How a Chef Pumps at Work

Not all breastfeeding mom journeys look the same.

Chef Deena at Work

*We’ve partnered with Teat & Cosset to make the back to work transition a little bit easier for breastfeeding moms.

When Deena Chanowitz returned to work a few weeks after giving birth to her first baby, there was no pumping room. She didn’t get a federally mandated pump break or have a place to clean her pump parts. As a private chef catering for some of New York City’s coolest events, fashion shoots and private parties, Deena has had to blaze her own working, pumping mom path, fitting in feedings and pump sessions wherever and whenever she can.

“It’s challenging finding a place to pump during the day,” she says. “Sometimes I pump in a car, or find a place to plug into the wall somewhere. People stare at me, and I’ve definitely thought about switching to formula. But I’m not giving up on breastfeeding just yet.”

mom on bed with baby

We know there’s so many women out there like Deena, with non-traditional jobs that require some creative thinking when it comes to breastfeeding or pumping. So we’re partnering with Teat & Cosset, one of the most beautiful nursing-friendly fashion brands out there, to celebrate those moms…and all the others out there that are committed to pumping when they return to work.

Below, Deena shares some of her pumping and working strategies, while showing off her Teat & Cosset style and her beautiful baby boy Judah.

Are you a pumping mom? Show us where you pump on Instagram for a chance to win an item from Teat & Cosset! Use the hashtag #thisiswhereipump and tag @wellroundedny!

Beautiful Colorful Vegetableswork colleagues chattingWhen did you start getting into cooking and food?
When I was growing up, my mom didn’t do a lot of cooking, so she let me try whatever I wanted in the kitchen. We lived in Israel and I loved experimenting with produce because it was fresh and affordable, which was pretty important for a family with 11 children. I used to go the market and get the end of the day’s produce, which was mostly vegetables, and I’d use whatever was available to create a meal. I started developing the style that I’m known for now: healthy food and colorful, artful presentation.

How did that evolve into the private chef business?
I was part of a large Hasidic Jewish family and didn’t really go to school — the easiest job to get without an education was at a restaurant. But after a few years of working in that industry, I didn’t feel fulfilled, so I decided to go back to school to focus on health and nutrition. I worked as a private chef on the side, focusing on clients had special dietary needs. I really want to help heal people through food, so I went back to medical school. I just took a year off to be with the baby but will head back this fall.

Mom working on computer on bed with babyMom Holding Newborn BabyBaby breastfeeding

With your health and nutrition background, did you know you wanted to breastfeed before you had Judah?
I was definitely going to breastfeed…without a bottle, without a pump, without a pacifier. That was part of the reason why I thought I needed a year off to be with the baby. People told me that breastfeeding would be difficult, but I couldn’t possibly have imagined what it would really feel like.

What was your early breastfeeding experience like?
I ended up having a harder time than I expected. The first week was really challenging — I was getting cut up and chafed, and had issues with the latch. I decided to pump to allow my nipples to heal, and supplemented with a little formula. It made me feel a little more relaxed. At the beginning, I didn’t get that much milk when I pumped, but a hospital grade pump changed everything. I was able to express more milk, unclog my ducts, and eventually get my milk supply back. My goal was to stop using formula, and I’ve been able to do that. Now I have a day’s worth of milk pumped for him. I give him a bottles and also breastfeed, and it’s been working for us.

Mom nursing on couchCute baby yawning

What was your plan for returning to work before you had Judah?
I initially thought I’d love to just sit around and hang out with the baby, breastfeeding on demand, but being home with the baby made me feel very isolated. I love my work, and going back has been good for me, especially since I’m able to leave him with breast milk. By working, I’m doing the best that I can as a mom and ultimately the right thing for my baby. And that’s good enough for me.

What are the logistics of pumping at work when you’re a chef?
Taking a pump break throughout the day is not easy. Time management is everything when you’re cooking, so I’ve been bringing an assistant with me so he can continue to work while I’m pumping. I’m also factoring in more time for each job so I can step out and pump. It’s more challenging than I ever thought it would be, and I definitely made some mistakes early on. I went back to work at 5 weeks, and was waiting like 6 hours to pump — at the end of the week my milk supply went down. Now I’m pumping more often. I’m learning and adjusting.

Pumping While CookingPumping in the KitchenMom kissing baby goodbye

How does the right outfit for pumping, feeding and working make all the difference?
I didn’t realize how much the clothing mattered, but it really makes such a big difference! I was recently pumping while wearing a shirt with buttons, and I had to open up my shirt completely and cover myself up with blankets — I felt like everyone was staring at me! I was so uncomfortable and my milk supply was lower. The next day, I wore a Teat & Cosset nursing shirt and I was so much more comfortable. I was able to pump while still feeling fully covered up and I got so much more milk! It was a direct correlation.

How is pumping on your job different than that of a traditional pumping mom?
When I’m home, and I’m able to pump while I’m at my laptop on my bed, or pump and cook at the same time, I can manage that. But when I’m on the job, it’s not like that iconic picture of someone sitting at a desk pumping behind a closed door. For me, it requires a lot more planning.

Putting breast pump in bagTeat & Cosset TunicHow has your breastfeeding perspective evolved?
My perspective around breastfeeding has shifted tremendously. Someone gave me the advice: Happy mother, happy baby. And right now, I’m happy. But I know that if i’m exhausted and for whatever reason i need to stop breastfeeding, that’s OK. In the meantime, I have to give myself a pat on the back, and recognize how much work I’m doing to keep pumping while I’m back at work. Now when i see a mom pumping, I give them a lot of credit.

Photography by Stylish & Hip Kids for Well Rounded.

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Jessica Pallay

Jessica Pallay

Jessica Pallay is Co-Founder and Editor of Well Rounded NY. She is a Brooklyn mama to Libby and Elsie, and writes about all things pregnancy and new motherhood.

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