I just headed back to work full time at the beginning of December. In addition to the normal stress and anxiety that comes with all of that… it also means the fun of pumping three times a day at work.
If you’re a new mama going back to work or are currently pumping, I’m here to help. This is the fourth time around that I have gone back to work and done the whole pump at work, clean parts, get bottles ready, send to daycare and do it all over again, so I figured I would share some #pumpinghacks that I’ve learned along the way that have really helped me to keep up pumping at work and making it less of a production (pun intended).
- Before you have the baby – figure out WHERE you are going to pump! This is huge guys. I promise that this will help alleviate some of your anxiety about this if you know where your employer has space for you to pump and what is available to you. Find out if there is a fridge to store your milk and parts and if there is a sink; most importantly, make sure it’s a private space with a lock. I know some moms that I know can pump in their office, but nowadays it seems like many companies have the “open concept” office which means more windows and glass and less privacy…which might be good for collaboration, but not good if you want to pump in there. If you’re employer doesn’t have a space, gently remind them that it is actually is part of a federal workplace law to provide a private space for you that is not the bathroom. And even small businesses must comply unless they apply for an exemption to this law. My current employer actually didn’t have a space for us until another mom brought it up that it was a requirement and soon after that, they made one.
- Pack your pump bag the night before. This is also huge because it helps you avoid the #mombrain in the morning which can often result in leaving parts or bottles that you need at home on accident. Trust me when I say this because I have been there too many times when I sit down for my first morning pumping session and am cursing that I didn’t do that because I forgot a flange or bottle. What I take in my pump bag is:
- My pump (I have the Spectra 2 this time around but had the Medela Pump In Style with my other three kiddos). Since I have multiple pumps, I like to leave one pump at work!
- Three bottles – the exact ones that I will need to send to daycare the next day + a few additional bottles (any kind) to pump in
- Two flange parts (the things you actually put on your boobs!)
- Five bottle caps (I like to have an extras just in case)
- Mini cooler to transport my milk AND store my parts in the fridge throughout the day (will get to that later!)
- Extra stuff: I always have some milk storage bags in there just in case I forget a bottle or have too much milk. I also keep extra membranes (the little white things) in my bag because I use the medela parts and like to have those on hand just in case as well as the small yellow adapter pieces that I use in my Medela parts to use the Spectra.
- Pump directly into the bottles you plan on using the next day at daycare. This was a game changer for me because I didn’t figure this out until halfway through breastfeeding baby number two. Since her daycare required us to send prepared bottles (our older son’s didn’t and we just sent frozen milk), this cut down on having to wash even more parts and bottles daily. This is what I have continued with our two subsequent kids and it’s helped a lot. We use Dr. Brown’s bottles and I just take three of them and pump directly into them during the day. Right when I get home from work, I take them out of my little cooler and immediately add the additional bottle parts and stick in the fridge. That cuts down on having to wash bottles that I would have pumped into during the day AND if I put them together before I even stick in the fridge, the bottles are already ready for the next day of daycare.
- Do not wash your pump parts between every pumping session. I repeat DO NOT WASH YOUR PUMP PARTS BETWEEN EVERY PUMPING SESSION. But with this tip, I do have to remind you that this is NOT recommended to do if your baby is under three months old or has a weakened immune system, as the safest thing is to wash after every session to ensure that there are not any microorganisms left in there. So please keep that in mind – but even experts admit that it is a good time saving tip, and they do it from time to time as well. For a time saving tip, this is awesome, but you can always quickly rinse the parts and then stick them in the fridge for the next pumping session if you want to be a little pre-cautious but still get that rinse in!
- With the milk that you have leftover, separate it into the milk storage bags, label with the date and number of ounces (I recommend storing in the ounce increments your little one is taking in a bottle!). Then store flat to freeze!! This was NOT something I did with my first and we ended up with a freezer full of odd shaped frozen milk and it was super hard and awkward to store. When you freeze it flat, you can quickly stick it in a freezer bag and put the month on it so you can throw in your freezer all together or in the deep freeze (thanks to a friend for this awesome tip! I’ve loved it this time around!).
These tips were NOT something I knew with my first kid even with all the “research” I did and many I learned just from talking to other working moms or moms that exclusively pump. I did find this article interested from Harpers Bazaar about “why women stop breastfeeding” as it details a lot of the challenges that come with pumping at work, while traveling and overviews some of the stigmas that many women feel while pumping at work. I share this (and all my tips) to let you know that the challenges that come with pump and working or exclusively pumping are NOT just ones that you feel. There is a community of women that all are in this together and what I’ve found is that we are better when we share. You can decide what tips work best for you and your personal situation. So what are your pumping tips??