In my opinion, one of the hardest things about a new baby is pumping at work as a full-time working mom. It’s a huge commitment and can be an inconvenience at times. That being said, I always planned to nurse my kids so I never considered other options – it is what it is.
Not only is it a huge commitment, but it also brings a certain amount of stress and worry that I think only pumping moms understand. Am I producing enough? Will my baby have enough to eat tomorrow? Do I have enough saved up in the freezer? Constant. Worry.
I successfully nursed and pumped at work for over a year with both of my boys. Having just gone back to work after the birth of our baby girl, pumping has become a regular part of my daily routine. Once again, I’ll be fitting regular pumping sessions in at work, washing the endless amount of supplies each night, and packing everything up again for the following morning. It’s certainly a process!
9 Things No One Tells You About Pumping At Work
Having to undress and be exposed, even if in a private room, can make you feel uncomfortable. Employers are required to provide a place for pumping mothers, but no matter how private it is there will be times you’ll question whether or not you remembered to lock the door and someone will walk in on you.
Consider your wardrobe
Going back to work post-baby may carry a certain amount of frustration as you struggle to fit into the clothes you once wore, but when you pump at work you’ll also need to consider this each morning while you’re getting dressed. You may want to wear tops that are easy to slip off your shoulders and save that blouse that’s tricky to button in the back since you’ll be forced to remove it multiple times throughout your day.
Additionally, if you’re not fond of nursing pads like me, you may want to carry an extra change of clothes just in case you leak through your shirt in the middle of the day.
Stick to your schedule
If you’re going to be successful at pumping at work, it’s important to stay as close to a schedule as possible. Set reminders and alerts so you don’t get busy and miss a session. And, be sure to let your employer, boss, and co-workers know what your schedule is so that it can be honored. You’ll have a little flexibility in your schedule, but keeping it regular makes it easier for you and your employer to maintain the same expectations.
Sticking to your schedule may mean suggesting alternative dates or times for meetings, or even missing them altogether. As hard as it might be to require others to work around your schedule, it is within your rights to pump at work, so don’t be afraid to speak up.
If you typically have a busy schedule, you may have to be very vocal about your need to pump. Let’s face it, engorgement hurts and you’re producing milk so your baby can eat the next day – when you need to pump be sure to say so.
If you don’t speak up, you’ll probably notice your level of focus and concentration shifts – you’ll be focused on pumping and worrying about your supply. It may be awkward to talk about, but maintaining your schedule and being vocal about your needs, in the end, will make you a more productive employee when you are working.
Some days, you won’t produce enough
Pumping is hard. On the days when you struggle to produce what you know your baby needs, you’ll find it’s even more difficult. It’s difficult on an emotional level and you may notice you’re more stressed or agitated on those days. When that happens, you may have to squeeze in an extra pumping session or dip into your freezer stash. For this reason, I suggest ensuring your freezer supply is well stocked so you’ll always have something to fall back on. It will ease your mind and won’t be as stressful when you know you’ve got some extra stored up.
At some point, you’ll forget the essentials
It’s bound to happen. You’ll get to work and won’t realize it until you’re getting ready to pump. Panic will ensue and you’ll scramble to determine your next move. If you’re lucky enough to be able to leave work to collect your missing pieces, no big deal; but for some, that’s not an option. You may have to skip your pumping sessions for the entire day (ouch). No matter how organized you are, it’s likely to happen at some point and you’ll have a miserable day.
You’ll have a moment to breathe
One positive to pumping at work is that you’ll have some time to collect your thoughts and breath, in peace. Everything moves just a little bit slower after you close the door to pump. You can use the time to check in on your baby or read a book. Some days, you can catch up on email and respond to some you’ve been putting off. Using your time to re-energize or regroup will help you feel like you accomplished something.
You’ll want to give up
Don’t. Stay strong. On those days when you just can’t stand to be hooked up to that machine again, push through. When you’re emotionally drained from the worry, tell yourself you can do it. It’s completely normal and understandable to have those moments of frustration. You’re doing it all for that sweet little baby, and it’s worth it.
It’s an amazing accomplishment
In spite of the challenging days and the inconvenience you’ll often feel, take a moment to stop and think about how amazing it is. You – your body – produce milk every day so your baby has what they need to survive. How amazing is that? Every day, and especially the hard days, be proud of yourself for this amazing accomplishment.
My must-have pumping supplies and accessories
- Breast Pump – First, before you purchase your breast pump, check with your insurance carrier. Due to the Affordable Care Act, many now cover the full cost of an electric breast pump. I have used both the Ameda Purely Yours and the Medela Pump In Style Advanced. Both of them were great, but I favor the Medela slightly more because it had a stronger suction and it was quieter.
- Hands-Free Nursing Bra – This is an absolute must-have for pumping at work. I didn’t use this until the second time around, and it was a game changer. Using this allows me to continue to work during my 20-25 minute sessions. It’s definitely worth the investment!
- Milk Storage Bags – I’ve used several different types of storage bags, including Medela, Lansinoh, and Nuk. I never attached mine directly to my pump, so the brand didn’t matter me and they are all about the same.
- Cooler – My Medela pump came with a small cooler to store the expressed milk while at work. It fit right inside the Medela carrying bag so I wasn’t bothered with carrying several different bags, coolers, and lunch boxes to work.
- Extra pump pieces and accessories – Be sure to keep some extra supplies handy, especially the small rubber valves as they tear very easily.
- Wet/dry bag – This is a new item I’m using with baby #3. Instead of washing all of the pieces between each session, I’m using a wet/dry bag to store the pieces in, in the refrigerator, so they’ll remain sterile until I can wash them at the end of the day.
- Cleaning wipes and towel for quick clean ups – So you’ll have something to wipe up any drips or spills.
- Recorded video and pics of baby – It’s the best way to get a strong letdown.
Do you have any tips for pumping at work or favorite supplies you’d like to share? Share in the comments section below!