Are you a mom that is headed back to work to teach adapted physical education or physical education postpartum? Are you expecting or planning on having children while working an itinerant position? Do you know someone that is?
Going back to work after having my first child was difficult, especially as an itinerant adapted physical education teacher. I looked for articles like this to read from the view of an itinerant teacher or APE and came up with nothing. I looked at groups on Facebook and did not see much at the time. More and more teachers and specialists are sharing their insight on this topic.
As an itinerant teacher, I had a schedule that was somewhat consistent with being at certain schools for certain periods of the day. That being said, there were large chunks of my schedule that were unpredictable due to individualized education plans (IEPs), other meetings, and school special events. This meant I didn’t have a cute little Instagram worthy pumping room with a precious little fridge to store my milk or pump parts in.
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Below are some of my recommendations for pumping as an itinerant teacher.
Pumping Schedules and Rooms
Start by speaking with your schools and your director prior to going on maternity leave. I know your schedule is packed already trying to get IEPs and substitute paperwork wrapped up but this is important too. If you have a rough idea of your schedule, ask each school site you visit where you can pump in privacy at that time of day. Ask if you are able to use it for more than just that time of day. Having a designated spot at each site and seeing the layout of the room might help to reduce stress and anxiety about coming back to work.
When should I pump?
You may consider speaking with a lactation consultant prior to maternity leave to come up with ideas for potential pumping schedules and other information that might be necessary. I kept my pumping schedule as closely aligned with the times I was nursing my child at home on the weekends. I wanted to try and keep my body adjusted to the timing. Did that affect my previously scheduled service times? Yes. I did have to adjust my APE schedule slightly upon returning from maternity leave. All the special education teachers I worked with were willing to work with me to allow for moving a few students around on the schedule.
What should you look for in a potential pumping room?
This depends on your pumping equipment. If you have a cordless pump or fully charged battery pack, you may not need an electrical outlet. Most rooms will have an outlet unless you are in a closet or what used to be a closet (we know those are used more often than not at schools). Of course, know your rights when it comes to pumping in the workplace. You are guaranteed time and a private place to pump. Any of the stories that I share about where and how I pumped were by my choosing.
As an itinerant teacher, did you pump in your car?
Absolutely. Do I recommend it? This question I could answer differently every time I pumped. With my first pump, it was a Medela Pump In Style, similar to the one linked and in the picture.
I had a hands-free pumping bra to use and a nursing cover with a ridged neckline to cover and allow me to see what I was doing to set up. These pieces of equipment could be used in the car with an additional battery pack that uses AA batteries. I used rechargeable batteries. Or there is the additional option of plugging it in using the 9 volt lighter adaptor if your vehicle has that option. The battery pack does allow you to move somewhat around a room. Keep in mind you would be carrying around the bag and you have two bottles attached to you while trying to not spill a single precious drop.
I don’t want to discourage anyone with what I am going to say next. I just want to share my true opinion, because I wanted to hear all sides when I was looking for articles like this. I felt really uncomfortable trying to pump with that set up in the car. I felt like I was about to flash the world trying to get my equipment on. I had anxiety about getting pulled over and trying to explain what I was doing on my 20 minute commute to a different school. I especially didn’t like the way it felt to navigate a seatbelt, the cords, the bottles, etc.
For my second child, I purchased an Elvie breast pump.
This was the best purchase I think I have ever made. With my first child, I ended up exclusively pumping for 12 months. My second child was a mix of nursing and pumping. The Elvie was a complete mental game changer. I was finally able to pump without any anxiety outside of my home. I was able to sneak off to a room and put them on and sit at my desk in the communal space without anyone knowing that I was pumping. I attended IEPs while pumping. I didn’t feel like I was missing out on fun moments with my family or friends. I even taught some of my APE sessions wearing them! I will say you won’t be able to bend completely forward and touch your toes or do that same move to unload the dishwasher. You will be great at squatting at the end of your pumping journey. I want to reiterate, I was never forced to attend meetings while pumping. I know that all times could have been changed to accommodate my pumping schedule. I preferred to work while pumping using my Elvie pump (not any other pump).
What to pack in your pump bag:
There are hundreds of thousands of posts out there with what to pack in your bag like pump wipes and snacks. This paragraph is dedicated to the itinerant staff member. Create a reusable sign and always have Scotch tape and/or washi tape on hand to hang the sign on the door. I found some great pumping room signs on Pinterest that were free, printed them out and laminated one and used a clear page protector for another. Consider having some black felt in your bag that can also be used to cover up the small window that most school doors have. The felt is great because it’s not going to wrinkle or crease when you shove it down in the bag everyday. If you were at the same location daily this would be something you could leave there, but my guess is that if you have made it this far you are constantly on the move. These little touches will help make the experience less stressful.
When do you pack your pump bags?
Every night after the little ones had gone to bed, my husband or I would make sure to wash all my pump parts from that day. I had an additional set so that way as one set was drying, I was able to pack the other set for work the next day. It was crucial to me to have this done the night before. My husband left for work well before the kids woke up every morning. I had to get both kids ready for daycare and myself ready for work solo. There was no additional time for packing a pump bag in the morning. Each morning I would make sure to pull my PackIT bag out of the freezer for my pump parts and a medela freezer pack to put into the milk storage bag.
I hope that this post helps you, a friend, or a fellow teacher on their working momma pumping journey. Send me a message if there is something you want to know about for planning for maternity leave as an APE specialist like substitutes or my favorite postpartum clothing that made pumping easier.
This is so helpful. Passing along!
Thank you so much for passing this along! I hope it can help other traveling specialists make their transition just a little easier.