Tuesday, September 10, 2013

TBD: Pumping at work

Just a note: I'm clearly not the expert on breastfeeding, pumping, or anything to do with it. I'm just sharing my experience and what works for me. If you have another experience, I'd love to hear about it and share it here on The Breastfeeding Diaries.

Going back to work last October scared the crap out of me. Mostly it was the whole being apart from my baby piece, but another big part was figuring out pumping at work. I had pumped at home quite a bit, and felt comfortable with that piece... but I didn't know how it was going to go at work. 

Where would I pump? 
This one had an easy solution. There was another woman at work pumping too, and our administration was amazing. They set up a pumping room for us (okay, it was a closet in someone's office, but it was a quiet room where we wouldn't be interrupted, and they set up a desk and rocking chair for us). Depending on where you work, there are a lot of different places that can be set up as your pump place. I often pumped right in my classroom when students were at specials or recess. I just locked my door, put up a do not disturb sign, and did my thing. It helped that I have amazing coworkers who knew what was going on and would send away curious children who sometimes showed up. 

If you have a small office, unused conference room, even a closet that can lock or that people don't have access to, you're all set. Talk to your boss about what kind of space is available. Just don't listen to the people who tell you to pump in the bathroom. Seriously? I wouldn't make myself a sandwich in the bathroom at work. Therefore I won't make my daughter's food their either. Seems like common sense to me. 

Most bosses are understanding and helpful about finding you a place. Check into the laws in your state if you're having trouble. It also can help to talk to other women you work with who have been in your situation recently. They can let you know what worked for them and maybe give you some tips about how to make it work at your job. 

How often did I need to pump? 
The lactation consultant at my breastfeeding support group recommended pumping every 3 1/2 hours to start. With students to think about, coverage and my daily schedule, it was hard to always focus on the time between pumpings. Most of the year last year I ended up pumping right when I got to work at 7:30 (before the kids got there), 9:30, and 1:30. Sometimes I'd exchange either the 9:30 or the 1:30 time for 11:40 during my lunch break. 

Most days I pumped three times a day to get enough. Some people won't need to pump as many times, but Fynn was taking 12-16 ounces a day at daycare, and it would take me three 15-minute pumping sessions to get that amount. As she got older, and started taking in more solid foods, I was able to cut back to twice a day. 

Right now, at 14 months, I'm pumping at work during my lunch break for about 7-8 minutes. I'm doing this more for my comfort then anything else because I can't quite make it through the whole day without pumping. I'm trying to wean myself off needing to pump, but that's hard because she wants to nurse during those hours when I'm home with her. 

The hardest part for me was just finding the time during the day. It's easy to get bogged down with all that you have to do during the day, but making sure that pumping is a priority is essential to keep breastfeeding going. I spent my pump time reading e-mails on my phone and playing games, but I know plenty of people who keep working while they pump. Personally, I took that time as a breather and made myself relax. It made pumping a lot easier and helped me get through my day on a positive note. 

How would I clean my pump? 
One of the women at my breastfeeding support group helped me with this one. She said that you don't have to wash your pump between sessions if you keep the parts that touch milk cold. Brilliant! I just put some ice packs into a cooler bag and put the pump parts in that. It worked great and I never had any issues with it. So much easier then trying to find the time to wash all the parts each time (oh, and also I'm lazy, I did not want to wash the same pieces three times a day)

How would I store my pumped milk until the end of the day?
The work fridge. This was easy. I didn't want to risk putting it in a cooler/lunch box and risking that precious milk going bad. Most places have a fridge or at least a mini fridge that employees can put their lunches in. Put your milk in too, though I do suggest putting it in something just to avoid the awkwardness of a coworker moving your breastmilk when they're trying to get their sandwich out.

What did I need to bring with me? 
This was hard. Obviously I needed my pump and bottles. But should I bring two large bottles and pump into those several times? Smaller bottles and use new ones each time I pump? What did I need to clean my pump? I ended up bringing a ton with me that first week, and then cutting back as I figured out what I really needed. Here's what I brought with me:

  1. pump and all parts (duh!)
  2. a receiving blanket- I used this to cover my clothes while pumping (nothing more awkward then having to walk around with breastmilk stains on your shirt the rest of the day) and then to wipe off pump parts after I finished.
  3. 4 bottles. Fynn took 4 4-ounce bottles a day at daycare. To make it easier for myself, I pumped into the first two bottles at the first session, the other two the second session. After the second session I would combine milk to get two bottles that had a full 4-ounces. The other two would have anywhere from 1-3 ounces in them, and I would pump into these emptier bottles during my last session.
  4. Ice packs- my pump came with a little insulated bag to store the pump and/or bottles in. I put ice packs into it and used it to keep my pump parts cold between uses.
  5. Bottle bags/lunch box- I didn't want to just stick bottles full of breastmilk in the fridge at work (awk-ward!) so I would put my pumped bottles into a lunch box or these little bottle coolers I got at Target
  6. Something to do while pumping- I just read e-mails/played on my phone. 

How would I find time to pump?
Make time. It's hard, I won't lie and say it's easy, but if it's important to you then you just make it work. Talk to coworkers to help make this possible. I had some amazing ed techs who came and covered my class once a day, sometimes twice. I pumped during lunch, when my kids were at specialists, whenever I could. I know I'm lucky to work with people who were so supportive of me and were willing to help out. 

You won't get much if you're stressing out all day about pumping. Try to put aside that time to just relax and think about your baby.Yeah, taking those breaks can make the rest of the day hectic, but remember why you are doing this and it makes it a lot easier. 

Mamas. How did you figure out your pump at work routines? For moms who have finished pumping at work, how did you wean from it/how did you know it was time? I'm curious about moms who have stopped pumping and how it worked for them. 


  1. This is so great...there is this poor woman in my office building (separate company) who always pumps standing up in the stall in the bathroom! We all have encountered it and been like, wtf is that noise? and then she has to explain herself. I always feel so bad that her office doesn't have a better space for her!

  2. Thanks for sharing! I just did a blog on this as well! You are very detailed and you covered a topic I didn't. During the times I was a work at home mom. I love that your work was very accommodating for you! That is great when they are. Thanks for sharing amazing tips!

  3. It is great that your work has been so helpful with providing a space for you and other moms. A rocking chair?! Super awesome of them.

  4. Sorry Obedient Disciple was from www.calledtobeamom.com. It wasn't working correctly and used my old blog account.

  5. You are very blessed to have a workplace that has been so gracious to set up a pumping room for you! Lots of women are not that fortunate. I had to laugh when I read your statement about pumping in the bathroom! You're right. I wouldn't make a sandwich in a bathroom. Kudos on your perseverance to do what's best for your daughter.

  6. That's so great that your workplace was so accomodating a lot of places aren't! I went back to work when my son was 13 months old so i didn't need to pump. I would nurse him early in the morning before work, then at 1:30 when I got home and then in the evening.

  7. i love great workplaces. California actually gives out breastfeeding friendly awards to companies that go above and beyond.

  8. Thanks for this info, it's so helpful for working moms! I breastfed my son for a loooong time, but I always worked from home. I never had to pump, and I breastfed on demand.

    I'm always very impressed with moms who work outside the home and have to pump at work. It shows a lot of dedication to giving your child the best nutrition. I applaud you.


  9. This is some great information for moms are moms-to-be. I may have to use this for future reference.

  10. I've been so lucky to come back to work for a part time when my girl was 9mo, so I didn't feel the urge to pump at work. I've read that a pic of the baby could help those women that find hard pumping... Just my two cents ;)
    PS: my girl is 4 and a half... and she still loves mums milk... will she ever stop? I hope!
    MammaNene @ SergerPepper

  11. Not a mum yet but this is all so useful for future :)

  12. Hmm, interesting, I'm not sure what I can say about this being a man and not having any kids. But this post was informative and a good read.

  13. I'm not yet a mom - so this post has given me a great appreciation for nursing moms. I blog about workplace issues mainly, and I have to say, I'm very impressed with your employer. If only they could all be like that! Do you have any advice for moms who are nervous about approaching the topic of nursing at the office with their employer?

  14. Great post, and very encouraging. Before I even thought about kids, I had a boss who pumped. I guess to me it seems normal and natural that new moms would need to do it in the work place.

  15. I am so thankful to be able to stay at home with my son. I love breastfeeding and pumping is such a hassle. But if a ever go to work I'm definitely going to try and pump with my next babies!

  16. I worked at a Sonic Drive In when my 9 year old was an infant, and I would actually go sit in my car and pump milk, and my manager allowed me to store my bags of milk in the walk in until I left to go home!


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