This is for you, breastfeeding moms! Whether you are a first time parent or returning to work after your third child, the idea of pumping at work and keeping up your supply can be stressful. If you’ve been breastfeeding on demand for months, it can be hard to imagine that it’s possible to maintain this bond with your baby once maternity leave has ended.
I totally get it. When I first returned to work our first born was almost 6 months old and I was working 12 hour night shifts as an emergency room RN. If there’s anything I’m an expert in, it’s successfully pumping under stress and major time constraints, with limited private space to do it.
Our daughter breastfed until she was over 18 months old. If I can do it, you can too! Once again, I’m pumping at work for our son. So here I’ve put together 8 important things you can do to maintain a good supply and that special bond with your babe, and make pumping at work just a little smoother.
1. Insist on a private place to pump.
I know some places have laws about this, but guess what folks, some employers really stretch what is considered a “private, clean place” to pump. For a while, I pumped in a curtained off area in a large break room full of men and women coming and going, staring at my feet under the curtain. That didn’t work well, so I moved into the shower area for the ER. Ummm, gross. This was in a “baby-friendly” hospital, so I can’t imagine what other work places might try to use. I made a stink about it, and I bet a few other people did, too. The hospital now has nice, private, designated rooms (that lock!) for breastfeeding moms. Insist on it, because it is crucial and just plain wrong to not provide something suitable.
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I learned this the hard way. Have you seen those microwave bags that you can sanitize your pump parts in? Who has time for that crap at work? Not me. I tried the wipes, the bags, you name it. It was a huge waste of time, and I still felt like my supplies weren’t clean enough. Instead of wasting your money on the wipes and the microwave bags, invest in multiples of the rest of the supplies. If you’re going to pump 3 times during a day at work, I would bring 6 bottles, 6 lids, 6 flanges…you get the idea. Enough so that every time you pump you can use fresh equipment. After I pump I quickly wipe things out with a paper towel so that milk doesn’t get all over everything, then it all goes in the dishwasher when I get home.
3. Take one full minute to mentally, physically, and emotionally prepare.
If your job is anything like mine, when you finally get a free minute to pump you race to get your bag, practically run to your nice private space you’ve insisted on, and frantically hook yourself up to your milking machine. Then you sit there with your heart pounding, wondering why milk won’t let down?! Even when time is limited, it’s important to give yourself a full minute to sit and do nothing before pumping except close your eyes, breath, and be present. Think about that sweet baby at home and put work on hold for that time. Your body will thank you.
4. Ditch the guilt.
Not everyone at your work will be happy that you’re taking another break to go pump. I’ve had charge nurses give me obnoxiously exaggerated eye rolls when I need to go pump, even if I’m only gone for the same 15 minute break that everyone else gets. If you’re met with this kind of attitude, smile, think of your baby and the beautiful bond you’ve created through breastfeeding, and walk away. We mommas have no time for getting flack for trying our best. Ignore it and go on your merry, breastfeeding way. (Oh, but please don’t take advantage and pretend you’re breastfeeding and take absurdly long breaks. It truly makes it harder for the rest of us.)
5. Wear something that you would be able to breastfeed in.
Nobody wants to get to work to realize that they have to take their entire dress off to pump. Enough said.
6. Eat and hydrate. Make this a priority.
It is so easy to get caught up in feeding your family that it’s easy to forget about your own nutritional needs. Drink water, get plenty of calories, and pack plenty of snacks for down time at work.
7. Pack a lunch that you can eat with one hand.
If you’re going to be short on time, don’t pack lunches that need preparation, heating, etc. I’ve been bringing sandwiches and wraps to work for a long time, because I can hold my pump in place and eat at the same time. Any time I bring soup, a salad, stir fry, or really anything that requires utensils, it ends up all over my clothes. Unless you’re more skilled than I am (which you probably are), packing a lunch that you can eat one handed will save you time and mess.
8. Don’t wait to portion & store your milk.
My least favorite aspect of pumping at work is dealing with it when I get home. I just want to take a shower, eat dinner, and sit down for a minute. Portioning your milk into freezer bags should just be done as soon as possible. Get it over with. If those bottles sit in the fridge too long, all of those important fats get stuck to the inside of the bottle and it’s much harder to transfer it all into a bag. Plus, how awful would it be to forget about your pumped milk and have to dump that liquid gold down the sink? When you get home, get those freezer bags labeled, portion it out, and throw all of your parts in the dishwasher so you’re ready for tomorrow. That’s one less monkey on your back!
Every mom and every work place is different, so find what works for you. Please remember though, it’s possible! You absolutely CAN do it!