I feel awkward every time I take a break to pump milk at work

Sitting topless in the too-cold "family room" in my building, I cringe.

I feel awkward every time I take a break to pump milk at work

I pump breast milk for my baby in my lunch hour at work. Despite all the sparkly good-mama feels and my barely-contained urge to point out the impressiveness of my pre-pump bust line to passers-by, this labor of love becomes a daily festival of awkwardness for me. Because despite knowing how good breast milk is for my baby and being so happily cocooned in our very natural and beautiful breastfeeding relationship, I turn into squeaky-voiced Puberty Boy from “The Simpsons" when I have to pump. Every. Single. Time.

I don't know why this is. When I feed my baby at the breast I do it with pride. Two babies and three years of breastfeeding in, I've become quite the lactivist. My wardrobe is full of zippers, buttons, deep scoop necks and fabrics than can be pushed in any given direction at a moment's notice with a single free finger.


I'm on breastfeeding pages, I cheer new breastfeeding mamas on, and I've taken on strangers giving breastfeeding mothers the stink eye. I would not hesitate in any setting to whip out a mammary to feed my baby.

But, sitting topless in the too-cold “family room" in my building, I cringe. The room is stacked with spare office furniture and equipped with movement-activated lighting that dims after three minutes of anything less than the physical activity of a full gymnastics carnival. I'm meters from where I otherwise sit in meetings with senior executives, in the dark, and listening to the mergh mergh mergh of my obnoxiously loud pump whining like an overtired mechanical toddler. So discreet.

Why does it need to be discreet? Is it just me or is it society that has this hang up?

Despite proudly posting pictures to social media of nine liters of frozen expressed milk with the hashtag #normalizebreastfeeeding, I haven't told my supervisor or a single co-worker about spending my lunch times pumping. I have a friend with babies the same age as mine who pumps in her lunch hour, too, but she can say it out loud to people.

At lunch time, already feeling tense from doing the co-worker lunch date avoidance dance, I go and get my roast pork sandwich from the cafe at the bottom of my building. With gravy. (Yes, to eat with my feelings.) I ride the elevator to the family room floor and get countless odd looks from colleagues when I don't get out with them at our workplace floor.

I text my pumping friend: “How's your Wednesday? Just another day in the office here – topless and elbow-deep in gravy! [Winky-face emoji.]" Being a perennial farmer of awkwardness, I would love to see how my gravy joke might fly at a whole-of-branch meeting – ideally with external stakeholders present – but I just can't.

This inner conflict has gotten to me lately. What sort of Breastfeeding Normalizer am I if I can't even acknowledge to the people around me that I pump milk for my baby? I recently called myself out on it. Time to stop being such a bloody weirdo and just talk about pumping milk for my baby in the normal, matter-of-fact way it deserves.

The next day back at work, the guy who holds the key to the family room—to whom I have agonizingly and with much blushing disclosed the purpose of my family room visits—asks me how it went as I return the key. I look at my feet. I push my jaw forward and meet his eyes.

“Good day! 250 milliliters!" I force out in a semi-normal tone, and then realize he is actually just making small talk, and not actually querying the volume of milk I'd extracted from my breasts.

“Well done" he says, in a not weird at all way. I will myself not to make crazy eyes about the whole interaction. “Thanks," I smile, exhale, and wait calmly for the elevator. I wonder if tomorrow would be too soon to try my gravy joke on him.

These are the best bath time products you can get for under $20

These budget-friendly products really make a splash.

With babies and toddlers, bath time is about so much more than washing off: It's an opportunity for fun, sensory play and sweet bonding moments—with the added benefit of a cuddly, clean baby afterward.

Because bathing your baby is part business, part playtime, you're going to want products that can help with both of those activities. After countless bath times, here are the products that our editors think really make a splash. (Better yet, each item is less than $20!)

Comforts Bath Wash & Shampoo

Comforts Baby Wash & Shampoo

Made with oat extract, this bath wash and shampoo combo is designed to leave delicate skin cleansed and nourished. You and your baby will both appreciate the tear-free formula—so you can really focus on the bath time fun.

Munckin Soft Spot Bath Mat

Munchkin slip mat

When your little one is splish-splashing in the bath, help keep them from also sliding around with a soft, anti-slip bath mat. With strong suction cups to keep it in place and extra cushion to make bath time even more comfortable for your little one, this is an essential in our books.

Comforts Baby Lotion

Comforts baby lotion

For most of us, the bath time ritual continues when your baby is out of the tub when you want to moisturize their freshly cleaned skin. We look for lotions that are hypoallergenic, nourishing and designed to protect their skin.

The First Years Stack Up Cups

First year stack cups

When it comes to bath toys, nothing beats the classic set of stackable cups: Sort them by size, practice pouring water, pile them high—your little one will have fun with these every single bath time.

Comforts Baby Oil

Comforts baby oil

For dry skin that needs a little extra TLC, our team loves Comforts' fast-absorbing baby oil aloe vera and vitamin E. Pro tip: When applied right after drying off your baby, the absorption is even more effective.

KidCo Bath Toy Organizer

KidCo Bath Organizer

Between bathing supplies, wash rags, toys and more, the tub sure can get crowded in a hurry. We like that this organizer gives your little one space to play and bathe while still keeping everything you need within reach.

Another great tip? Shopping the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices—and follow along on social media to see product releases and news at @comfortsforbaby.

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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This is my one trick to get baby to sleep (and it always works!)

There's a reason why every mom tells you to buy a sound machine.

So in my defense, I grew up in Florida. As a child of the sunshine state, I knew I had to check for gators before sitting on the toilet, that cockroaches didn't just scurry, they actually flew, and at that point, the most popular and only sound machine I had ever heard of was the Miami Sound Machine.

I was raised on the notion that the rhythm was going to get me, not lull me into a peaceful slumber. Who knew?!

Well evidently science and, probably, Gloria Estefan knew, but I digress.

When my son was born, I just assumed the kid would know how to sleep. When I'm tired that's what I do, so why wouldn't this smaller more easily exhausted version of me not work the same way? Well, the simple and cinematic answer is, he is not in Kansas anymore.

Being in utero is like being in a warm, soothing and squishy spa. It's cozy, it's secure, it comes with its own soundtrack. Then one day the spa is gone. The space is bigger, brighter and the constant stream of music has come to an abrupt end. Your baby just needs a little time to acclimate and a little assist from continuous sound support.

My son, like most babies, was a restless and active sleeper. It didn't take much to jolt him from a sound sleep to crying like a banshee. I once microwaved a piece of pizza, and you would have thought I let 50 Rockettes into his room to perform a kick line.

I was literally walking on eggshells, tiptoeing around the house, watching the television with the closed caption on.

Like adults, babies have an internal clock. Unlike adults, babies haven't harnessed the ability to hit the snooze button on that internal clock. Lucky for babies they have a great Mama to hit the snooze button for them.

Enter the beloved by all—sound machines.

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As a mom, I say the phrase 'let me just…' to my kids more times a day than I can count.

Yes, I can help you log into your class, let me just send this email.
Yes, I can play with you, let me just make one more call.
Yes, I can get you a snack, let me just empty the dishwasher.

I say it a lot at work, too.

Yes, I can write that article, let me just clear my inbox.
Yes, I can clear my inbox, let me just finish this meeting.
Yes, I can attend that meeting, let me just get this project out the door.

The problem is that every 'let me just' is followed by another 'let me just'... and by the time they're all done, the day is over, and I didn't do most of the things I intended—and I feel pretty bad about myself because of it.

I wasn't present with my kids today.
I didn't meet that deadline.
I couldn't muster the energy to cook dinner.
The house is a mess. I am a mess. The world is a mess.

It's okay, I tell myself. Let me just try again tomorrow.

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