Tips for Pumping at Work

Pumping at work. It’s a pain. A gift. A lot of parts to wash. Monotonous at the least. Sometimes I feel like I’m a slave to my pumping bag and schedule. And, heaven forbid I forget to put my day’s harvest into the fridge after work (like I did the other day).  Right now, I pump three times a day, roughly every three hours, and I usually get enough for three 4 oz bottles, give or take a couple of ounces.

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Here are some things I’ve learned about pumping at work:

1. Try to see pumping as a nice break from work rather than a daily chore.  I’ve come to enjoy my 15-20 minutes of pumping, three times a day, because I get to take a break from the computer screen. While I absolutely don’t love getting set up and then packed back up, having a positive attitude about it makes it way more enjoyable. Now, pumping is a mindless habit and not so bad after all.

2. You don’t have to wash your flanges EVERY time you use them. Personally, I bring two sets—I use one set for my first two pumps and then the second set for the last pump of the day. I don’t put them in the fridge or cooler in the meantime. Fresh breastmilk can sit out for five hours, so the three hours my first set sits in my bag is a-okay with me (and I never leave my bag in a hot car). My coworker uses one set throughout the day, but puts them in her cooler with her bottles. I had already bought a bottle cooler, and it won’t fit my bottles and a set of flanges.

3. You don’t have to sterilize your parts EVERY time either. I am no germ-o-phobe, so this doesn’t bother me. I wash all the bottles and parts in hot soapy water every night (or. . .er. . .every other night. . . er. . . until there are no more clean bottles). I sterilized everything before I used it the first time and haven’t done it again. If your little is still very young, like under 3 months, you may feel more comfortable sterilizing after each use, but once he’s 4 or 5 months, regular soap and water is fine. I figure, he’s getting more germs at daycare anyway. Antibodies, right!?

After the last two, you probably think I’m a horrible and dirty person now, don’t you. . .

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4. If there is another pumping mom at work, consider joining forces. At my job there is a pretty strict schedule for the pumping room. A coworker and I decided to share a spot early on because the room was so booked up. At first, we thought pumping together would be awkward, but it has proven to be really nice! And, we’ve never seen each other’s boobs. We chat and share tips and it makes our pumps feel more like a break. A spot on the pumping schedule finally opened up and I reserved that time. So, she has three slots reserved, and I have three. Now, we (really) have six slots to choose from instead of three. That way if a meeting comes up or we are running late, we can be more flexible.

5. Get a battery pack for your pump. There have been a few times where I had a meeting offsite or a work lunch and had to pump in my car (or while driving–which I actually did successfully!) It’s a nice fail safe in case something comes up and you really need to pump for fear of exploding.

6. Don’t stress about your production. Production fluctuates. Mondays, I usually come up about 2 ounces short (I always forget to take my lactation supplement on the weekends). But as the week progresses, my supply gets better. So, usually I have about 2 or 3 ounces extra in the fridge at any given time, and it all balances out. My coworker has the opposite happen; her supply is the best on Mondays. I try to be one bottle ahead, just in case something comes up, and I have a freezer stash. If you want to keep a good stash going, freeze your Friday pump and use the oldest frozen milk on Monday. Then, you’ll have a rotation going (I never do this because I always forget—but it is a good idea).

Know that having to supplement is not the end of the world. I haven’t had to, but I told myself that if I get overwhelmed or simply cannot keep up, supplementing is an option. My coworker had to supplement one bottle a day, but now she’s pumping enough to cover all three feeds with expressed milk. The important thing is that your baby is eating. You are doing a great job by committing to pump at work!

Kristen and her husband, Gabe, married young, halfway through their college careers at LSU, figuring it would be more fun to be poor together than alone. After earning a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature in 2007, they trekked all the way to Delaware, where she earned a Master’s degree in English Literature and can tell you more about Nineteenth-century England than you’d probably like to know. Afterwards, they spent a carefree year living in Philadelphia, enjoying city life, before moving back home to Central and settling in. The start of 2014 brought their son, Sam, into the world—their greatest adventure to date. She works full-time, tries to cook most nights even though she’s exhausted, and is trying to see the beauty in the mundane. Kristen is passionate about eating together around the table, teaching our kids to be independent and creative, and empowering dads (rather than telling them they’re doing it wrong). In her “free time,” she enjoys reading in the bath, watching Doctor Who, intending to do DIY projects, and occasionally making cameo appearances in her husband’s music videos.

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