If you knew me back in the day — the day being approximately two years ago — you might remember that during Emme’s first year of life, breastfeeding and pumping consumed me. It was all I talked about, all I thought about, and when I would get around to posting on my old blog, it was all I wrote about.
If you did not know me, you’re welcome.
Pumping at work is an unfortunate reality for many working moms who are heading back to the office post-baby and want to continue breastfeeding.
Now, I realize that you’ve spent the last nine months romanticizing the idea of lugging a bulky breast pump to and from the office in your sassy, standard-issue Medela bag; huddling topless in a storage closet away from the hustle and bustle of cubeland while praying that the weird guy from accounting doesn’t decide that right now is the perfect time to search for some obscure office supply; and answering questions like, “Can’t you put that milk somewhere else?” from horrified colleagues who are “fine” with your life choices, but just don’t want to see your life choices in the fridge next to their turkey sandwich. You understand, right?
Is there anything more beautiful than pumping at work?
Sadly, I’m here to burst your bubble and tell you that pumping at work is time-consuming, messy, inconvenient, annoying, awkward, and uncomfortable. Raise your hand if someone has walked in on you while pumping at work.
But the good news is that it’s doable, especially if you have a better attitude than I did about it. And to make pumping at work marginally easier on yourself, put these items on your baby registry or purchase them before you find yourself locked in a vacant office with your top off. Trust me, when you’re pumping at work, even marginally easier is worth it.
1. A DOUBLE ELECTRIC PUMP
If you’re going to be pumping at work, you’ll need a breast pump, and I’m not talking about one of those little hand pumps. You’re going to want the best double electric breast pump you can get your hands on. My book club went in on a group gift for my baby shower and gave me the Medela Freestyle Breast Pump. What I like about the Freestyle over other popular pumps is that the pump is small enough to carry around in a normal bag or backpack.
If the Freestyle seems like too much of a splurge, check out the Medela Pump In Style. Tried and true, you can’t go wrong with this pump. My sister’s lactation consultant also recommended the Ameda Purely Yours, another solid, less-expensive option.
You could also rent a hospital-grade pump. My sister actually did this as well and kept the rented pump at home and her Ameda pump at work, so she didn’t have to carry it around.
Keep in mind that insurance now covers breast pumps, so check with your provider to see if you can get a pump for free or at a reduced cost. I received my pump about six months before the rules changed, so I’m not an expert on the new breast pump insurance policies, but my understanding is that most providers have specific brands and models that they cover.
2. HANDS-FREE PUMPING BRA
This little contraption might be the greatest invention ever for moms who pump. I would actually recommend having a spare hands-free pumping bra — I bought the more expensive Simple Wishes bra and had a back-up version that I picked up at Target.
Some of the Medela breast pumps come with a rubber contraption called a “hands-free accessory kit.” I never figured out how to use it. If you did, you probably have a degree in engineering. Either way, once your hands are free, you can spend your pumping time surfing the Web or chatting on Google.
3. AN EXTRA SET OF PUMP PARTS
Here’s what an extra set of pump parts gives you: options. I have friends who kept their spare parts at work, so they had slightly less stuff to haul around. This also prevented the inevitable, oh-crap-I-forgot-my-pump-parts nightmare that does happen.
I, on the other hand, tempted fate and carried my extra parts back and forth so that I had less washing to do. I would swap out new parts each day so that the other set could be washed in the top rack of the dishwasher instead of having to hand wash them every night.
4. BREASTMILK STORAGE BAGS
Do you have an issue with oversupply? Is each day a new adventure in finding out how much you’re going to pump? Not sure if you should bring two bottles or four or six or 12? Here’s a good tip: Don’t worry about it. Bring two bottles that you will pump into, and then pour the milk into a breastmilk storage bag. Keep a supply of storage bags at the office, and you will never again have to worry about having enough bottles. Bonuses: They are less bulky than bottles, and they can go directly into the freezer if you don’t need to use the milk immediately. Don’t forget to double check that the bag is sealed tightly.
5. WORK-APPROPRIATE NURSING TOPS AND TANKS
You can go ahead and move those cute dresses into a storage bin until you’re done pumping. The name of the game when you’re a working mom who pumps is to undress as little as possible. I highly recommend investing in some office-appropriate nursing tops as well as nursing tanks that can be worn under sweaters and other shirts. I liked these Gap nursing tops, and I bought two of these nursing tanks (a little pricey, but very well-made, and I may or may not still wear them). If you are using a hands-free pumping bra, you can just put the bra on over your nursing shirt or tank for maximum coverage while pumping at work.
6. BREAST PUMP WIPES
Let me tell you how not fun it is to stand in a communal bathroom or kitchen washing pump parts two to four times a day. It’s not. So don’t. I started using breast pump wipes because I had a space where I could air dry my pump parts, which is really the only caveat for using these.
7. BURP CLOTHS
Pumping is a messy business and milk stains on your clothes at work is generally not cute. Bring a handful of burp cloths or old hand towels so that you can wipe yourself off after pumping. A friend told me she also would keep a towel in her lap to prevent splashes of milk getting on her clothing.
8. COOLER AND ICE PACKS
Most breast pumps will come with a cooler and an ice pack, but if yours didn’t you’ll want to purchase one. My office had a full-size fridge where I kept my milk, but a cooler will work if there’s no room in the mini-fridge your company was generous enough to purchase for the whole floor. Medela states that you can store breastmilk in its cooler with a freezer pack safely for up to 12 hours. Just make sure the freezer packs are frozen when you leave for work.
Did I miss anything? For those of you who have pumped at work, were there items that you could not live without? Help a working mother out by leaving your tips for pumping at work in the comments.