I’m not a breastfeeding mama anymore, but after breastfeeding both of my girls for 6 and 8.5 months, respectively, and pumping at work for 3 and 5.5 of those months, respectively, I feel like I have a few things to share (although I’m no expert). Breastfeeding is one of the hardest, most beautiful and beneficial parts of motherhood. It’s equally as challenging as it is rewarding and is the best thing we can ever do for our babies. Adding in having to pump at work creates a new layer of complexity. Truthfully, I wish I would have nursed Lady A longer than I did but my work schedule simply made it too challenging and I wasn’t committed enough to make it work. I stuck it out a little bit longer with Sweet E; her personality was one that needed the closeness… and maybe I did, too. I’m proud to say, though, that I had a stockpile of frozen milk leftover for each girl for months after I stopped breastfeeding and pumping so they could reap the nutritional benefit long after the physical relationship had ended. Here’s 10 things I did to make it work.
Breastfeed as Often as You Can
I would nurse my girls right before leaving for work in the mornings, right when I got home, and then again before bed… and, of course, if/when they woke up at night. Sure, I pumped a lot during the day but the closeness and “realness” of the breastfeeding experience was good for me, for them, and for my supply. Don’t think that just because you pump during the weekdays that you can’t physically nurse on nights, weekends, and holidays.
Try to Schedule Pumping at Times Your Baby is Usually Hungry
This will help you on the weekends and holidays since your body will be ready when your baby is. Sure, if your baby is super little, you might not be able to pump as many times as you need to in order to maintain this but try to stay as close to your baby’s habits as much as you can. That said, don’t stress about it. Your body will be ready for your baby.
Find a Comfortable Place
Did you know that federal law requires that your employer provide you with time and a private space that isn’t a bathroom so that you can pump? They also must provide a place to store your milk (even if it’s a community fridge). If your workplace doesn’t provide this, or you don’t know where it is, call your HR rep asap. With Lady A, I was fortunate to have an office without a window in the doorway so I could just pump there. Not everyone had an office, though, so we cleaned out a file room and put a chair and table in there for another new mom. I switched jobs when Lady A was just shy of a year old and so with Sweet E, my office walls were glass and so I used one of my company’s designated wellness rooms. I work for a baby company and so these rooms were designed for moms – complete with a chair, counter, sink, and fridge! Not every place has this luxury, of course, but make sure you have a space and don’t be afraid to ask for it.
Get a Cute Bag
I now own 2 breast pumps; the one that I bought with Lady A – it came in its own black carrying bag that screams I’m a breast pump! and the one I got through my insurance with Sweet E – it’s much smaller and doesn’t have its own bag. With Sweet E, I took my “Obama Pump” and put it, my bottles, and my pieces all in a super cute tote from Target. Unless you saw me get up and go to the wellness room 2-3 times per day, you would have never known what was in there. Don’t get me wrong, you have nothing to hide, Mama, but I personally didn’t want to draw attention to myself with an obvious pump bag.
Buy Extra Pump Parts and Bottles
I can’t tell you how many times I forgot a piece to my pump with Lady A. Panic seriously set in every time but I always managed to get creative and figure it out. I wised up with Sweet E and had a total of 3 sets of pump parts. One set stayed in the glove box of my car and the other two came to the office with me. One time I forgot the lids to my bottles (the horror!!) but, I didn’t fret; I just went to my car and got the lids to my spare set. Problem solved. I had to actually tap into that spare set a couple times. That said, keep some extra flanges in your pump bag; those little suckers like to get lost and/or left behind.
Bring a Photo
Sometimes if my milk wouldn’t let down, I would look at photos and videos of my babies on my iPhone to help that oxytocin flow and send my milk a-flowing as well. I’ve read this tip many times in many other blogs and can attest that it works.
Pump Until You’re Dry
I don’t mean “pump until your milk stops coming out on its own,” I mean pump until there’s nothing left. This is how I kept my supply up (and actually created an over-supply which helped me stockpile my freezer). While the pump was doing its thing, I would “help” it by squeezing out the milk in ducts that were higher up. I would literally use my hand and apply downward pressure towards the pump until nothing else came out. Then, I would do the same thing in a different area. I was able to yield a ton of milk that way and it also helped me go longer between pumping sessions. That said, if you are an over-supplied dairy cow like I was, invest in 8 oz bottles.
Store Your Milk Bottles Discreetly
This makes things easy on everyone. My milk went into the black Medela bag that came with my pump, on the top shelf in the back of the fridge. I would leave it unzipped so the cold air could get in freely. It looked like a lunchbox and fit right in. The only people who knew what was in that bag were moms who had been there before and/or dads whose wives/baby mamas had. Neither group of people were going to be uncomfortable or judgmental about it. Let’s be real, not everyone is okay with opening the fridge and seeing breastmilk. This shouldn’t be the case but it is. Storing mine this way was a win-win for everyone.
Don’t Be Embarrassed
I remember feeling embarrassed about pumping at work with Lady A, like it was a big secret. I hated having to wash all my pieces in the bathroom or kitchen sink. But, with Sweet E I realized that no one thought it was weird. I think social media has done a fantastic job in the effort of normalizing breastfeeding and, maybe I’m naive, but I think society is doing a better job of celebrating breastfeeding and pumping moms. You’re doing an amazing thing, Mama. Don’t sweat it!
Don’t Give Up!
Breastfeeding in and of itself is hard. Pumping at work makes it even harder. I wanted to quit so many times. It’s exhausting, I know. But, you’re doing the very best thing you could ever do for your baby, Mama. You can do this. Don’t give up for any reason other than you know it’s time. You can do it!
Do you have tips for pumping at work? Comment to share them below!