Successfully Pumping At Work

What is in my Pump Bag

that makes being half naked at work slightly easier.

A friend recently asked me what she needs to bring to work to successfully pump. Just a pump and a bottle right? Oh, friend, if only it were that simple. Instead, I have compiled a bag full of stuff that makes the experience a little bit easier.  Because, let’s be honest, it’s super uncomfortable to be half naked at work no matter how prepared you are.

I will say that it has been easier the second time around. My milk lets down easier and I have learned to advocate for myself, so I make sure that I am regularly pumping every 2.5 to 3 hours.  I also just stopped caring if my pumping makes people uncomfortable. I was very fortunate the first time around that my manager was a working mom who did the baby thing. She was extremely supportive and I was able to be open about what I needed. I am thankful for that because I now report to a male, who is still very supportive, but can’t relate. So, it would be easier to try and tip toe around what I am doing, but it’s not worth my time. My first piece of advice is just own it. Own what you are doing because it is an incredible gift to your child and it’s not worth your mental energy to try and figure out how to say “I need to pump” in a not awkward way.  If it makes someone feel awkward, that’s their thing, they can deal. Do what you need to do to be comfortable (both physically comfortable and mentally/emotionally comfortable) with your pumping journey.

What is actually in my bag? Here is a comprehensive list of items that has grown and changed with my year + of experience.

Pump – Obviously.  I have been using the Medela Freestyle Pump with babe #2 and I really like it.  I love that I don’t need to be next to an outlet, tied to a wall. The rechargeable battery has great life and the suction is actually pretty impressive! It works well for me and I especially like it because it means I can pump in the car if needed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pumping Bra – Let’s be honest, no one wants to spend more time than necessary stripped down to their skivvies in the office. (Or, if you do, then you live a very different life than I) The pumping bra is essential for double pumping and wrapping up this whole weird ordeal. I bought this one off Amazon for about $30 and it has worked for both boys so far. I know you can also cut holes in a sports bra, but this just didn’t work for me. I prefer this bra, but either way, this needs to be in the bag.ALL YOUR PUMP PARTS, there is nothing more frustrating than forgetting one little pump part and your whole pump is useless. I always pack my pieces the night before so I am not trying to do it in a rush in the morning. I also keep a spare set of parts at the office at all times.  I started doing this after I forgot my parts one day and was MISERABLE.  They aren’t expensive, so do yourself a favor and just buy a second set to keep in your desk drawer.

Burp Cloth – So it really stinks when you are all done, you are removing the breast shields, and you spill extra milk all over your dry-clean-only work pants. Instead, make sure you grab a burp rag and drape it over your lap while pumping. It comes in super useful when cleaning up before getting dressed and protecting clothes from tiny milk drops.

Gallon sized zip lock bag – This is to stick all the pieces in between pumping sessions. It saves so much time rather than having to clean each piece 3+ times per day. Sometimes it only takes me 12 minutes to walk, set up, pump, and be done. That’s huge for your busy work day!

Cloth bag to put the zip lock bag in – This isn’t essential, but it makes me feel better about the walk from the communal fridge back to my pumping room. It’s actually a bag I received when we were in the NICU and it has come in very handy! I just put the Ziplock inside and then throw that in the fridge and walk to my room with it. I like having a little privacy and I like that people aren’t staring at my pumping bottles when they are looking for a mid day snack.

Cooler and Freezer Pack – I stick some food in this on my way to work and carry milk in it on the way home. I just keep the whole cooler in the fridge during the day. The ice pack then stays cool for my drive home. While it isn’t a huge deal during the winter months, I would hate for my car to break down in the summer and not be able to get the milk home in time.  The freezer pack gives me an added sense of security that my milk isn’t going to get too warm before I am able to freeze it once I am home for the day.

2 bottles and milk bags – I always pump into bottles and then transfer into milk bags so I can freeze them. I think pumping into bottles is way less stressful than trying to pump directly into bags. I also keep a spare box of milk bags in my pumping bag at all times. As soon as I use one up I put a second box in. Again, there is nothing worse than pumping and realizing you don’t have anywhere to put the milk so you can pump again later. Then you have to go to the store and it’s a whole big thing. Just keep extras in your bag, your working mama self will be thankful.

Pen or marker to record dates and ounces on your bags – this is especially important if you plan to freeze the milk you are pumping. You will want to keep it organized and it is really helpful to your care taker to know how much is in each bag.

Nursing cover – this is another optional item, but I just stuck it in the bag in case I ever felt uncomfortable in the office or I needed to pump in the car. It’s just nice to know I have the security of the cover if I need it. I haven’t actually used it yet, but it’s my security blanket for pumping.

This cover is from MilkSnob.com – I LOVE THEIR COVERS they are Jersey cotton so they are super light weight and soft. They completely cover you and baby can still breathe. I definitely recommend them!

Some other optional items that I know have helped other mamas:

  • Something that smells like your little. I haven’t had a problem with let down this time, but grabbing your baby’s PJ’s from the night before (ya know, as long as there isn’t spit up or pee on them) can help your milk come in.  A picture of your little can also help.
  • Calming music or scenery.  If you work a super stressful job or you have to operate on high octane all the time, allowing yourself to calm down is key.  Having calm music playing or looking at calming pictures like waterfalls (and imagining your milk is like a waterfall) can help your milk come in.
  • Having a mantra that you repeat to yourself. This helped a lot with my first. I had a really hard time relaxing enough for my milk to come in. I was also super anxious that I wouldn’t be able to pump enough to provide for his needs.  Let me tell you, being anxious about not producing enough is a sure fire way to not produce enough milk. Instead, I started having really positive self talk about how wonderful it was that I was working this hard for him and that any amount of milk was important.  Whenever I would start to relax and give myself grace, sure enough, my milk with let down.
  • Snack and water.  Often, I get going too fast to eat or drink.  Pumping is a great opportunity to take a second for yourself and have a snack and drink lots of water. This will help you keep your energy up, allow you to continue to pump later in the day, and also allow you to feel like there is something in it for you instead of just doing all this for the baby.
  • Wipes. Medela sells wipes for your pump for the between times when you can’t wash. It’s a good option for wiping up quickly during your work day.
  • Sterilization bags. Medela makes these, too. You just stick all your pieces in the bag with water and then put it in the microwave. I can’t speak to the safety of these bags as far as the high heat goes, but again, it’s easy for the office.

These are all the things that have helped me. Mamas – what other items did you have in your pumping bag that helped you pump successfully?

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 Pumping Hacks

Ahh the breast pump, the best and worst thing to happen to breastfeeding moms. I am so thankful for my breast pump, it allows me to work and leave the baby and still provide the best nutrition. But also, it’s the worst. All the pieces, trying to get the pumping bra on right, adjusting the settings, realizing you forgot one pivotal piece at home…. it can definitely be a drag. Now, I am no breastfeeding expert or lactation consultant, but I have read a lot on the subject and made enough mistakes to know a thing or two. I want to share a few hacks with you to make pumping easier and hopefully, get you closer to your breastfeeding goal.

Hack #1: The Plastic Bag

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Ladies, this is FOR REAL the best hack I have ever used. I read it in Parenting Magazine with my first, thankfully before I went back to work. After you pump, simply put all the pieces in a sealed plastic bag and place in the fridge! According to the Mayo Clinic, expressed breast milk can be stored in the fridge for up to five days (it is optimal to freeze it within 3 days, you can read more here). So, I simply put all my pumping parts in a bag in the fridge and keep it in the back away from the door. I then clean it once per day instead of after every time I pump. Also, I don’t have time to clean all those pieces with an almost two year old running around so this is a necessity in life.

Hack #2: Start an extra pump session in the morning

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You always have the most milk in the morning. I notice, too, that often my baby will only eat on one side at night so there always seems to be excess in the AM. Just start a routine of pumping about 45 minutes to one hour after your baby first eats in the morning. Usually, I feed baby first. Get him changed, make my coffee, get some water, let the dogs out, and then get set up to pump. As long as this is part of a normal routine and done daily you will build up a nice extra supply. I am so thankful for my back up supply. I know that I will have plenty when I go back to work, or if something terrible should happen, I know that I will have a month or so of milk before having to switch to formula.

Hack #3: Use your shield as a funnel

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So I honestly don’t remember where or when I saw this, but when I did it was like the heavens opened. I was always so nervous about spilling milk all over the place! Especially at work because that’s just where something as terrible as spilled breast milk would happen. Simply put your breast shield into the freezer bag and then pour your milk through the shield. Seriously – life saver!

Hack #4: Freeze your milk flat for better storage

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#flatlay (hahaha bfing humor)

Again, you guys probably figured this one out on your own….but I am not that bright. If you freeze your milk laying flat it is much easier to store upright and you can fit a lot more in your deep freeze. This also helps with organizing so that you can easily see dates and how much is in the bag without digging through the deep dark crevices of your freezer. Which brings me to my next hack….

Hack #5: Use boxes to organize your milk

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One thing that I did not do well the first time around was organize my supply. I ended up throwing a lot away because I didn’t use it in time and that is JUST THE WORST. So do yourself a favor and organize your milk so it can  be easily identified and used. My mom had the idea of using shoe boxes, but then we found that cutting our warehouse milk boxes in half was the perfect size for the freezer bags. So I just stick them all in there and then put them in the deep freeze, insta-organize!

Hack #6: Don’t stress

So this isn’t really a hack, but it is really important to remember when you are trying to pump. Being stressed or anxious about how much you are getting or if it will be enough is a sure fire way to limit your pumping. Lots of people recommend looking at pictures of your baby or having something on hand that smells like baby. This never worked for me, but what did work is taking deep breaths and repeating this mantra:

         Whatever I can give my baby will be enough; no matter how much I pump I am helping him               grow; Every single ounce is a blessing

Taking deep breaths and just being thankful for any amount that I was able to pump is how I made it through those sessions at work – which, by the way , is the worst place to try to pump because you have the stress of the job, the stress of someone seeing something you don’t want them to see, the stress of not getting enough milk, etc, etc. Just remember, the important part is that you are trying and that you want to provide ANY amount of breast milk!

These are some of the top things that have made pumping less painful and go more smoothly, what have other mamas done to help with pumping? What is your number one hack for continuing to breastfeed after going back to work?