Exclusive pumping is hard work, and so is being a working mom. Putting the two together is even harder! Here are seven ways to make pumping and working easier.
(Note: This post is geared towards working moms, but being a stay at home mom and exclusively pumping has its challenges too! Here are some ways to make pumping easier when you have a baby underfoot to care for, too.)
1. Have an extra set of everything at work for when you forget it.
There is nothing worse than the sinking feeling of getting to work and realizing that your breast shields are sitting on your drying rack at home instead of in your pump bag. Having a backup of everything you need to pump at your office gives you both peace of mind and the convenience of not having to run home when you realize something’s missing. Try keeping extras of the following at work (or in your car, if you drive to work):
- Breast shields or Pumpin Pals
- Pump parts (connector, valve, etc.)
- Bottles to pump into (with caps to store the milk)
- An extra charger or battery pack (depending on your pump)
- Anything else you use regularly to pump (breast pads, breast milk freezer bags, etc.)
2. Wash your pump parts once.
In the past, I’d recommended putting your pump parts in a ziploc bag or Pumparoo and putting them in the fridge between pumping sessions; that’s what I did.
However, the CDC recently issued new guidelines for washing pump parts and did not list this as an option. If you want to follow these guidelines, one way to handle it is to have any many sets of pump parts at work as you have pumping sessions at work. Then you can wash them all in one batch, which will be much easier than doing it after every session.
3. Have a strategy for “sneaking” in pumping sessions.
If you have a job that makes pumping inconvenient (like teachers, waitresses, and bus drivers), it can be really difficult to stick to a schedule at work. And even if you normally are able to pump at work without issues, situations (maybe you have a job interview, or have to travel) may come up that make it difficult to pump when you need to.
One way to handle this is to come up with a strategy to “sneak” in a quick pumping session. For example, you can keep a small manual pump in your purse (like this one), run to the restroom for five minutes, and pump as much as you can. (This one works great if you have a long day of interviews or if you only get short breaks from work without a decent lactation room.)
4. If you drive to work, pump during your commute.
If you commute to and from work in a car, you can pump and drive at the same time. Assuming your commute is 10 minutes or longer, you can get two pumping sessions in each day without worrying about how to fit it in. Depending on your pump, you may need to buy a car adapter (like this one) to pump in the car, but it is totally worth it when you think about the time you can save. Other pumps (like the Medela Freestyle) do not require an adapter.
One thing to think about – if you are an exclusive pumper, chances are that you spend enough time pumping that you can pump and do other things at the same time without a second thought. However, if you find pumping distracting, you should not pump and drive at the same time. Additionally, you should never hook or un-hook yourself to the pump or check the bottles while driving, and you should have to use a hands-free bra.
Check out a complete how-to on pumping and driving here!
5. If you don’t drive to work, buy a second pump to leave at work.
Keeping a second pump at work makes life a lot easier if you are commuting via mass transit, biking, or walking. If you are exclusively pumping, you need your pump everywhere you are – which means you need your pump both at home and at work. Packing it up and hauling it to work every day on top of everything else you might need (laptop bag, purse, daycare bag) is time-consuming and is just one more thing that you have to juggle as a working mom.
If you can, see if you can buy a second pump to leave at work. The high price point of good breast pumps can make this challenging, but I was able to buy a never-used one secondhand from a friend of a friend who decided not to breastfeed after her baby was born. And now that insurance companies are covering the cost of breast pumps, there will likely be an even better “aftermarket” for never-used breast pumps.
6. If you have a job conducive to pumping, pump as many times as possible at work.
Some people who work in offices have jobs that make pumping fairly easy. (Others do not – so this one doesn’t apply to you.) If you are one of the lucky ones that has an available lactation room and a job that you can do on a laptop while you pump with a hands-free bra, take advantage of that to get as much pumping time in as possible while at work. That way pumping doesn’t take away time from sleeping, being with your sweet baby, or everything else that you need to do.
(If your job isn’t conducive to pumping – for example, if you’re a teacher or a bus driver – trying googling “<your job> and pumping” and see what tips you can find. For example, here are tips for pumping as a teacher and here is a comprehensive write-up about how to pump as a lawyer during a jury trial. Hopefully you can get tips from someone who’s been there before!)
7. Stick to your pumping at work schedule, but be flexible.
That sounds like contradictory advice, I know, but hear me out.
Say that you pump three times during the work day, at 9am, 12pm, and 3pm, each for 20 minutes. Then you find out that your boss scheduled you to present at a meeting at noon.
What do you do? Go to your meeting (and wear breast pads just in case – I had an unfortunate experience with this) but then you make sure that you get 20 minutes of pumping in somewhere else that day. As long as you get the same amount of minutes that you normally get, you should be okay.
How often should you pump at work? If you’re exclusively pumping, you can just move your sessions that you were doing during the day while you on maternity leave to the office if you job allows. (Here are some tips if you can’t pump at work.)
8. Try not to stress out about pumping enough.
I know this is easier said than done, but do the best you can. If you aren’t pumping enough to give your childcare provider, it’s fine to supplement with formula. You can also try talking to your childcare provider about paced bottle feeding if you think your baby is taking more than usual while she’s there.
In short, do what you need to do to get your job done, but get your pumps in around it!
Share your tips! What has made life easier for you with regard to pumping and working?