By WMM Contributor: Melissa Feldmeyer
Oh the places you'll pump.... No this is not the undiscovered Dr. Seuss book, but we pumping moms could definitely fill a book with the locations and interesting conditions we've found ourselves pumping in. Some of the more interesting ones for me have been: the zoo, Lambeau field (honestly the best accommodations ever- leather seats and cable TV people!), Summerfest, the Shedd Aquarium and an office of all windows.
Yes I have pumped in a bar, yes I have pumped in a car, yes I have pumped at State Fair, yes I have pumped everywhere!
If you are a breastfeeding mom who works- pumping during the workday is going to a part of your life as much as diapers and Baby Shark. I went into motherhood with this thought so far in the back of my mind that I hadn't even bought a pump yet when my first daughter was born.
But with both daughters I wound up pumping for 10 and 14 months, so I would now categorize myself as a professional pumper. I would put it on my resume if I thought it would be in any way applicable, because it was definitely a learned skill and a mountain I am proud to have climbed. That's is like 2 years total of my life I've spent pumping! I could try to act noble say I did it because of the benefits of breastmilk, but I would be at least partially lying. After the 6 month mark at least I was mainly doing it because I was cheap and spending all my money on daycare and didn’t want to pay for formula. But it was still a big investment- of my time and energy and my schedule revolving around pumping. I felt like a tick time bomb- I have exactly 3 hours to run this training, this errand, etc. before I explode (metaphorically?).
I'd like to pass along a couple of tips of the trade I learned along the way that hopefully can make the experience of pumping at work a little easier for you right from the start.
Scope out your pumping situations BEFORE you go on maternity leave.
Your employer is required to provide a private non-bathroom location for you to pump. Many workplaces do have a dedicated mother’s room that are already set up to accommodate pumping moms- but a permanent dedicated space is not required. It can be a temporary space as long as it allows you privacy for the duration of your pumping session. If your workplace does not have a dedicated space, discuss plans for where you will be able to pump before you leave on maternity leave so that you don't show up your first day back ready to pump but with nowhere to go. You need a place where you can be undisturbed for up to half an hour. Ideally with an outlet. You will probably also want make sure you have refrigeration somewhere at your workplace to store your milk during the day. If you work in an environment with many pumping moms and just 1 room, you might want to discuss a schedule for the room so you're all not rushing to get in there at noon. Your first days back to work will be hectic and emotional, so getting these logistics set up in advance will save you some headaches down the line.
Neither of the workplaces I returned to after the births of my daughters had a dedicated space. At 1 workplace I used a men's dressing room (with a lock). We didn't have a lot of men coming through there, so it worked. There were a few full length mirrors in there which made it a little.....awkward. The 2nd workplace I was able to use an empty office on a vacant floor of the office building. I'm pretty sure it was haunted. I found an abandoned loveseat from the previous tenant that I dragged into the office so I had a pretty nice, very private (except for the ghost of course) and comfy set up.
I must say… my current workplace has a very lovely dedicated room. A comfy armchair, a clock, even a mini-fridge. It’s almost enough to make me want to have another baby. Almost. If they got a TV in there- definitely.
Pump at the same time every day.
I found for the sake of keeping my supply up, and my sanity, that I needed to pump at the same times every day. I know this suggestion is going to be easier for some of us than others depending on the work you do. For me, in a largely office/computer environment, it worked to have 2 private reoccurring appointments on my calendar every single day. This was useful for 2 reasons. 1- No one would schedule over my preexisting appointments, and 2- it reminded me, no matter how deep into a project I was, that I needed to stop and take care of my business- otherwise it would be easy for me to just forget until I was in pain.
Once coming back from a pumping session a male coworker asked where I was and why I hadn’t been at my desk because he was looking for me.
I said I was pumping. He was so oblivious and said “Oh, nice…. pumping iron during the workday!” Um, no… I did not just go to the gym in the middle of the day. I said “Not exactly, pumping milk.” He looked confused for a second and then his face got SO red. I still chuckle thinking about it…
The more you can have on hand at your office, the less you’ll have to lug back and forth. Remember you’ll be packing SO MUCH STUFF every morning. Not only your work bag, lunch, purse, all of your baby’s bottles and day care items, but also all of your pump supplies- which would include the actual pump, cord or battery pack, tubes, up to 4 bottles with the lids (or storage bags) connectors, membranes, flanges. Then those optional items like a hands free nursing bra, zip lock bags, microwavable sterilization bag (I just had a little kit of dish soap and a scrubber that I stored in the work kitchen for part cleaning). And if you forget any one of these things- you’re be stranded. I had a few occasions on having to run to a nearby Walgreens to buy extra tubes or bottles before I wised up and just made sure that I had an extra set of all of these at work that I kept at work. With my 2nd child, since I had a different job and insurance provider, I was able to get another pump covered, so I had one for home, one for the office. It really helped my morning routine to not have to remember so much and not to walk into the office dragging so many bags that it looked like I was going on vacation.
Those “have extras” also extends to planning for the things that could go wrong in a nursing sessions. Having a little desk kit with items like- an extra shirt, nursing pads, those little Tide wipes for shirt spills (which also work well when you realize you have spit up or boogers on your blazer) and baby wipes. And of COURSE we cannot forget about having extra snacks and water on hand. You’re burning more calories and will be more in need than ever of an energy generating mid-morning and afternoon snacks.
Check your fashion.
Obviously the best part of going back to work after the baby is trading your comfy maternity leave clothes for business casual right? (eyeroll, eyeroll, eyeroll…..) I especially loved still having to wear my maternity dress pants because I couldn’t fit into my real dress pants yet. But one factor to consider when dressing in a business casual environment while breastfeeding is accessibility. That slip on dress might seem like a great choice is the morning- but how comfortable will you feel having to hike it up and sit, basically naked, when it comes time to pump? (Reference back to my previous note about pumping in the men’s dressing room with the mirrors…. yikes.) Even if you don’t mind the mostly naked part, offices can get mighty chilly! My best pumping friendly work clothes were my flowy tops that I could easily drape over my pumps as well as my button ups. I also more frequently chose to wear a tank top underneath my shirt that I could pull down easily to not feel as exposed or cold if my top wasn’t as nursing friendly.
Embrace the solitude.
In some ways pumping at work is easier than at home, because no one needs you. There is no baby waking up in the middle of a session or other child yelling from the bathroom that they need you to come wipe their butt. If you are like me, your work pump time will be the only times a day you will truly be alone. This was my “me” time for a while. I would listen to music, read a book, book doctors’ appointments and sign kids up for activities (and hoped they just ignored the whomp, whomp…. whomp, whomp sound of the pump in the background). But if you’re feeling too swamped for a break at work- there are pumps and pumping bras that will allow you be hands free, so take your laptop with you and keep the work flowing as freely as your milk.
So…to conclude… “Congratulations! Today is your day! You’re off to (pump in) great places! You’re off and away!”