Sorry I have been MIA! I have had a combination of busy days, holidays, flex days, or at a conference, which is what this post is about.
Breastfeeding moms still need to maintain their professional education dammit! I have been to two local conferences since I went back to work. The first was a two day conference, and the second one (yesterday) was one day long. Because they were both local, I was not staying at the hotels where the conferences took place.
The conferences were from 8am to 4pm, so I needed to be able to pump during. I think I may have already talked in a post about how I handled the first conference. This was pretty soon after I returned to work, and it completely slipped my mind that I would need to pump while there. I called the day before and made arrangements. This time, I remembered much earlier, but I still called the day before. I think it is better to do that, because if you call too early, people will forget. Here are my recommendations for preparing to attend a conference where you will need to pump (and don't have a hotel room):
1. Call the hotel where the conference is being held the day before. Explain to whoever answers the phone that you are attending a conference there the next day and that you need a private area to express/pump breast milk. When I have called, I have needed to give a little explanation about pumping. As in, it is because I breast feed my baby, but no, I will not have the baby with me, and it will take about 15-20 mins. If you need an outlet and a refrigerator, let them know this as well.
2. Each time, the first person I talked to, while very nice and helpful, had no clue what to do with me. They asked each time if they could call me back. I received a return call each time within a couple of hours. By that time, they had made arrangements for me.
3. Here are the type of accommodations you can expect: The accommodations I received for each conference were different. For the first conference, they gave me a key to a hotel room that I needed to turn in at the end of the day. There was already a refrigerator and an outlet in the hotel room, of course. I was able to just scoot up to the room when I needed to pump. For the second conference, they put me in the coat closet. The closet had a door that could be closed and locked. They put a mini-fridge and a chair for me in the little room. They also put a note on the door that said, "Please don't open this door." They also put the same note on the fridge, which I thought was funny. The coat closet was really close to the room where my conference was being held.
4. Be nice to the hotel staff. Of course I don't assume that whoever reading this is an asshole or anything. I am just added this because I had to remind myself to be nice. Pumping is second nature to me now, but if a person has no experience with it, they truly don't know anything about it. So I tried to explain patiently without being indignant or demanding. For the first conference, they talked about how if they didn't have any available rooms, that I could pump in the bathroom. I think they were referring to the accessible (handicapped) stall, but I forget. I didn't want to do that, but I decided to just cross that bridge if/when I got to it. Luckily, I didn't have to deal with it. If they had not been able to provide a room, I might have just tried to brainstorm with them more to ask if there was *any* room in the hotel that wasn't a bathroom stall that was private that I could use. After all, the second hotel was able to set up a coat closet. If they still said that nothing was available, I probably would have contacted the organization that was holding the conference to see if they could help me.
5. Be clear about your needs and don't be embarrassed. You would think that I wouldn't be embarrassed at all to talk about pumping, seeing as though I shout it to the world (or approximately 15 people) on this website. But there is something awkward about talking to a complete stranger about your pumping needs. Just push through it. Like I said above, get the organization who is holding the conference involved if you need to. After all, you (or your employer) is paying them to attend the conference. They can help if needed.
That is about it! Each time, I scurried away three times throughout the day to pump. I stored my expressed milk and pump parts in the fridges and kept my pump in each room so I didn't have to lug it around. Having the actual hotel room was nicer, of course, because I could switch on the TV for the time I was pumping, and it was just better ambiance. BUT, the coat closet was perfectly fine, and it was really convenient to the room where my conference was being held, so I was away less.
As a closing note, I feel like I should divulge that both of my conferences were at Ritz-Carlton's. Any conferences I go to are always at much nicer hotels that I could ever afford! So, I am not sure if other hotels would be less accomodating. But I wouldn't think that the circumstances should be that much different.