Pumping at work: it’s one of the toughest parts of going back to work after maternity leave. In past posts we’ve covered what to wear to pump at work, how to manage pumping in different offices, pumping during work travel, and how to dress professionally when you go back to work (when your pre-pregnancy clothes still don’t fit). Today Reader K gives you some basic tips for pumping at work and recommends a few helpful products. Thank you, K!
My best friend gave me great advice before I went back to work: The dread is worse than the reality. I was nervous about leaving my little guy with someone I barely knew; I was nervous I would not be as good at my job as I had been before I left for leave; I was nervous that I would sit at my desk missing him all day. Basically, I was nervous about everything.
But now, seven months in, it hasn’t been that bad. For the most part, I have managed to focus completely on whatever I’m doing, whether work or home life. That means I am really efficient at work and then don’t really check my email once I get home until after my son goes to bed. (Fortunately, we hit the baby jackpot and got a great sleeper.) The hardest part, though, was pumping at work. After reading comments here and talking to my sister and some friends, I got into my routine. (Pictured: breast pump overload, originally uploaded to Flickr by madichan.)
First of all, stick to a schedule. Put it on your calendar. Don’t vary. You can get yourself into trouble rather quickly if you miss a pumping session. Second, wear clothes that have button fronts, especially if they are patterned (to hide any, ahem, mishaps). This one from Banana Republic (pictured) is a good example. You may want to size up because your body may change shapes throughout the day depending on when you last pumped. Third — and people have different approaches to this one — I found the best plan was to lock my door and then not answer if someone knocked. Otherwise, it’s just awkward. Anything you say (“One moment please!” “Who is it?”) may lead to a weird conversation and leave people wondering what exactly you’re doing in there. Fourth, wear these. That’s all I’m going to say about that.
It was also challenging to figure out how to do it all logistically. I had one of these totes that I kept the little Medela bottles in. It has a built-in ice pack, which means you have to remember to put it in the freezer every night. That was a better plan for me than trekking back and forth to the office fridge several times a day, plus remembering to get your milk at the end of the day when you’re just ready to get home to your little one. The Mayo Clinic says unrefrigerated milk lasts up to six hours, so I was comfortable leaving the milk in that bag with an ice pack for a little longer than that. In reality, only milk from your first pumping session is going to be out that long. I also recommend the Kelly Mom blog as a great resource for any questions about breastfeeding and pumping.
I also liked to bring a burp cloth to set on my lap while I was pumping. And I reused a single set of parts during the day, usually wiping them down with these wipes. I know some people who brought a wet bag and enough sets of accessories to use a different one each time. I didn’t want to carry that stuff with me, so I tried to streamline. And last, buy yourself a present after it’s all over, because you’re a champ for doing it any length of time. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t make it a year. It’s tougher than most people think. You are doing a service to your baby regardless of how long you make it. Remember that!
Finally, you’re probably going to have to reveal to the people you work with that you’re pumping, and you’re just going to have to get over it. Exhibit A: Sitting on the dirty floor of the courtroom bathroom pumping, wearing a suit, wishing I had been more upfront and not ended up in that particular situation. If I had it to do over again, I would have told the partners at the beginning of the day when I would need a break and then asked the courthouse staff if there were a better place to pump. As it was, I went way too long, was in pain and distracted, and then had to dump the milk anyway. And on that note: buy one of these battery packs.
* As always, this guest poster has been invited by Kat to post on a subject of interest to the community. We value having different and diverse voices here, and indeed part of the benefit of guest bloggers is broadening the dialog beyond Kat’s own views. To that end, please note that opinions expressed by guest bloggers, like opinions expressed in comments, do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Kat, Katfry LLC, or any of our sponsors or other contributors.