New Mom Pumps Breast Milk While on Arctic Expedition
Returning to work right after having a baby is a big adjustment. Perhaps no one knows that more than Adele Reinking, who embarked on an Arctic expedition just seven months after welcoming her son. It wasn’t easy, especially when you factor in pumping breast milk in below 50 degree temperatures, but the new mom wouldn’t trade her experience for the world. Her secret to success? Keeping her eyes on the prize. “Pumping in the Arctic was inconvenient to say the least, but I always tried to keep in mind why I was doing it.”
Finding the Perfect Pump
Reinking is a wildlife research biologist at Colorado State University’s Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere. A few months after her son was born, the researcher headed back to work using a traditional wall-plug breast pump. But in addition to her office gig, a regular part of Reinking’s job consists of field science research, something she wasn’t sure she’d be able to do while still pumping milk. At first, it seemed like there were just too many factors keeping her from an 11-day expedition. The biggest obstacle standing in her way—breastfeeding.
“Breastfeeding my son was hugely important to me,” she exclusively tells The Bump, and she was starting to think the Arctic was off-limits for nursing moms. How was she going to survive pumping breast milk while in the Arctic facing severe conditions? One thing was certain, her manual breast pump wouldn’t cut it.
She needed something compact and battery-powered that would operate under her layers of clothing while she worked in the chilling temperatures. That’s where the Willow came in. “I was so happy when I discovered that the Willow pump would even work in sub-zero temperatures, and the battery life didn’t seem to be affected by the cold, which was a big concern of mine,” she says. Once she found the perfect pump, she put in a lot of extra work making milk to ensure her son had a big enough supply to last while she was gone—400 ounces to be exact. With that taken care of, she was off to Arctic Alaska.
A Mom on A Mission
Reinking quickly fell into a pumping schedule upon her arrival in the polar region. “I always thought of my son while I was pumping to keep myself motivated. I even hung up photos of him in our tent every night and took them down every morning when we broke camp,” she says. “I ordered extra parts so that I could pump throughout the day, and then just do my washing at night. Having the internal bags also helped to streamline the process.”
Yet, the mom would be remiss if she didn’t call out the many curveballs that were thrown her way. For starters, it took some time for her supply to regulate after producing so much leading up to her departure. “It wasn’t the same as feeding my boy, of course, and I did struggle with clogged ducts and painful lumps at times,” Reinking says. The mom was constantly worried about mastitis, but fortunately, her clogged ducts always resolved.
It wasn’t easy, but the working mom managed to make it to the finish line. “Some women get a lot of joy out of breastfeeding, but I don’t think I’m one of those. The bonding is wonderful, but it’s unbelievable the amount of time and energy that is required to breastfeed and pump,” she admits. “Being a mom is the hardest job I’ve ever done—much harder than surviving and working at 50 below. I hope this story helps other mothers feel like they can achieve their breastfeeding and pumping goals, whatever they are, but also to recognize their achievements if their path doesn’t end up looking exactly like what they had envisioned.”
And although her steadfast dedication is what pushed her through, she wouldn’t have been able to do it without the support of those around her. “This would not have been at all possible without my family, friends and colleagues. Everyone was so encouraging, and did everything they could to help me achieve this," she reflects. “I felt supported by all of the women and all of the men in my life. I want to emphasize how amazing the men—my dad, husband, supervisor and mentor, colleagues, father-in-law and friends—were in furthering my goal of pumping while in Arctic Alaska. I feel very lucky to have such wonderful people around me.”
With their support, the mama was able to fulfill her dreams as a mother and a professional.
Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.
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