When I went back to work following the birth of my son, I was a little apprehensive about the whole pumping thing. I had pumped at home a little- basically enough to have a small stash of milk to start him off at day care- so I wasn’t overly nervous about the pump itself… but I had my concerns about the act of pumping. In the workplace. And how is that going to work exactly? I learned a lot during that first at-work pumping experience, and now that I’m on kid #2, I’m learning even more. So here are some practical tips that have helped make the whole pumping situation just a bit easier.
1. Find out WHERE you can pump.
When I was pumping with my son, my office did not have a dedicated pumping room or anything even remotely that awesome. I talked to my manager, and she was extremely understanding and accommodating and set me up in an empty office. It even had a lock! And a fridge! I got bumped from the office a handful of times, which was annoying, but they always had a different space that I could use for those rare instances. Having a dedicated place to pump was a relief. I set it all up before going on maternity leave, and I’d recommend you do the same- that way you have one less thing to stress about when you get back to work. (By the way, if you ask your manager/boss/whatever and they tell you to pump in the bathroom- DO NOT TAKE THAT ANSWER. You don’t have to pump in a bathroom!). This time around, my office building now has a dedicated pumping room (HOW AWESOME IS THAT?!), so I made sure to check it out and read the rules, and that’s where I pump now (for the record, I think every office should have one of these).
2. Pick a pumping schedule that works for you.
I was a little freaked out when EVERYTHING I read said to pump as often as your baby feeds, or at least 3-4 times during the work day. “WOW!” I thought. “I’ll be pumping all day!” As it turns out, for me at least, that was totally unnecessary. I got just as much milk from 2 pumping sessions as I was getting from 3… and 4 was just out of the question- no time for that! In fact, I might even wager that I got MORE milk from my fewer pumping sessions. Bottom line is, figure out what works for you and go with it! I never saw any impact to my supply by pumping just twice while I was at work, so I was completely comfortable with my pumping schedule, which leads me to my next point…
3. Try not to stress— relax!
Pumping is already a little weird and stressful, but try, try, try to not make it any more so by freaking out over pumping times or ounces stored or anything else. You can really do a number on your confidence if you start second guessing yourself too much and beating yourself up over how much milk is accumulating in those little bottles. I liked to start off by looking at pictures of my kid (because I found that helps get things going, and I mean, my babies are cute- plus who DOESN’T like to take a break in the day to look at their kid??), but then once I was pumping away, I either put the pictures down and tried to get some work done or else I pulled out my kindle and started reading. Both activities took my mind off the milk machine and let me really relax, which of course is better for pumping, too. Just don’t get so relaxed that you forget to check in on the pump every so often. I may have forgotten a few times, only to be reminded by wet pants caused by overflow…ooops (yes, true story… and I wish I could say it only happened once)!
3. Place calendar placeholders for pumping time
This was a big help for me. Once I figured out when I wanted to pump, and what worked the best, I created “meetings” on my calendar to reserve those time blocks. This helped when scheduling “real” meetings so I wouldn’t forget and schedule over my pumping time. It also helped for when I was knee deep in something and lost track of time- my calendar would remind me to go pump! Most of the time, my day fills up pretty quickly and the time begins to evaporate…without my pumping time reserved in advance, I would have had a much harder time making pumping a priority.
4. Pump when supply is highest
For many people (and this was true for me, too), supply is highest in the morning. Make sure you get in a good pumping session during this window!! I like to pump within an hour of getting to work, before a ton of people get in and things start to get crazy. I normally can get a good haul during this session, too, which takes the pressure off for the rest of my day.
5. DRINK WATER
This was key for me keeping up my supply. If I noticed I wasn’t getting as much milk as I wanted, I would think about whether I had been drinking much water that day. Normally, I hadn’t been. Once I upped my water intake, I found my production rebounded. Not quite sure why, but it never hurts to hydrate!
6. HANDS FREE PUMPING BRA
Let me repeat. Hands. Free. Pumping. Bra. Yes, you need one. It’s a total game changer. You can find them at local boutiques, the big baby stores, and online. They are not that expensive, and they are COMPLETELY worth it.
7. Accumulate lots of storage bottles/bags
I really like the storage bottles that came with my pump. But, because I generally get more than 4oz a side during my first pumping session of the day, I have to empty/transfer the milk to another bottle or storage solution mid-session. If I was planning to freeze the milk when I got home, I’d transfer directly to a milk freezer bag instead of a bottle (one less step for me to take at home!). If the milk was just going to stay in the fridge, I’d transfer it to another bottle (one that didn’t hook to my pump).
8. Wait to wash your pump and bottles
When I first started pumping at work, I would rinse/wash my pump and used/empty bottles after every-single-session. That got to be time consuming. Now, I just unscrew my bottles from the pump, put the lids on, and store the bottles in the cooler/fridge with the rest of my pumped milk (regardless of how much milk is in those most recent bottles). If those bottles have less than 4oz, I just use them the next time I pump and fill them up (changing them out as needed during the next pumping session). For the pump pieces that had been exposed to milk, I put them in a plastic baggie and place them in the cooler/fridge with my milk. This keeps them “safe” to use next pumping session without a wash in between (side note- this will make the pump parts cold! You may want to warm them up before using them again- a warm washcloth works well!).
Well there you have it! Armed with these tips, I’ve been able to successfully maintain my breastfeeding relationship with my kids. Do you have any tips for pumping at work? I’d love to hear!