Pumping At Work Tips for Breast Feeding Moms

Moms who pump at work are more and more a routine part of today's workplace. Here are some valuable tips for new moms from our network of seasoned pumping pros.

Breast Pump Parts 1

 

BEFORE YOU GO BACK TO WORK:

 

  • Start pumping and saving early. Try pumping first thing in the morning to build up your supply. That first larger pump in the am will help you get into a routine.

  • Try a “nursing vacation.” Since your baby is the most efficient pump consider taking a weekend where you hydrate and nurse and little else. It may rev up your production so that your pumping is more productive once you get back to work.

 

SCHEDULING:

 

  • Start work midweek. "Go back on a Weds if you can...less daunting to begin mid-week."

  • Do a Dry Run before you start back to work. “I came into the office the Friday prior to returning and set up my whole pumping station in my office and did a pumping trial run to see how it would work.”

  • Prep the night before. Getting yourself (shower) and other things ready the night before makes it that much easier to get out in the morning. “At night, I lay out the baby's clothes in advance and prepare his bottles for the following day, just so I have two less things to do in the morning.”

  • Pump in the morning before or after you breastfeed. Consider getting up early and doing an extra pump before going off to work. It may help you wait a little longer before you have to pump at work. You can pump on one side and feed on the other. Some folks pumped in a warm shower (there are hand pumps available)

  • Schedule your pumping sessions in your work calendar if you have one. “I label each one as "P Session" and make it a recurring "meeting," so that colleagues see that I'm busy during those times and will look for different times to meet… It also means that I get an automatic notification reminding me to pump, so that I don't forget to do so on particularly busy days.” “Also on pumping: set the time aside in your calendar and look ahead to recurring meetings that could interfere with pumping.

  • Pump a couple times on the weekend if you can. “Knowing that I have a little extra from the weekend on reserve makes my work-week pumping sessions less stressful.”

  • Have reminders to pump. “Set alarms, or it's easy to get busy and get off schedule.”

  • Schedule pumping time in your calendar. "Put the time you plan on pumping in your calendar now so people don't book meetings over the time you need! (I pumped 2x/day at work but I know some prefer 3x). you may want to adjust once you get in the swing of things but at least people know that there will be certain "sacred" times of day you can't be bothered!" Similarly, another mom shares: "not sure what kind of office environment you work in but if you can - let coworkers and your boss know that the time is sacred. I tell people that I can move my "private" calendar spots but need notice and might need to move other things."

  • Get to know other pumping moms in the office. "Also if it is a shared and scheduled pumping room situation - get the info of the other people using the room. My co-pumpers and I are always in communication in case someone needs to swap slots."

  • Change things at home. "I also changed my schedule at home- no more bottle before bed. I breastfeed before his bedtime and then pump before I go to bed. My goal is to pump around the number of ounces he needs for each day with the nanny (3 bottles at 5 oz each). It's good to set a goal but also be realistic that it will take some time to get into a routine. Good luck and don't stress too much about fluctuating levels in the beginning...it will even out.

 

THE PROCESS:

 

  • Keep a photo of your baby on your desk or otherwise accessible for pumping sessions. "I've found that looking at photos of my baby increases the speed of my let down. I also recorded a short video of him "fuss-talking" (our word for when the baby complains but doesn't full-out cry) on my iPhone, and will sometimes listen to it with headphones at the beginning to help push things along. It works." Another tip: “make a few small videos each day of your babe and watch while you pump. Helps the milk production and is a nice way to spend your pumping break.” Also, another mom shares: "I've accidentally been on the phone with my husband while he's with the kids and I'm pumping, and hearing my baby cry does wonders for my supply!"

  • Pump 1-3 times at work. How much you have to pump will depend on the age of your baby, how much you get out of each pump, and other issues. It will take a while to get into the swing of things so be patient with the process.

  • Have a clean-up system that works for you.
    • “Best thing I figured out was to keep a colander at work to wash the pumping supplies.” "Keep the flanges and stuff in a plastic bag and if using the public fridge store in a lunch bag or something… no need to wash the parts each time if in the fridge.”
    • “Wash everything when you get home after work." If you need to wash at work then some people just dry their parts by their desk (covered with a paper towel) in an inconspicuous spot"
    • “OXO has a breast pump parts drying rack” that is recommended that’s about ten dollars on Amazon."
    • "One tip I got, which was a huge time saver, was to put all the parts in a ziploc bag after use and refrigerate vs. washing them twice a day."
  • Allow plenty of time. "Always allot more time than you think you will need per session at first--even 45 minutes. I felt really stressed an anxious about organizing all my supplies and taking time away from work at first, so it was helpful to make sure I didn't have the additional stress of trying to get it done in 20 minutes."
  • It gets better! "I remember a few days into it being like, "how does anyone do this?  This is nuts!" but the whole thing is kind of funny and it gets better/easier."
  • Something to listen to. "I also recommend some good podcasts and headphones!  I initially resented all the time I spent pumping until I realized it was literally the only time I ever had to myself.  Now it's the best time to catch up on all my podcasts."

 

STORAGE, CLEANING and TRANSPORT:

 

  • Be sure to follow CDC guidelines about How to Keep Your Breast Pump Clean and their tips for the proper handling and storage of human milk.

  • Leave parts at work. Cleaning parts and leaving them at work means you don’t need to worry about forgetting anything. I “kept a little caddy in my drawer with parts, soap, brush, storage bags and steam bags together.”

  • Use freezer storage at work if you can. “I stored my milk in the freezer (at work) and carried it home in the medela freezer pack transport bag."

  • Have spare parts so you can wash one at night and pack up the other set. “Stash a complete spare set of parts at your desk for that inevitable day when you either forget everything or just one piece. I've pumped for two kids and I figured out that trick early on.” “nothing like a panic run to babies r us to buy flanges and microwave sterilizing bags to start your Monday.”

  • Mini cooler bag.
    • "I traveled back and forth with a mini cooler bag. I would leave the next day's milk in the daycare fridge when I picked my son up and brought the empties home. I carried the cooler bag in a tote bag where i otherwise kept a water bottle and pumping bra. (I was fortunate to have an industrial pump at work so did not have to bring the pump itself back and forth- definitely a luxury!)."
    • "To transport my milk home I have the little square black medela cooler that comes with some pumps, but you can also buy separately. It fits in my large purse and keeps the milk fresh for the commute. Sometimes I just keep the milk in the cooler all day and don't even bother with my work fridge."
    • "I bought a cooler bag that fits 6 freezer bags- super compact and convenient. I have the Medela freestyle pump so I can pump directly into a bag. I was able to build up a stock of milk before I went back to work, so I am not pumping for the following day- if that is your situation definitely check out that bag- brand name Kinde."
  • Maintain mechanicals. "Remember to switch out your valves and membranes every few months (if you are using a medela). Not sure what the equivalent is on the other brands but there is probably some part you need to switch out."

  • Get help from your partner. "I just went back to work last week and it's been very overwhelming getting out of the house.  One thing that has helped with the transition is my husband has taken responsibility for the pump.  He unpacks cleans and repacks my bag each night and morning while I nurse.  I was double checking at first but he's gotten it down after a few days. They say you need your partners support to successfully breast feed and and I totally agree.  I've been so tired Id really be dreading the next few months if it wasn't for the help.  My mom is here for a few weeks before we start daycare.  And I was concerned about the baby adjusting to me being away, it hasnt phased her at all.  I would do the daycare transition plan but unless you have to or want to go out without the baby I would just snuggle as much as possible before you go back to work and treasure the time together."

  • On storage: "When storing in bags, it's good to initially store the amount of milk that your baby drinks at each feeding, which should be 3 to 5 ounces. It's hard to gauge but you'll figure it out with the people helping you with childcare. After awhile, because I didn't want to have to throw away so many plastic milk bags I would just consolidate into 6 ounce bags, which is the most you can fit in one bag.  Now, I pump into bottles and pour the milk into the Kiinde bags. I'll refrigerate everything. And the next pump, I'll put everything in one bottle, refrigerate that so it cools down, and put it into the bag at my next pump so it makes six ounces. I'll put the remaining into a new bag depending.  For my last pump of the day at work which is usually between 3 and 4pm. I'll just leave everything in the bottle. I go home, nurse and pump again at 10/11pm into the bottle. I use these last two bottles for the nanny (about 5 ounces)  and pull an additional 12 ounces of frozen milk (she's been drinking around 15 ounces since she was 7-8months).  The reason I was doing this was because fresh milk lasts longer. Initially, we were pulling 24 ounces of frozenmilk and sometimes [my child] wouldn't drink it all so we would have to throw away the rest. YOU WANT TO AVOID WASTING MILK BECAUSE YOU WORK SO HARD TO PUMP IT!!! Now, Nico gets the frozen supply first, and then the fresh milk last. If there's leftover fresh milk, I can freeze it for later. You can't re-freeze thawed milk."

  • Cleaning tips: "I don't use those microwave sanitation bags. Maybe I should, but after listening to experienced moms it seemed like you don't need to.  In general, I'll do the following at night:
    1. Rinse out the quart containers with hot water.     
    2. Squirt dish soap into each container.
    3. Take apart the pump parts, put them in the quart container.    
    4. Fill up with hot sink water or boiling water.     Scrub with bottle brushes.    
    5. Rinse & dry. 
    6. Every week or so, I'll stick the parts in the dishwasher when the timing works out.  I ended up buying another pump from the listserve to keep at work and one to keep at home. It just made easier."

 

GEAR:

 

  • Bring a cover-up. ”I brought my cover which I didn't think I would use but definitely do. I'm in an office that I share (by choice) and sometimes have friends stop by and given my limited free time at work, it is just easier to put on the cover and continue to pump. Also when I'm by myself it helps me feel less naked.”

  • The Spectra gets good marks. Over and over moms tell us this is the pump that gives them higher output than other models. There is a battery pack that comes with the Spectra—makes you more mobile. Folks say it’s quieter as well, so if you work in an area that sound is an issue you may want to check that out. The Septra 2 is also a more affordable option you can get.

  • Doesn’t hurt to ask for a pump. Some people have asked their HR departments for a hospital grade breast pump for the pumping room. It means you don’t have to drag your gear back and forth and it’s more efficient than you might be able to afford on your own.

  • Consider a second pump to leave at work.
    • “If a pump costs $300 (and you can get them cheap used) and you pump for six months. Would you pay $50 a month not to have to drag that thing back and forth each day? That's only $2.50 each business day." Similarly, "Keep a set of tubing and/or bottles/other materials at work to minimize schlepping (took home weekly to sanitize)."
  • A hand pump can be handy.
    • "Not sure what your pumping room situation is but If it's a shared and scheduled situation I find it helpful to also always have a hand pump with me just in case meetings run long and I can't make my time."
    • "I also recommend bringing a hand pump to work with one or two extra bottles and leaving it in your desk.  If/when you forget your pump parts for the electric pump you will have a backup to relieve some of the pressure."
  • Cleaning with steam bags, breast pump wipes and other items. Microwaveable steam bags for breast pump parts can make cleaning easier. One breastfeeding mom used the wipes for mid-day use. Having your own sponge, brush and travel size soap means you clean when and how you like.

  • Towel/ rags. "Towel to set up your pumping station."

  • Paper towels. "I kept paper towels in the pumping room because there were inevitably spills

  • Wipes. "I've also found the cleaning wipes are great for the medela pump."

  • Ice Packs help you have a backup plan. Consider keeping a spare ice pack, small cooler and bags/bottles in the event you forget to bring back your back and forth items.

  • Ziplock bags. "Bring a big zip lock bag for your pump parts. If you plan on pumping multiple times, just throw your parts in the fridge and you won't need to wash them until you get home. I learned that here on psp and it's a game changer."
    As another mom shares, "I second the ziplock bag.  I bought several extra sets of parts so that when done I could just throw all the dirties in a ziplock and not have to do any washing at work. It took up so much time until I figured that out.  I occasionally used the micro steam bags if I needed to wash parts at work.  I also got to a point where I just wore the pump hands free bra all day under my shirt and sometimes wore another bra over it. It got to be such a pain taking it on/ off all day.  Also, this doesn’t work on the subway but I was driving to my job at that time and pumped in the car. Saved so much time in my work day. It’s a commitment for sure!"

  • Nursing pads. "Always a good idea to also keep extra nursing pads around as well."

  • Spare battery. "Depending on whether you work at different sites a battery pack for your pump."

  • Lanolin or Coconut Oil. "Going from pumping only once a day to then three-four times a day was not that comfortable on my nipples- applying lanolin or coconut oil before I pumped was super helpful."

 

YOU:

 

  • Communicate with work about pumping. Talk to your boss right away about how to handle situations where you might need to leave early or arrive late to a meeting."

  • Get up EARLIER. Wake up early enough to give yourself enough time to breastfeed/ pump and get out the door (and/or prepare as much as you can before you go to bed at night).

  • Eat breakfast. “I find my supply is better when I've been able to eat in the morning and when I'm well hydrated. If I don't get breakfast at home for any reason, I try to quickly grab a muffin or oatmeal on the way to work to eat at my desk.” “Bring a stash of Luna bars or other nutritive snacks (all the pumping makes you hungry and makes it tough to find time to run out and get food).”

  • Pack a lunch. "Good packed lunches to make sure that you don't run out of time to get food."
  • Stay hydrated. “Have a water bottle handy.” You get very thirsty from all the pumping.” I've been keeping a Klean Kanteen bottle at my desk with a glass, so that I don't need to run back and forth to the office kitchen as much.” “Drink lots of water, my supply goes down if I not hydrated enough.” "I just recommend constantly refilling a giant water bottle."

  • Don't stress. "If you are freaked about not pumping enough, you probably won't pump enough. This was my first week experience.” And, "most importantly, try to relax and not to stress too much.  I started out pumping 3 times a day at work and it was very overwhelming with trying to get work done/meetings.  The minute I made the decision to cut down to 2 times a day, I felt a huge weight off my shoulders and I'm still getting enough milk.  You will find a schedule that works best for you and it'll all be fine!!"

  • Connect with other pumping moms. "If you have friends who are also just back to work and pumping - talk about the ridiculousness of the situation. When pumping for my oldest I had 2 maternity leave friends who went back to work the same day I did and we had an open group text. Talking about what we were doing (and the crazy stories that will inevitably happen) kept us all sane."

  • Be easy on your self and do things to take care of you.
    • "Remember that one bad pump or one bad pumping day does not mean the end of your supply or that pumping isn't working. We all have bad pumping days."
    • "Have a nice treat for you at home after your first day. think ice cream and a very nice dinner. Do something that you like alone or with the baby when you get home, not chores."

 

SUPPLY (obviously check with your doctor about taking anything that can affect your health):

 

  • Diet. Some folks say that eating a lot of oatmeal helps supply. Drinking mother’s milk tea may also help. Fenugreek is also said to increase supply, and another mom shares: "if you start to have supply issues, try lactation cookies or Mrs.Patels bars/tea." And another parent shares, "I second the Mrs. Patel lactation bars (with chocolate!! YUM) and mother's milk tea. I really notice a difference when I have them...but truly, drink drink drink liquid!"
    Read more on the PSP website about maintaining your breastmilk supply here.

  • Stay hyrdrated. "Drink a ton of water! I try and drink 16oz with every pump."

  • Massage. Many moms say that breast massage (compressing and massaging event he milk ducts) can increase your output. This article about increasing supply might help."
  • Power Pumping. “If you happen to unwind with an hour or so of TV in the evening, get comfy on the couch with your pump set-up, and pump during every commercial break. If time allows, you can do this for up to two hours (although I never made it that long...). If television isn't your thing, you can do this with another activity (pump every X number of pages of a book, or every X rows of knitting, etc.). Just make sure you're eating and drinking plenty, or it can make you feel really worn out. You may see a nice lift from even just one or two sessions!

  • Have a back up milk arsenal, if you can. "I would build up the freezer stash as much as you can.  even if you don't need it for a while, it can provide a huge peace of mind if you have a "bad" pumping day (though it is normal for amounts pumped each day to fluctuate)."

  • Don't give yourself a hard time if you don't have enough supply. "I also wanted to say something about pumping: you may find that you can't pump enough to fully feed the baby, and if you can't, it's OK! Some of us can pump a lot and some of us just never get nearly as much with a pump as from (I could never get more than about 2 oz per side twice a day, despite trying all the tricks, teas, lactation consultant, etc., which obviously wasn't enough to replace a workday's worth of feedings). A little formula isn't a terrible thing if the payoff is more sleep and less stress. I kept pumping till my son was 10 months old mainly so that I could go back to feeding him on weekends and during vacations; he started rejecting one or another feeding by about 8 months (starting with the after work one because he preferred to play with me), but by then he was eating various solids anyway and it mattered less and less."

 

WARDROBE WORKABLES:

 

  • Button down shirts. “I work at a firm that requires business attire pretty much everyday, so my default outfit when I was pumping was a button down blouse with a nursing bra or nursing tank under a jacket. (Target has some that I really liked, the just look like a shell under a jacket).”

  • Nursing/tops tanks under a jacket (though it made some people feel frumpy).

    • "I would wear a tank top with a low neckline under my blouse so that I could pull up my shirt, down the tank and still be almost entirely covered. My office was cold! Which is not great for pumping. I also had the wrap."
  • Wrap dresses. (Side zip-up or long backed dresses can be cumbersome and take time to get out of, which “left me feeling too exposed, especially when I had to pump in a bathroom or office instead of a private lactation room.”

  • Two pieces.
    • "I recommend wearing separate tops and bottoms."
    • Similarly, "definitely put any dresses you may own which zip in the back tucked away for a few months from now.. they are just not practical while you're pumping!"
    • "It's worth saying again that for me wearing pants and a top was way easier, even though I love dresses for work--I missed wearing a lot of my stuff, but I was much more comfortable being more covered up to pump versus sitting there topless/having to deal with getting halfway undressed at my desk 3x a day (even though my office door has a lock)."
  • Anything machine washable. “You don't want to accidentally leak or spill breast milk on a dry clean-only blouse and have a stain on your clothes at work the entire day. A shirt or blouse that you can quickly dab with some water and will dry is helpful." Similarly, another mom says, ""I bring a button up pajama top to keep warm and also I dont care if I get milk on it."

  • Hair clips/ head bands. "Hair clip to keep hair out of your face."

  • Nursing tanks. "Nursing bras/nursing tanks have been easiest for me to wear because it's easy enough to throw a hands free nursing bra over them."

 

PUMPING BRAS

  • Strapless pump. “I think the strapless pumping bra is essential equipment. With it, I sent a lot of emails while pumping."

  • Sliders. “To save time, I don't take off or unsnap my nursing bra, I just slide it up to the top of my chest, put on the strapless, and slide the bra back down when I'm finished."

  • Hands-free pumping bra. "A hand-free pumping bra is a must in my opinion. I like the simple wishes brand."

  • DIY. ”I found was to take an old sports bra and cut slits where the shield would go. It was the best hands free bra.”

  • Stock up. Moms suggest buying a couple bras to have.

  • A pumping bra: "I also wanted to avoid switching bras during the work day, so I got a pumping bra that also functions as a regular bra so I could easily transition from pumping to work. It's not the most supportive, but the "dairy fairy" has a range of different kinds with varying support - some even have underwire I think."
    • "Simple wishes pumping bra (the medela one is not sturdy)."
    • "I second the dairy fairy bras. They function as both regular bras and pumping bras."

 

 

REMINDERS

  • If you don't feel like you're pumping enough at first at work, give it a little time before you totally freak out. "I've found that my supply has increased as my body has adjusted to me pumping at the same times of day at work, and I think the initial stress of being back was probably not great for my pumping either. So, if you get a rough start, know that it can get better."

  • Supplementing is STILL feeding your baby
    • “My pediatrician gave me some of the best advice as I was so stressed out about pumping, pumping enough etc. He said to get to six months of b feeding - that anything after that was gravy.”
    • “Food and formula are not poison.”
    • “I breastfed both my kids for a year, but after 6 months I stopped pumping and switched to morning/eve feedings etc. Which probably saved my sanity, as pumping on planes, conference rooms and bathrooms is gross.”
    • "Keep a can of formula or 2, to relieve the pressure that your baby will be hungry if you have a bad day or spill a bottle (it's happened to me!)"
  • Know your milk. "recommend coming up with a system so you know which milk was from what time. I used sticky notes and tape. Others have used milk bags and wrote with a sharpie right on them."

  • AGAIN.... It gets easier—really! You’ll get into a rhythm so you remember parts because it becomes so routine.

 

WORDS OF WISDOM

  • “Good luck! Getting into the routine is always hard at first, but it gets better over time!”

 

USEFUL LINKS/ TIPS FROM AROUND THE WEB

  • "I found this video very helpful to visualize pumping at work."