baby Year and beyond (I pumped until my daughter was 18 months), but I was too tired back then and never finished the draft I had started.

I’m keeping the title as it was, but reading “productive” and “pumping” actually makes my stomach turn inside out. Your pumping break is a break. It’s your right and you can relax and do whatever you want to do. But, in my case, I was getting back from maternity leave, everything had piled up, and I was only at work for 6 hours a day (8am – 2pm, which I later stretched to 2:30pm), in which I had to originally pump 3 times for 30 minutes (+ the time for washing hands and pump parts before and after), have lunch, and eat a bunch of snacks because my body just needed tons of fuel to nurse a baby.

So, I wanted to take advantage of my pumping breaks and catch up with something. Many times though, I just stared into space, scrolled on my phone, fiddled with pump parts sounding weird, or did the math of how many ounces I need to be able to pump to have enough freezer stash for going to Europe without baby for 5 weeks.

Here’s what I sometimes managed to do during these breaks:

  1. Read a paper: Many times, I’d pick a book, printed paper, or journal, and catch up on some reading with the gentle humming (or totally awkward noise, really) of the pump in the background.
  2. Reply 5 emails: Sometimes, I’d take my laptop and reply a few emails. Usually, I’d set a target (and draw checkboxes) in advance and once I’d be done with these 5 emails, I’d just space out.
  3. Edit something printed: I also often printed draft student papers or a thesis that needed feedback, and would scribble down my comments on the paper. Afterwards, I’d scan the pages and send my feedback. It usually took me many pumping breaks to get through anything (paper or thesis chapter), because have I ever on this blog mentioned how sleep-deprived I was in that year (and beyond)?
  4. Define a task before your break: Ideally, I’d check in with myself before the pumping break, and see what I thought would be feasible to finish within 30 minutes. If I didn’t really have a clearly defined goal, and often just click between emails trying to figure out which one to answer first and net getting much done at all. Or I’d space out or scoll on my phone.
  5. Treat it like a pomodoro: Given the time period of a pumping break, one could consider it a pomodoro. But, I must be honest and admit that never worked for me. Part of my brain was always tracking ounces, listening to the sound of my pump to see if there were any indications that something needed repairs, and there’s the physical discomfort associated with it. I was also always super afraid of contamination, so never had food around, always had my hands and relevant pump parts washed and cleaned before and after. Lots of stuff going on, and my bandwidth for really focusing on work would be limited.
  6. Relax and meditate: Or just space out or scroll on your phone. Because pumping is hard enough, why try to work through these breaks anyway?

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