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A Beginner’s Guide to Pumping for Working Mamas

pumping at work

Third Time Mama, First Time Pumper

I may be in the midst of raising my third baby, but I am a total beginner when it comes to pumping at work. It’s a new experience for me, and it’s one that I’ve actually been enjoying. I totally never thought that I would say (or write) that.

In my last month of maternity leave with my first baby, I briefly contemplated pumping at work. I produced a good amount of milk in a couple of minutes. Pumping didn’t hurt. But the prospect of schlepping another bag on top of my teacher bag, my lunch bag, the baby’s daycare bag and car seat down a long apartment hallway to the elevator at 6:45 a.m. terrified me. The figurative weight of adapting to my new life as a working mother was enough for me. So I opted for nursing before and after work and sending bottles of formula to daycare.

When I went back to work after my second baby, pumping at work wasn’t even a thought. Although we had since moved to a house and my husband would be doing drop off, I thought that the transition from 1 to 2 kids was A LOT to juggle. I knew the previous routine of nursing at home and formula feeding at daycare worked. Why make myself feel more overwhelmed by trying something new?

With my last baby, though, I was ready for the challenge. The hardest part about having three kids is the extra expense, so I figured pumping at work would save us some money. But I had so many questions about how I would actually make it work. I knew that in order to keep up with my daughter’s feedings, I would have to pump at least twice at work. When, besides my consistent lunch break, would I be able to pump? Would I run myself ragged journeying from my classroom to the make-shift pumping room to the refrigerator (on another floor) back to my classroom? If I attempted pumping while driving, how would I make sure no milk spilled? What supplies would I need to make this process easier?

So, in my last month of maternity leave, I turned to the trusty source of a moms facebook group and asked for advice. The thread included many encouraging and practical tips, some of which I outline below.

A Handful of Tips

1. Double up on ALL the supplies: Leave one breast pump at work and one at home/ in the car. (Your insurance company should cover one pump, and there’s a good chance you’ll receive another as a shower gift or as a hand-me-down). Have one set of parts that travels with you to work and another set that you leave at home. Same goes for two hands-free pumping bras. It cuts down on what you have to remember to pack each day!

2. Take it a day at a time: Each night, look at your work schedule for the following day. When do you have meetings or back to back periods of teaching? Shift your pumping times accordingly (unless, of course, your job requires you to sign up for specific times ahead of schedule). Tell yourself you’ll aim for a certain window of 20 minutes, but don’t micromanage the exact minute you will start. It’s not worth the stress.

3. Follow your baby’s lead: Some nights, your baby will wake up to feed and not be hungry or will still be sleeping before you go to work. Those mornings, pump as you drive to work. Put your pumping bra on before you leave the house. Get in the car and put your (second) pump on the console. Buckle up and then get yourself situated with all the parts. Turn on your pump and drive off. Safely use one hand to turn off pump when you’re in traffic or at red light. Leave bottles attached until you arrive at work. The internet mamas walked me through these steps. I would suggest parking farther away in the lot, so you have privacy as you unhook everything.

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4. Swap the bottles: When you pick up your baby from daycare, leave the bottles you pumped at work in their refrigerator as you pack up the empty bottles. Again, saves time (and space) for the following morning.

5. Keep a positive attitude: If you’re in a make-shift pumping room, be cool. You’ll quickly master the art of covering yourself up, so carry on as you would with any colleagues who stumble upon you pumping. Don’t let them make you feel uncomfortable. If you don’t produce as much as you’d hoped during a session, don’t beat yourself up. You’re accomplishing a lot, so feel proud of what you’re able to do.

Making It Work For You

I’m only a few weeks into pumping at work. I shockingly find it relaxing. It’s a time when I let myself check social media, send school-related emails, or catch up with colleagues who don’t mind listening to the distinctive rhythm of the pump. Do I regret not trying it with my other kids? Not for a second. Will I be upset if I can’t maintain my milk production? Maybe. Will I force myself to keep up this routine if it becomes exhausting? Absolutely not. Right now, it works, and I’m happy.

Stay strong, working mamas. Pump on, but only if it works for you.

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