A Working Mama’s Guide to Pumping

I am very behind in writing this post because I finished pumping at work last October – shortly after my little lady turned one. I pumped at work for over nine months after my maternity leave, so I know firsthand that pumping at work (and breastfeeding in general) can be super daunting. I wanted to share any advice I could….. better late than never, right?

My Experience

Overall, we had a pretty smooth breastfeeding experience together. There were clogged ducts, supply fluctuation, mastitis, eliminating dairy for eight months and biting (UGH!), but I honestly wouldn’t have traded any of it knowing that we were able to make it to over a year exclusively nursing. Charlotte is in full-time daycare, so for her first year, I had to provide enough milk for her for the 8-9 hours we were apart. This amount varied greatly as she grew and we incorporated solids with baby led weaning. I started super conservatively to make sure I maintained a good supply and had plenty of milk for her. I would pump at home after our morning nursing session as a “bonus pump” and then I would pump as many times as she needed bottles. So in the beginning, I had three sessions a day at work, and gradually moved to two pumps and the last month was down to one pump as we had a freezer stash to use and I wanted to ease into weaning from pumping. Just like everything with motherhood, there are so many ways to go about pumping, but here are my tips for success:

Knowledge is Power

I think part of the scary part about pumping at work is the unknown. Therefore, even when you are still pregnant, take the opportunity to learn about your company’s policies, facilities, etc. Talk to your boss (if you are comfortable doing so), your HR representative, or even other moms who you know are currently pumping or have pumped at your office. Ask their experiences and any company-specific tips they may have. While I was super lucky with a nice dedicated nursing mothers room, I fully realize that not every employer or work situation is as supportive. Therefore, it is important to know your rights as a pumping mama. Look up your state laws and those laws specific to your industry/company size, to empower yourself to get the treatment you deserve. The more research you do ahead of time, the more you can adapt to your situation or even influence change and improvement.

Get a Good Pump

It is SO important to have a good pump to do the job. I was really pleased with my Medela Freestyle because it is battery operated and allowed me tons of flexibility. In the early months, I could pump with it clipped on me as I walked around the house, so I could multitask and get ready and pump. It also allows you to pump in the car without an adapter, which for mamas with a commute, can be a huge timesaver as well! Look into your health insurance and see what options they provide. My insurance covered certain models, and the Freestyle was a slight upcharge, but it has been well worth it. I have been eyeing the new Willow pump for the next baby, but it isn’t covered by insurance and is almost $500 and the bags are $$$ too. I am hoping that by the end of the year it gets covered by insurance. (A girl can dream, right?)

Organize

Pack your bag ahead of time – especially the first few weeks. There are a lot of little parts and items that need to be packed. Add those in along with my other recommendations below, your regular work supplies, and getting your baby ready and packed, all of a sudden it can get overwhelming. I recommend packing yourself up the night before so you ensure that you don’t forget anything!

Look at that Cute Baby!!

I’m not sure of the exact science, but I have always been told that viewing your baby while pumping can help with your letdown and output. It also can just help make mundane pumping a little more pleasant. I always liked to scroll through photos of Charlotte on my phone or watch cute videos to help with my pumping and to just make me smile 🙂 I also tried to have reading material (like this book or this one) to help pass the time.
Pack Snacks & Hydration

If you are already nursing, you know how hungry and thirsty it makes you! It is also SO important to consume plenty of good calories and drink tons of water to help with milk production. I would always pack healthy easy snacks (These delicious lactation energy balls, RX Bars, LaraBars, fresh fruit, almonds) and bring my giant water bottle with me to ensure I was taking care of myself.

Refrigerate Parts

I read this a bunch when I was researching pumping before starting, and it was such a great tip. Instead of having to take time after you pump to wash your parts each session, you can just refrigerate parts in between sessions which keeps them sanitary. Then you can take them home and wash them at night (see my tip on this below!) I got a Tupperware container that fit everything that I just washed each night with my parts. These wet/dry bags would also work great too.

Double Up

Even with refrigerating your parts, when you are going through up to four pumping sessions a day, it is hard to constantly have a clean set. For this reason, I highly recommend getting two sets of parts for your pump. It really frees you up if you run out of time to clean a set one night, or if a part unexpectedly breaks or gets lost.

Enlist your Spouse

Unfortunately, due to the nature of nursing, 99% of the burden gets placed on the mama. Thankfully, there are ways that your spouse can support you. Mostly, I encourage emotional support for all the ups and downs of nursing. But a spouse can also offer tangible support by taking the majority of the cleaning of parts and bottles each night. I was SO appreciative whenever my husband stepped in and did this, and before long, he was cleaning everything more often than not. He was also familiar with the parts and knew to pack everything I needed.

Have Perspective

I am not going to lie: sometimes pumping… in a windowless room… when your day is crazy busy, just plain sucks. Add in all the other struggles of motherhood and nursing and it can be overwhelming. There is no way to sugar coat it. There is nothing glamorous about having your body hooked up to a machine. But that is not really productive thinking. Rather, try to remember the GIFT you are giving your baby by producing milk for him/her. Remember the tons of mamas who would LOVE to be pumping right now, whether they have lost a baby, struggle to have a baby, or are not physically able to nurse or pump. I would always try to reframe my perspective when I would be in a funk.

You’ve got this!

Now that I’m a bit removed from my first pumping journey, it is pretty crazy as I look back on everything I went through. From the scary, unknown in the beginning, to having fully weaned. At times it was painful, stressful and exhausting, but at the same time so very rewarding that with pumping, I was able to exclusively breastfeed my sweet girl for over a year. I am now so hopeful that Baby J #2 and I can have a similar experience!

If you have any questions at all about pumping at work, comment or shoot me a message, I would love to support you!! But at the end of the day, if pumping or nursing isn’t going well for you, that is okay too. Give yourself grace and figure out what works best for your fam.

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