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How to Pump at Work (Without Embarrassing Yourself)

You’re breastfeeding, and in a few weeks you’re going to be moving your “center of operations” out of the living room and into the workplace.

STOP EVERYTHING.

Think that over for just a sec.

Your breastural region is going to be stretched twice it’s normal size by a strange contraption in an extremely awkward position. There’s a high chance of  wardrobe malfunctions, poorly timed leaks, and coworkers who never knock.

Don’t just try to sail into this.

Those “Little Ladies” have a mind of their own.  (Speaking from experience, here…can you tell?)

They really don’t care that you have a presentation in 10 minutes…or that your 7th grade class is mostly pubescent boys….or that you’re the only woman on the 3rd shift.

You need to return to work prepared for a boobie blitzkreig. 

Gather Your Emergency Milk
Disaster Prevention Kit

Preparation.

The first rule of disaster survival.

Clear out a drawer, friend.  It’s time to put together your Emergency Milk Disaster Prevention Kit. Inside this drawer, locker, bag, whatever, will be everything you need to conduct your pumping sessions as quickly and inconspicuously as possible.

Remember:  “Prevention is worth an ounce of cure being able to look at your coworkers in the eye.”  So stock your nursing drawer!

 

1. Keep a stash of thick burp cloths like these.  When you’ve finished, your nipples are going to be wet and needing something more gentle than sandpaper towels and disintegrating Kleenex to mop up.  (Just don’t forget to bring them home to wash them!  Sour milk isn’t a nice Eau de Cologne…)

2. Invest in a heavy-duty breast pump.  This is not the place to skimp.  Borrow and sterilize or splurge for   If you’re going to be pumping at work, you’ll need to go big or go home (literally).  You can purchase a hands-free machine like this…or you can fill out this short form and let Aeroflow file the paperwork to get you a really nice breast pump for free. *wink*

3. Bring a healthy stash of nursing pads (these are a favorite).  Because wadded up toilet paper is for 4th graders. 🙂

4. Pick up an extra nursing coverThis cleverly-designed cover also doubles as a stylish scarf! (You Nursing Ninja, you!)  At some point or another you’re going to forget to lock the door and that light piece of cloth is the only thing between you and 59-year-old Joe’s next heart attack.

5. Most breast pumps come in a standard boring “I pump my breasts at lunchtime” black duffle bag.  NO ONE is going to guess there’s a milking contraption hidden inside this gorgeous breast pump satchel.

6. Bring along good milk storage bags to transport the milk home easily and with the peace of mind it won’t spill all over the papers you’re bringing home.

7.  Ditch the traditional breastfeeding bras and choose a comfortable hands-free pumping bra like this one.  You’re going to feel somewhat like a milk cow, but hey, what’s new?  At least you’re a comfortable milk cow…

8.  Store away a neutral colored blouse (that will go with anything) in your desk.  Trust me.  Having an extra shirt that matches everything may be the best tip you read on this page.

9.  The standard pumping shields are designed to to shoot straight, which means you can’t lean back or milk will spill everywhere.  These angled shields are heaven sent.  (I always had to sit completely straight up – like I was posing for some twisted Victorian painting. …le milker… It felt so awkward and killed my back!)

How to Stay Classy
(While Pumping at Work)

Besides your Emergency Milk Disaster Prevention Kit, here are a few more helpful suggestions to keep it classy (as your nipples are taffy-stretched).

  • Return from Cracked Nippleville before returning to work.  It’s almost impossible to wear nipple shields and not look like a Fembot, so take my nipple healing advice and do your Austin Power’s cosplay at home.
  • Look for professional shirts that can be easily adjusted to pump. You want something that has buttons up the front or can be lifted from the bottom without over-stretching.  Non-cooperative clothing can make pumping milk at work a disaster.  It could cause the pump to slip, letting you spray milk all over the report you’re presenting in 3 minutes.  (Ignore those stains, Mr. Chairman.  That’s just my breast milk.)
  • Always have a giant water bottle, a relaxing book, and a photo of your sweet little baby to look at.  They will help you set aside the stress of work and allow your body to letdown.  Also helpful, is to try escaping into the most beautiful places on earth. 

Other Tips for Pumping
at Work Successfully

Besides putting together your “Emergency Milk Disaster Prevention Kit”, here are some other tips to help your pumping at work be as easy and painless as possible.

Make Sure You’re Using the Right Size

Size matters.  

After purchasing your breast pump, have a lactation consultant help you make sure the standard hardware is a good fit for your areolas.  The wrong size will lead to breastfeeding and milk production problems.

Two is Better Than One

Firstly, once you’ve settled on the perfect size, buy two sets of all tubing, shields, and cups.  This way you won’t have to sterilize during the evening Zombie time.  Just slip the used equipment into the dishwasher/sterilizer in the morning and bring the fresh set with you to work.

Zombified Secrets to Quick Pump Cleaning

Perhaps it’s just  me, but my evenings after work were like the walking dead. Cameron and I developed a whole new language based completely on grunts.

Use these “Zombified” tips to keep your breast pump sanitized and ready for the morning commute.  (Promise! They require absolutely no brainpower!)

  • Put the used pump parts in a plastic bag and store in a cooler or in the office fridge (have mercy on your awkward male coworkers and put it in a paper bag) immediately after being used.  This keeps the milk from going bad while you’re finishing up the work day.
  • Use these quick sanitizing wipes for any spills on the desk and to quickly sanitize equipment before stashing back into your travel bag.
  • In the evening, the fastest way to deeply sanitize the tubing and other parts is to use these quick sanitizer bags in the microwave.  One bag is good for 20 uses!
  • Every weekend, soak the pieces overnight in soapy water.  This loosens up any milk that has gotten caught or dried in the little nooks and crannies.  Wash and air dry or through in the dishwasher for a mega-clean to start the week off sparkling!

Pumping at Work is Exhausting…
Clear the Evening of To-Do’s

The back-to-work adjustment for a breastfeeding mom is a toughie.

Firstly you have all the physical arrangements to work out. (Hopefully this post has helped with those!)

Then there are all the emotions of actually going back to work and leaving your baby at daycare.  It’s rough for both of you.  It’s very normal during this period for a baby to wake up at night more, wanting those extra calories and mom-cuddles.

For this reason, if you can, see if you can come back to work on a Wednesday (rather than a Monday).  This way there are only a few days of work before a weekend respite.

When the time comes, give yourself extra levels of grace and (most importantly) outsource as many chores as you can.

Get Rid of the Grocery Store Grumps

If you haven’t yet discovered the tear-jerking relief of getting your groceries delivered.  NOW’S THE TIME.

  • Peapod’s lime green trucks always make me smile when I see them puttering around the neighborhood. I know some exhausted mom is giving herself a break!
  • If Peapod isn’t in your area, Safeway is another great alternative. (Use code EASY7 for free shipping!)
  • Amazon Prime Fresh is another new way to avoid stopping one more place on the way home. Learn more about Amazon Fresh here. 

Grocery shopping at the store is for parents who have sleeping children.  Online grocery shopping takes one more heavy stone out of your backpack.  Fill your virtual grocery cart right there at your desk, during lunch while you’re pumping away, and get them delivered the next evening (or in some cases, that night!).

Skip the “What’s for Supper” Panic

I understand that there are a few women out there that can grab a can of tuna, a box of craisins, frozen peas, and a loaf of stale bread and turn it into something amazing.

I am not that gal. 

I need a PLAN. And don’t give me “Taco Tuesday” and “Spaghetti Saturday”. BOOOORRRING.

I’m just enough of a food snob to make my life incredibly harder than it actually has to be. At least, I used to make it harder, but then I discovered the wonder of outsourcing the planning.

If you’re looking for a smarter way to get food on the table, let me recommend a few things:

  1. Healthy Kids – Click and drag healthy family-friendly meals into a plan, and get all the videos and grocery lists you need to go with!
  2. eMeals – If picking the meals sounds like it will take too long, just tell eMeals the type of food you want to cook (or where you want to shop for groceries, i.e. Aldis, Walmart, etc.) and they will email you a weekly meal plan! Try it for free for 14-days and see what you think!
  3. HelloFresh – This is the perfect option if you’d rather not meal plan OR grocery shop! You select the meals, they send you a box full of everything you need to make your dishes! (Read my review of HelloFresh here for more details.)

It’s shocking how much Meal Preparation can jack up our stress level! If you’re trying to ease back into a job while balancing the needs of a baby…I would recommend seriously considering some help with your food planning and preparation.

You will be SOOO glad you did.

Sometimes the Best Things Aren’t Easy

Deciding to continue to breastfeed when you go back to work isn’t a guarantee that you’ll be able to. Pumping at work is a lot of extra effort, and pumping is not the same as a babe-on-breast.  You may find your supply needs a boost.

So it’s always good to enter this next phase of your breastfeeding career with a few hard questions:

  1. How committed are you to keep breastfeeding?
  2. What is your age-goal before you decide to wean?
  3. Do you have any major work trips or projects coming up? You may want try to pump a little extra unless your milk supply begins to drop during that period.
  4. What happens if you just can’t continue and have to switch to formula. Are you still a good mom? (Hint: Yes. Yes you are.)
  5. Do you have a healthy formula already in mind for when you’re finished (whenever that may be). There are lots of brands out there, along with a few you haven’t heard of: European formulas and Goat’s Milk Formula (shown to be digested similarly to breastmilk.)

Also, don’t forget that you may need to slip in an extra feeding at night to keep your milk supply high! Go ahead and slip in there right before you go to bed and give her a feeding. She will love the extra cuddles, and you get to extend your “sleep time” before having to get up again for a feeding anyway!

So there. You’ve got all that you need to be a Rockstar Breastfeeder AND World’s Best Employee at the same time.

Not bad! You should probably ask at least one of your bosses for a raise. (I’d start with the one in diapers.)

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18 thoughts on “How to Pump at Work (Without Embarrassing Yourself)

  1. I had a nurse recommend Fenugreek to me to help increase milk supply.  I take 16 total a day – 4 at midnight feeding, and 4 at each meal during the day.  I went from pumping 2.5-3 oz every 3 hours (barely enough to satisfy my 2 month old) to pumping just over 5 oz every 3.5-4 hours in less than a week.  This vitamin can do a number on your tummy though so I also recommend starting a probiotic unless you eat a lot of yogurt!

    1. Good suggestion, Jennifer! I used Fenugreek as well, to good effect. I just would throw in a reminder to always go over things like this with your lactation consultant or OBGYN to make sure it won’t interfere with other medications you are also on. Thank you!

  2. Do you have any suggestions about increasing milk supply? There seem to be so many different things to try, and I need a little boost. Back to work, and pumping and mostly keeping up, but if I could pump a bit more, it would really be helpful and I could avoid having to supplement. Thank You so much for all the great tips, and humorous way of looking at all this fun us mama’s are having!

    1. Aimee,

      The biggest thing, and you probably already know this, is to stay hydrated. Not a surprise but it can be hard to accomplish. I know I always felt that staying hydrated meant running to the restroom every hour and who has time for that?!
      Also, with the transition to work comes added stress which can make it hard to produce as much milk. Try to say “no” to extra activities when you have a choice at least for the next month. You will need that extra rest time to help your body adjust.
      Some people feel like the Mother’s Milk tea helps so you could give that a try.
      Keep up the good work, mama! Pumping isn’t easy but it’s wonderful that you are doing this for your little one.

  3. Pumping now for my 2nd child… With my first, I quickly realized I needed some sort of pumping bra – and got the more expensive type. Wish I would’ve read that suggestion about using an old sports bra then, which actually could be worn all day. The expensive one is too bulky, obvious, and not supportive enough to be worn all day, though after pumping for nearly a year and now again for my 2nd, it’s definitely given me my money’s worth… I may still consider that other suggestion, so I can wash it more often, and maybe even just be able to wear and not have to add another bra on top of my nursing bra…

    Thanks!

  4. My wife and I just had our first child. Unfortunately, my wife can’t stay home with my child because we’re tight on money. I’m going to show my wife these tips. She’ll have to breast pump at her work. I think the most important thing is preparation.

  5. I love this!!  Starting to get the pumping at work down (I think).  But I love your tips on doing less in the evenings and meal planning, etc.  So nice to read about it from someone who clearly “gets it!”

    1. Thanks Lynsey! I’m so glad it can be helpful. It’s a challenge, but once you get into a rhythm it will get so much easier! xo

  6. Good Article. I was lucky enough to have a lactation room at work; nothing fancy, just a recliner with a small side table and electrical outlet. The problem I had and will have with going back with baby #2 is making pumping a priority without being seen as a slacker (being late to the 11:00 meeting because I’ve been in meetings since 8:00 and if I don’t pump right now there’s going to be a milk explosion in this office!!!)

    Also, a tip for anyone, skip the expensive nursing bra and cut two small holes in an old sports bra. This only works for the shields that detach from the valves, not the type thats all one piece. I used this at work all the time.

    1. Nicki – that’s so nice you had a lactation room! Sounds like a haven where you can sit back in the recliner and relax for a little while. It is hard for the (typically unmarried) male gender to understand the physical requirements of breastfeeding. Perhaps they think that boobs just continue to swell and swell until we’re floating on the ceiling… lol Love that tip about the old sports bra! Brilliant!

  7. Heather,

    THIS WAS GREAT!!!!

    I giggled at this post because I experienced the male co-workers not knocking on my door… even though it was locked! I had to start putting a sign that said, “Do not disturb. Conference call in session.” That way, no one knew what I was really up to and dared not enter. I loved the list of essentials. I never had any malfunctions but I could have! Way to help new moms think ahead!!

    Ann 🙂

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