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Monday, July 1, 2013

Back to the Grindstone: Pumping at Work

Well, hello there old friend. We meet again.

After I had C, I went back to work after about 12 weeks and though I had been pumping every now and then since he was born, work was a whole new adventure. I was no longer about pumping in case we went out to dinner and needed to leave milk with a sitter; I needed to pump so he could eat the next day. No stress or anything. Thankfully, I had an understanding employer and a pumping friendly work setting. I was able to pump and bring C breast milk for about 5 months before he weaned. I hope that my experience last time can help me breastfeed even longer this time around!

Brought to you via trial and error (and tears, spilled milk, and one ruined keyboard), here are my favorite tips and tricks for pumping at work.

Bringing the Basics

Your pump is the obvious #1 on this list. If you plan on pumping while working full time, make sure its a good double electric pump that is made to handle the work load. I have a Medela Pump in Style Advanced Breast Pump with On the Go Tote. This thing is a work horse and I'll be able to use it again this time around. There are several brands that make pumps hearty enough for full time use - ask around and do your research. Check with your insurance company to see whether they will help with the cost, but even if they won't - YES they are worth the money.

Your pump will most likely come with a cooler bag, but I like bringing something separate with more space. Other basics include flanges, connectors, tubing, storage bottles, and covers.

Point A to Point B

With all the stuff that goes into pumping, you need to figure out how to carry it around discreetly. Absolutely no need to be ashamed, but even the most confident breastfeeding Mom would probably rather not advertise at work that her "purse" is actually a breast pump. The version of the Pump in Style Advance (PISA) that I have comes in a sleek tote bag that I've gotten several compliments on and carried at work, professional conferences, and during job interviews. The pump motor is also removable so I could put it in different bag if I wanted to. The tote has plenty of room for everything I need to pump and for work, so I just use it as a purse.

This time around, I'm forgoing the tiny cooler bag that comes with the pump and am carrying the Lunch Break Thermal by My 31 as my cooler bag. There is plenty of room for everything and then some - including my lunch. This also means I have room in my pump bag for the items that would be in my purse cutting my stuff to carry from three bags (purse, pump, lunch bag) to two.

So You Forgot Your _______

At some point during your pump at work journey, you WILL have that moment where you forget something important. Hopefully, its not your entire pump (yes, I did that once). Forgetting a few pieces here and there sucks, but its normal. You just need to get creative!

I asked a bunch of Moms what their in a pinch solutions were and the most popular answer was Ziploc baggies. You can pump into them or use them with a rubber band as a bottle cover. They're easier to come across than milk storage bags in a work setting and work just fine.

What if you forget your cooler bag or icepack? If you can't get your hands on a fridge or baggie of ice, milk can safely remain at room temperature (61-79 degrees) for around 4-8 hours, depending on the temp of the room. Depending on your shift and when you pump, this may work for you. Here are more guidelines for storing breast milk from

Now lets say you do forget your pump or an important piece like flanges or connectors. If not, you may need to just hand express that day and write yourself a huge reminder Post-it for the future. Its not fun, but neither is being engorged for 8 hours.

Back Up Supplies

An easy way to avoid the panic of forgetting something important is to keep a stash of supplies in your car or desk. I always kept two bottles with caps, extra flanges, breast pads, baby wipes, and a few sample size packs of lanolin.

Another situation to be prepared for is pump/electricity failure. Its 9am and you're settling in for your first session and the power goes out. What do you do?! This has actually happened to me twice. Maybe I'm just lucky! Having a manual pump, battery pack, or car adapter will save the day....and your boobs.

General Tips

Nothing makes you want to go "moo" more than pumping. Its not relaxing or fun. Unfortunately, stress can seriously affect your supply. While its not always easy, try to create a relaxing environment wherever you pump, whether its an office, a storage room, a break room, or your car. If you have the luxury of pumping at your desk, shut your door and take advantage of the time to get things done uninterrupted. Its a great time to clean out your inbox!

Worried someone will bust on into your office mid pump? Get a rubber wedge door stop and kick it into the back of your door. It'll slow someone down enough to call out - even if they have a key.

Having supply issues while you're at work? Make sure your pump is in working order, drink lots of water, have a snack, and look at your little one. A cuddly baby is going to elicit a different response than a motor; pictures and videos of your baby can help relax you and get things going.

Keep your sessions as efficient as possible by not washing pump parts. I wipe out the flanges with a tissue and put the connectors, unwashed, in a wet bag in my cooler. The milk on them stays cold and they can be used again the next time. I wash everything when I get home. Not washing saves valuable time, especially if you're pumping during short breaks.

If you have a work wide Outlook calendar, mark off time so people know not to bother you (and that you're not just MIA). I simply write "Hold." Some people know what it means, some don't, but it helps me stay on schedule and not miss a session.

Keeping an extra power cord at work plugged in under your desk makes it easy to plug in go instead of crawling under your desk every day. Took me hitting my head several times under my desk to think of this one. Must have knocked something loose!

Resources and Links

Hands free pumping trick
Breast milk storage guidelines
US Department of Labor: Break Time for Nursing Mothers under FLSA

LLLI: Breastfeeding and the Law


  1. Just linked to your blog through Pinterest.
    You make great tips on here!
    I also had a Medela Pump In Style Advance with my first kiddo. LOVED that thing! As a matter of fact, I pumped exclusively for her for 11 months! I was blessed with a crazy milk supply and that we didn't have to supplement.
    I now have another kiddo too. I kept my Medela pump and was fully expecting it to use it with baby #2. While in the hospital I shared this with the lactation consultant. She asked me how I had been storing the pump. I informed her it has been stored inside of our house. Even so, she highly urged me to take the front plate off of the pump and check for any signs of mildew inside. Boy am I glad that I did, sure enough there was a tiny sign of mildew under the plate (which means there was very likely more behind the diaphragm, which can't be cleaned). Upon extensive research, this is VERY common with Medela pumps. In the fine print of the Medela user manuals, it states that they are meant for one user only....not meaning just one woman, but one child. They are also an open system, which allows mildew to form. After doing more extensive research, I purchased a new pump that is a closed system (and threw the Medela in the trash, which sure was painful seeing as how much we paid for that thing!) But it absolutely was not worth it at all to risk my child's health.
    Hopefully yours is O.K., but I now share this with anyone I know who is pumping or planning to pump for their baby. I would hate for something to happen to a sweet little one :)

    1. Thank you for the comment! I had gotten the same advice from a LC, but luckily before I stored my pump. I had taken the front apart and cleaned and dried it before storing it. When I opened it back up, it was mildew/smell free, thankfully. Seen as my insurance company is one of the few that is somehow exempt from the new health care laws, we were on our own for a pump. I'm glad I was able to use mine again, but that is very good advice most women don't get until its too late!