Pumping Breastmilk at Work

Yes, I know.  I keep abandoning the Why Didn’t Anyone Tell Me? series.  I’m a mess like that.  This guest post, though, was recently discovered in the black hole that is my “blog drafts,” and it needs to be shared.

One of the daunting aspects of breastfeeding has to be What will I do when I go back to work?  Will pumping work for me? 

When I went back to teaching, it was only from 7-11 am, and I never had to pump at school, so I’m no help here.  Christy, however, knows her stuff. 

Time Management Tips for Pumping Breast Milk at Work

I am returning to work as a teacher after having my second child. I pumped at work until my first was one and plan on doing it again. Here are my tips for pumping at work:

  • Buy the expensive pump. Pumping 2-4 times a day on a tight schedule demands an efficient pump. It is worth the investment.
  • Pump and freeze as much as you can while on maternity leave.
  • Both of my boys took to bottles that happen to screw right onto my pump. I pump directly into the bottles, saving me a transferring step.
  • I keep masking tape and a Sharpie in my breast pump bag. I label each bottle with the date.
  • I pump one side while the baby eats from the other side in the mornings. I leave the pump next to the rocker in the nursery the night before.  (That’s what I used to do!  Sounds complicated, but you’ll get in your groove.)
  • Pump hands-free while at work – KellyMom has inexpensive ideas. While pumping, I do schoolwork. That’s a combined 40 minutes a day. I’d rather work while pumping than stay at school longer or have more schoolwork to do after the kids go to bed!
  • If you have other items to lug to work, invest in a rolling cart. I can load my cart up with papers to grade, my laptop, my lunch, and my pump. No need to make multiple trips to the car.
  • Make reminder notes. Make a checklist of everything that needs to go in the rolling cart each day. Check off what you can pack up the night before and then refer to it again in the morning for things like lunch. Put a reminder to bring your milk home somewhere at work.
  • Keep nursing pads in your pump bag. Keep an extra shirt and bra at work. I use the hair-ties to pump hand-free and keep extras in my pump bag. If pumping directly into bottles, keep some breast milk storage bags in your pump bag, in case you forget bottles one day.
  • If I pull from my freezer stash or I have a bottle that is about to “expire” (I label with masking tape), I put a piece of masking tape over the top of the bottle and write USE FIRST on it with a Sharpie. My day care provider knows to use this bottle(s) before the others that day (no waste).
  • I invested in lots of bottles. I have enough bottles to have 4 or 5 at daycare, 4 with me, and the previous day’s bottle in the dishwasher or on the drying rack. We run the dishwasher every night or morning, no time-consuming hand washing of bottles.
  • Many states have legislation regarding employers allowing you to take breaks to pump and there is also federal legislation that applies to those states that do not have their own laws. I am fortunate to work in a very family friendly environment. If your boss is giving you a hard time about pumping, research the laws.

Did you successfully pump while at works?  What tips would you add?

Christy Carden is a working mom to 2 boys. Alan is 4 in March and Samuel will be 3 months on February 23. She returns to work, teaching first graders full-time, on February 28. She loves her job and feels like it is her calling in life, but is constantly looking for ways to balance work, family, exercising (she’s a bit of an addict), and running a household.  ~ My apologies to Christy, who obviously submitted this post months ago!

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  1. I found the rental pump to be WAY more awesome than the ones you can buy. It may be worth the rental for a couple of months to get a really good stash in the freezer.

    • Yes, I would agree. I worked at a children’s hospital that was very supportive of employee breastfeeding and they actually provided the pump in the pumping room for employees. You just had to buy your own “kit” to attach to the pump so that it was sterile. I credit our success to having access to this heavy grade pump– much more effective for me than the Medela Pump in Style, which was a pretty good pump.

      I can only imagine that using it during the first three months before going back to work would be worth it if you didn’t have access to a heavy duty pump at work.

  2. I truly enjoy this series, I share them with my Daughter who’s due in 7 weeks!

  3. These are excellent tips! I pumped at work for both by my first son and my twins. Having a comfortable, private place to pump is so important – and it is your legal right!

    Make sure you can get a consistent time on your calendar, because, as I found out the hard way – your body might just start without you if you don’t catch it in time. And that can be a bit embarrassing!

    • Some days I feel like I spend all my time nursing my baby. Can’t fathom pumping for twins! (I’m sure it’s one of those “you just do it” kind of things. 😉 )

  4. Invest in a couple”pump kits” (flanges, etc.) That way, you can have one in the dishwasher at home and one with you at work. Also, don’t spend time washing them after each pumping session in a day, just seal them in a ziploc bag, and store them in the fridge or cooler until the next pumping session. Saves me a lot of time!
    I also invested in a good hands free pumping bustier (simple wishes brand). For me it works way better than my home made attempts, and is very covering for when my co-workers have had to come into the break room while I’m pumping. (I am a L&D/mom-baby nurse, so my coworkers are all women used to seeing nursing/pumping. This helps! 🙂 )

    • What a gift for your patients to have you as a nurse!

    • I just learned the tip to keep parts in the fridge from another source and I’d echo that! It saves a lot of time even if you only pump twice a day. And the Simple Wishes hands free bustier is awesome, I agree.

  5. Michelle H. says:

    Great suggestions! From personal experience I would recommend a sign to put on the door to your workplace “pump station”. At my job we were allowed to use an empty office with blinds, but no locking door, and the cleaning lady’s limited english skills weren’t sufficient to keep her from barging in while 10 of my coworkers yelled “don’t open the door!” It’s been 3 years and she still can’t look me in the eye. LOL.

    • I think those stories are fantastic and oh so common…I once got in a jam and ended up pumping in a ladies room. Someone insisted on seeing what was going on and pressed their nose against the crack in the stall. Who does that?!! At any rate, it’s something that I get a good laugh about now though I was mortified at the time.

    • Oh my goodness. Ha!

    • Heather says:

      I once had to leave a meeting to pump (no problem there), but I had to use an unfamiliar bathroom. Right in the middle of pumping, with both hands occupied and the pump case slung over the coat hook, the lights went out! What’s a mom to do? Well, I finished pumping in the dark (no windows), tried not to spill the precious liquid while I put things back into the case and cooler bag, put myself back together, and exited the stall. Lights on. The bathroom had motion-sensor lights, but the sensors could not register movement in the stalls. Lesson learned.

  6. Amanda Blevins says:

    I had a hard time keeping my milk supply up when I was pumping and working full-time. Three things kept me going–1. Fenugreek–comes in capsule form and helps increase your milk supply 2. Massaging my breasts during pumping to increase a let down and milk production 3. Nursing the baby during the night so he kept my milk supply up!!
    Like Melissa I had an extra “pump kit” because one day the little white falange piece tore!
    Oh, and nobody has mentioned the quick sanitizing wipes–those things save a LOT of time instead of having to use soap and water!

  7. I went back from maternity leave to a new job with all new co-workers that I hadn’t known before and found out on the first day that I would be sharing an office with one of them. Oh, did I mention that my daughter never figured out how to latch so I pumped every ounce of breast milk she drank for eleven months? Yeah. Anyways. It worked. My officemate is great and is now one of my best friends. The tips above are great, but I would also add a willingness to be flexible and a back-up plan. I spent about three hours a day pumping, on average, so I figured out how to do lots of things while I pumped. I work at a university that didn’t have a breastfeeding-friendly policy/opinion/statement/plan at the time. (Now they do!) I had a whole network of campus friends and co-workers from multiple departments I could go to if my office wasn’t available over lunch but someone else’s would be. We also decided a couple of months in that contrary to the belief of some, Anne wasn’t going to grow a second head if she had the occasional formula bottle. For first-time moms, I would also recommend finding a great lactation consultant!

  8. I echo the “consistent time on the calendar”. Some weeks I even had to schedule time on my work calendar to keep from getting to many meetings back-to-back that would prevent me from getting time to pump.

    Since I only pumped at work (not in the morning before or after), I sometimes left my pump at work and only brought home what needed to be washed to save what I was carrying on the bus. That only works if you remember to bring back what you need the next day. I only forgot ONCE… After that I bought an extra “pump kit” to leave at work!

  9. Some things that were of benefit to me were the microwavable sterilization bags- I could use them at work if I needed. In addtion to a change of shirt and nursing pads, I also kept a clean wash cloth handy as well as my water bottle and snack. It was also helpful for me to enlist help. The checklist for packing the bag is good, but help with packing from my husband was great (and the list was an even bigger help for him). He could make sure stuff was sterilized the night before, that the empty bottles were ready to go, that the ice packs were in the freezer, etc.

  10. Thanks for the tips. I’m pregnant with my first and will have to go back to work part time after he’s born. How long can you typically go between feedings (or needing to nurse)? I’m a little apprehensive about how it’ll work out, but this is helpful!

    • I pumped at work for a whole year for my first son. I typically would go about three to four hours between feeding/pumping sessions–it kind of depended on how crazy work schedule was. I also spent my lunch hour at the daycare nursing my son. It was a GREAT break from the hectic grind and gave me opportunity to deliver fresh milk for his afternoon bottles. So glad that you’ll have to work only part time. You can probably work it out to have to pump only once while at work.

    • I went back to work part-time when my baby was 13 weeks old. I’d feed her at 6:00 in the morning, and then again right after we got home, at about 11:15 or 11:30. In between, she’d have one bottle, but I didn’t have to pump, I was just REALLY ready to feed her. 😉 At first, you can plan on nursing every two hours or so, and after a few weeks that may stretch to every 3 hours. I’m not one to watch the clock. If my baby is crying and changing a diaper or “playing” or holding doesn’t help, we nurse.

  11. Vicki Rocha says:

    I pumped for several months at work with my first child. I was a teacher and leaving a class full of students can be very hard. I made it known that I had to pump, before I came back. I was pumping 3 times a day. I was able to work it that I pumped once in the morning, lunch and then my planning period so I only need coverage 1 time per day. My students were great and the would remind me that I had to feed my baby. Not sure if they knew my baby wasn’t at school or not but it was very sweet. I had a small storage room that I used. I had a hands free pumping bra and lots of bottles. Having breast pads, sharpie, picture of my baby and storage bags on hand made it easy. When I had more time to pump I would transfer milk into the storage bags.Be proud of your liquid gold.
    Happy pumping.

  12. I have three children and went back to work at 4, 3, and 2 months. I never bought formula. Medela Pump In Style worked great. I had to stick to what would have been the baby’s feeding schedule or I would regret it – know what I mean?
    I figured out how to hold both sides with one hand so I could read or eat lunch while I pumped.
    TIP: The little Jet Dry baskets work great to hold the flanges so they don’t get lost in the dishwasher.
    I loved being able to provide for them and loved the money saved!

  13. I’m a stay at home mom now but I did go back to work for five weeks after my baby was born. The pump worked ‘okay’ for me at home when I was with my baby. However, my Medela Pump In Style didn’t work very well at work. I had to pump twice to get enough milk for one bottle. I even rented a hospital grade pump but with the same results. I have read that some women just have a hard time letting down fully without their baby nearby. I did everything recommended on KellyMom.com – took pictures and even video of my baby nursing to work with me, massaged my breasts, waited for a second let-down, et cetera. I attribute it some to the fact that I was very unhappy to be leaving my baby every day at daycare. The reason I share this is, don’t feel bad if you are not able to pump a lot, it is a common problem!

    • It was tough for me, too, especially with my first. The only way I could pump enough milk was to pump on one side while nursing on the other. Crazy.

  14. I pumped for 20 months, because I had a hard time weaning off the pump, so for the last 8 months, when I was trying to cut back, I donated the milk. If you’re lucky enough to have extra milk, there’s always someone who can use it, so check out a site like MilkShare. I made a hands-free bra (and put it on Instructables), and also kept my flanges in the fridge between sessions.

    It’s going to sound cheesy, but having other pumping moms was incredibly helpful, because they tended to have advice and sympathy. Even some male coworkers, who didn’t really know the mechanics of the whole thing, were still very encouraging. I was always pretty open about what I was doing, which I think helped avoid awkwardness on everyone’s part.

  15. Ashley says:

    Just a comment… but you might *not* need to buy the expensive pump! I went back to work full time after 12 weeks with both my daughters. Nursed exclusively for 6 months, and nursed for 18 mos with first and 16 months with 2nd. A friend had given me her Pump In Style, but my aunt (L&D nurse received an Avent Isis manual pump at a continuing ed class and gave it to me. I used it the entire time. Its an excellent pump and very cheap to purchase. I could start and finish pumping in about 7 mins. I never even broke out the Medela… didn’t need it! The Avent was SO convenient and small! Easy to carry, and no outlet needed. I realize this may not work for everyone, but it worked for me! And I think it is SO important for moms to hear “good” bf’ing stories, because practically everything that is available out there is negative – its so hard, it hurts, its expensive, its time-consuming, etc.

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