A Quiet and Well-Lit Space for Pumping (Or: Where to Pump When You’re Away From Work)

pumping away from work and home

2017 Update: We still stand by this advice on where to pump when you’re away from work— links have also been updated below.

Where can you pump if you’re away from work and home (and not just in a different office)? I’ve heard more than enough “fun” stories about pumping in public restrooms (at the sinks, where the outlets are — AWESOME), so when I saw this question posed recently on my local parents’ listserv, I thought it would be a great topic for us. So: What are your strategies for finding acceptable spots to pump in public places?

Note that if you’re in a pinch you can always use an app like Charmin’s Sit or Squat (which tells you which bathrooms are diaper-changing friendly, with filters for cleanliness, free, and more) or visit Moms Pump Here, which looks promising… but here’s the list that the folks on the listserv came up with:

  • Baby stores, which often have dedicated feeding rooms, such as Buy Buy Baby, Babies R Us, and Giggle
  • Hotel lobby bathrooms
  • Dressing rooms in both department stores (or other large retailers) and maternity stores
  • Nursing specialty stores like Upper Breast Side
  • Hospital or ob/gyn waiting rooms

(Pictured: Day 5: You’re a hard habit to break, originally uploaded to Flickr by jamie h.)

Ladies, have you pumped anywhere creative? If you’ve had to, do you like to find a regular spot, or do you prefer to take a “scorched earth” policy?

where to pump in public


N.B. PLEASE KEEP YOUR COMMENTS ON TOPIC; threadjacks will be deleted at our sole discretion and convenience. These substantive posts are intended to be a source of community comment on a particular topic, which readers can browse through without having to sift out a lot of unrelated comments. And so, although of course I highly value all comments by my readers, I’m going ask you to please respect some boundaries on substantive posts like this one. Thank you for your understanding!

Picture below via Flickr.

Don't be that working mom who gets stuck pumping breastmilk by the sinks in the ladies room at the fast-food restaurant because that's the only "private" place with a wall outlet -- if you HAVE to pump when you're away from your home or your office, we rounded up the best places to pump breastmilk when you're out and about. Great for consultants or other traveling working mothers!


  1. Meg Murry says:

    I live in a car-centric place, and I can’t even begin to tell you the number of different parking lots I’ve pumped in over the 2 total years I was nursing/pumping. I also used to pump and drive on my commute (setup at home in driveway with handsfree band, turn on pump, turn it off when I was done and just stayed hooked up until I got to work and parked in the far corner to take it off/pack up).

    For anywhere else I had to go, I would usually use a hand pump in either a bathroom or a fitting room – slower, but able to do it without needing to be seated or have an outlet or make any noise.

    • OliveMac says:

      I’m not there yet – just newly pregnant – but this is amazing, and should be an image on the cover of “working mom” (maybe a cartoon?), and I am going to mentally file this away as an idea for my driving commute (assuming, of course, all the details that need to work out in the right way work out in the right way…).

  2. Sophia says:

    This is timely for me as I have a job interview set up next week (yay!), but I’ve got meetings with several partners and attorneys, followed by lunch with a couple associates. Tack on a long bus commute, and I’m looking at HOURS without a pumping break. I figure as soon as I’m done I can bolt to a dressing room or restroom with my manual pump. As much as I hate pumping in my office, it seems so nice in comparison to pumping without any available space. Last week I wound up in a stall at my law school (at least I still remembered the least popular bathroom).

    • (former) preg 3L says:

      Honestly, this sounds miserable, and I would ask for an accommodation. There should be an HR contact who can build in at least one 30-minute break for you, or a place for you to pump if you arrive early.

      • Sophia says:

        Wow, I’ve been messed up by my current job. You can actually do this? I figured I should keep the whole pumping thing off the table until I got an offer (given that I’m being laid off from my current job after returning from maternity leave). I don’t have an HR contact as I got the interview through a partner I’ve had as opposing counsel. I think he knows I just had a baby, though (I know his co-counsel knows) so maybe they wouldn’t be surprised.

        My mom actually asked me if I planned to keep pumping whenever I start a new job. My first reaction was of course, then when I thought about asking for the accommodation I just get nervous. I’m naturally a very private person and bringing up things having to do with my breasts is still so awkward to me, even though I know I should get over it.

        • This is seriously not a big deal. Just ask the HR contact. They probably won’t even inform the rest of the staff; just build a break into your schedule and give you an empty office if they have one.

    • Could you ask for a 20 min break between the formal interviews and lunch?

    • I would definitely ask for a pumping accommodation. How they handle it could actually give you some valuable information about the place.

    • Yes, ask the recruiting director or HR person who sent you the schedule if you can have a break to pump. When recruits ask at my work, they get schedule breaks and (I think) also can use our pumping room. [Most attorneys put locks on their offices, but we do have a pretty nice pump room too.]

    • EB0220 says:

      Totally agree…you will be distracted if you have to wait that long!

  3. (former) preg 3L says:

    During the bar exam, I had to pump standing in a bathroom stall at Javits. Not ideal, but it worked.

  4. I pumped while sitting on the floor of a dark, filthy, freezing server closet once at a training course due to a serious of miscommunications. The facilitator got an earful from me, and I got an office to use for the rest of the week. It was pretty awkward kicking out the office occupants 3x a day, but you do what you have to do.

  5. How timely. Yesterday, I attended a symposium at a multi-level conference center located at a huge state university. I asked ahead of time where the nursing facilities were, and I was given a room number.

    The room was the handicap accessible bathroom (a room with a single toilet,) where they had placed a chair. I was one of 5 nursing / pumping moms at the conference, all of whom were directed to use this single room. The conference was also attended by at least 1/2 a dozen people in wheelchairs who needed access to the bathroom – none of the nursing moms could occupy that room for 15-20 minutes at a time.

    I ended up pumping in my car, twice. Open lot with lots of people walking by. It was 20 degrees. Ironically, I was attending a human rights seminar, with multiple programs throughout the day about the state and federal legislation re: workplace accomodations for pregnant and nursing employees.

    • OliveMac says:

      Dear Conference,

      [facepalm. facepalm. harder facepalm.]


    • It takes a village says:

      Wow. Do you know if anybody contacted the coordinators to let them know? I imagine whoever planned that is clueless and thought it would work out just fine and didn’t think of how many people would need to pump or use the handicapped facilities. Ugh.

    • Tunnel says:

      I would be up in arms about this!

  6. I keep the battery pack to my pump on hands at all times so I’m not stuck standing over the sink. In warmer weather I generally just slip out to my car.

    My mom said when she was out and about (30 odd years ago), she would go to cemetery parking lots – morbid, but no traffic.

  7. Nordstrom and Ikea have the best nursing/pumping rooms, bar none.

    • LBlitz says:

      I’ve heard great things about Nordstrom, but the IKEA in Dallas is HORRIBLE!!! They have a supervised playroom for kids while the parents shop, but there is no pumping room – they just direct you to the very smelly, unclean family restroom which was disgusting. I was seriously tempted to leave and go sit down in the sofa department instead of holding my breath the whole time and trying not to touch anything. Ick ick ick – never again!

  8. OliveMac says:

    Hi everyone,

    Finally catching up on this board. I posted as “Anon” yesterday (and whoops, the day before! sheesh did I get told about that one! seems someone could have just said: try yesterday again – there are helpful posts there) – I didn’t realize there were many expecting moms on this site in addition to “full fledged, in the trenches moms!

    To the woman who responded that she just found out she was having a girl – congrats! That’s so fun. Hello dresses! I saw this adorable decal for a nursery wall with the Shakespeare quote, “Though she be but little, she is fierce.” I just! love! it! Search for it on e!sy if you dig it, too.

    We decided not to find out whether we are having a boy or girl. Anyone else make that choice? Sounded romantic at the time, but the reality is settling in that I always had a “feeling” we would have a girl, and if a boy pops out, I’m going to have a lot of readjusting to do at a time that..well…I have a lot of readjusting to do anyway!

    Just want to say, so glad to be here. Excited to start following the thread!

    • mascot says:

      We didn’t find out and I had that feeling it was a girl. Surprise, definitely a boy child that popped out. Adjusting to a baby was so all encompassing that we didn’t even think about re-adjusting to the fact that it was a boy. It’s awesome either way.

      • OliveMac says:

        Awesome. Were you glad you didn’t find out? We’re taking the approach of, “as grown-ups, there aren’t too many true, happy surprises left in life!”

    • It takes a village says:

      We won’t be finding out. Partly because it’ll be a fun surprise, and partly because I want to minimize as much as possible the super gendered gifts. I hate, hate, HATE that girls wear pink and purple onesies with fairies and boys wear primary-colored ones with trucks. We’re trying to be as minimalist as possible with all baby gear, and so want to be able to use as much as possible again if we have another child of the opposite sex (though I’m not above putting a truck onesie on a girl or a purple one on a boy!). Gender already determines so much in life, I’d like at least a brief period where it’s taken out of the equation!

  9. Meg Murry says:

    For some more fun, check out the places I have pumped tumblr and this article about it: http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/5644452

    One more not so fun place: in the (single) lactation room at work, sharing with another coworker – because we both gave up and decided we prioritized getting to all our meetings those days over modesty and privacy. Kinda weird to pass your coworker in the hall and know you’ve seen her topless – but after the number of people that have seen me semi-dressed postpartum, I didn’t really care anymore, and neither did she.

    • It takes a village says:

      Can you let HR know that it’s often occupied by more than one person, and they can at least put up a room divider? You two probably won’t be the only ones in your workplace with this issue. I feel like a lot of problems with pumping rooms/ the lack thereof is because the facilitators generally never have (and might never need to) use them, and we don’t like to talk about it because it’s an uncomfortable conversation.

      • Meg Murry says:

        This was a couple of years ago. We did ask for that, but HR was moving at a glacially slow pace, so in the meantime, we did what we had to do. It was also just an awkward time because there were significantly more people using the space than there ever had been, and after that year the number of people needing it went way down. We also both averted our eyes as necessary and threw backwards cardigans or fleeces over ourselves so we weren’t really just sitting there topless staring at each other.

  10. ChiSquared says:

    I highly recommend getting a nursing poncho for pumping. I got mine on Etsy. I have pumped multiple times on a plane (in my seat), in a car, and in a United lounge. Can’t imagine doing it without the poncho. Covers everything up, and also kept me warm.

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