Listen up, breastfeeding warrior mommas. Breastfeeding is a full time job. Carrying for an infant, and yourself, and any other humans/fur babies/love ferns you keep alive is also a full time job. Tack that on to going back to work at (albeit paycheck earning) full time job, and it feels like you’ve worked 4 full days each day because you basically have!
Pumping at work is hard. It is not fun. It is a mess. It can be awkward. Challenging. Sticky. Drippy. Time-consuming. Frustrating.
But it can also be a needed, built-in break to your day. A sweet time to think about your baby for a little bit. A good excuse to miss out on meetings or just step away from the screen. And it can make you feel like a bad-ass who can multi-task and get shit done.
You just need to be mentally and physically prepared. You just need a plan!
Here is what I’ve found to work while I’m at work:
*A well-stocked pumping bag and extras
*A place to pump
*A place to store your precious milk
*Cleaning supplies and drying area
*Snacks on snacks on snacks
*Big ol’ water bottle
*And, toss in an extra cardigan or scarf to cover up any potential leaks.
Schedule: A few weeks before you head back to the workforce, figure out a sustainable schedule for pumping. Ideally, you will pump when your baby is eating. Ideally. Unless you’re very fortunate, this may not be the case. Whatever your schedule will be, start to move towards pumping or breastfeeding as close to that schedule as possible during the day. (On that note, make sure your babe is comfortable with taking a bottle from his or her caregiver.) It may take a few days for your supply to regulate, and the last thing you need is to spring a leak on your first day back in the office. Once you have a schedule, stick to it as closely as possible every day.
Place: Once you have a schedule mapped out, you’ll also need to carve out some physical space for pumping, supplies and cleaning/drying.
By law, your employer must provide you with “reasonable” time and a place (NOT a bathroom – so much eww) to pump. If possible, go scope out that place beforehand and determine what is has and doesn’t have for you. It should have a table, chair, and outlet at minimum. And a locking door. Stash some paper towels and sanitizing wipes there if you can, if not, toss some of both in your bag.
I packed all my supplies in a bag, which I keep on a shelf. I keep a few extra bottle caps, because I always seem to forget those, and freezer bags in case I forget bottles all together.
Cleaning: Find a sink where you can immediately rinse out your pump parts. Yes, you can keep everything in a baggie in the fridge until next use, but milk is sticky and may interfere with pumping on the next use. I like the Medela Quick Clean Breastmilk Removal Soap, 6 OunceMedela Soap to u
se at the end of each day, and Soraco Baby Bottle Drying Rack Countertop GreenDrying Rack to let the pump parts dry in between sessions.
Storage: I have a personal fridge by my desk fortunately, so my co-workers don’t have to rummage through bottles of bodily fluid looking for their tuna salad sandwiches. I also bring a small lunch box and Ice Packs for transporting the milk home each day. You can certainly buy the coolers made for bottles specifically, but I used a lunch box I already had and purchased those freezer packs which fit nicely in the lunchbox.
This allows me to run errands after work and not worry about the milk spoiling, or, more frequently, gives me a grace period for when I forget the milk in my work bag until 10 o’clock that night and I go on a cussing rampage about how I almost ruined Little Foot’s lunch for the next day.
Snacks, Water, Extra Clothes: If you’re already breastfeeding, you know there is no hunger like breastfeeding hunger. In fact, I think the term, “Hangry” was actually coined by a breaskfeeding mother. Keep ample snacks on hand, because the hangry will strike. I like granola bars, string cheese, crackers and those little guacamole minis, and anything chocolate.
Get yourself a big ass water bottle and refill it several times throughout the day.
Keep at your desk a jacket or cardigan or scarf or muu muu…something neutral that could go with most outfits. You’ll definitely drip milk or leak on a day when you have a super important meeting or presentation.
Here’s a rough run-down of my pumping at work on an ideal day:
7:30: Get to work, take 4 bottles and caps out of work bag and put into pumping bag, put ice pack into freezer, put empty lunch box in fridge
9:30: Take pumping bag to “Mother’s Room,” set up shop, pump, cap up bottles and pack up, rinse out breastshields. Return to my desk, put bottles in fridge, put breastshields on drying rack, check for drips on clothes.
12:30: Take pumping bag to “Mother’s Room,” set up shop, pump, put up my feet on storage boxes,scroll Facebook/check my snapchat feed/look at pics of my babe if I’m having trouble with a let-down, realize I’ve been done pumping for a while now, cap up bottles, rinse out breastshields with Medela soap this time, put on drying rack, put bottles in fridge.
5pm: Pack up bottles from fridge, place in lunchbox with freezer pack. Waltz out of work feeling like a badass.
Friday special: Bring home whole pumping bag. I do this each weekend because I don’t like the idea of my expensive pump sitting around all weekend, sometimes I like to use the stronger pump at home, and I like to give my pump a good cleaning each week. Every weekend I steam my breastshields with Medela Quick Steam Bags, mostly to make myself feel like the pump parts are getting super clean at least once a week.