You go girl! First off, having the ability to nurse our little ones is an amazing feat that only us ladies can do. For some though, nursing is a real struggle… Mamma, we hear you. If you are one of the ladies who has trouble with supply or nursing or anything for that matter, we feel for you. You are still an awesome mamma and going to do great by your little one. There are a ton of wonderful options for formula. Stay tuned for our favorite formulas, even one you can make yourself!
To the mamma’s who are able to and chose to nurse, this one’s for you.
Just like breastfeeding, there is an incredibly large spectrum for pumping. For some, it comes super easy, for others (like myself) pumping is quite challenging. Whether pumping is a breeze or more like a class 5 tornado, the same obstacles exist. No letdown, inadequate location, finding time at work, needing additional time, the amount of crap you have to haul around all day, leaking, and talking to colleagues about what you’re doing, etc.
Here are 6 strategies to help combat the above so you can continue to provide breast milk even after going back to work.
Hands.Free.Bra. For anyone who’s used a breast pump, need I say more? For those who might be less familiar, a hands free bra is a genius idea that holds the pump in place on your breasts so your hands are able to do other things.
My favorite things to do while pumping:
- My hair & makeup
- Nurse (yup)
The gist is that with a hands free bra, you can take your mind off of pumping. If you’re already in a space where pumping is difficult, sometimes thinking about it can make matters worse and you can’t achieve let down. On the other hand (because you can now use them both) if you take a step back and look at baby videos, or work, or engage your brain in some other way, your body might forget the stress response of clamming up and just let it all flow.
Take It Off
What’s worse than your boobs leaking through your shirt at work?
Your boobs leaking through your shirt at work. Seriously, you’ve worked so hard to get yourself and your baby out the door, worked hard on looking good while doing it, were smart about putting in those nipple liners in your bra just in case, and ruined it all by spilling breast milk on your shirt while pumping.
The solution? Take it off. I know it’s crazy to be half naked at work. I know it feels super weird to hear a meeting happening next door while your boobs are hanging in the breeze. Maybe the room you’re in is typically a conference room, or a storage room (yup, pumped there once).
In any event, getting undressed at work is going to feel strange, but the best way to have a productive pumping session while not dripping breast milk onto your clothes is to totally undress your top half. Get yourself an awesome blanket or shawl that tucks nicely into your pump bag. You can use it to warm up and zone out.
Pack Your Bag
Preparation is key. Pack your bag early, keep it stocked, and have it with you always. You don’t need a million items in your pump bag, but there are a few essentials
Your breast pump (duh)
After the birth of our 2nd child, I found myself with 2 pumps and a girlfriend suggested the most genius thing… keep a pump at work! I could have kissed her. Keeping a pump at work meant that I didn’t have to haul a pump from the house to the office and then back to the house every day. I had a baby to haul around, I didn’t need to do the same with a breast pump! You can usually find breast pumps pretty cheap on second hand sites (just buy new parts).
Power cord (duh again)
As a backup, you can find a battery pack to power your pump. I like to have this for use in the car and areas where an outlet might not be easily accessible (airport for example, yup pumped there too)
The bottles we use for our babies didn’t fit directly onto the breast pump, so we used the bottles that the pump came with. At the end of the day, we’d dump the milk into one of the baby’s bottles or into a bag for the freezer.
Lunchbox for Bottles
If you don’t have access to a fridge, and if you do but don’t really want to explain to a colleague what’s sitting next to their Chinese leftovers, get yourself an inconspicuous lunchbox to keep your breast milk in. Trust me, just do it.
No matter how careful you are when removing the flange from your breast (cannot believe I just said flange), there will likely be dribbles. Bring along some water wipes to clean yourself off, and do a quick swipe of your pump parts so you can use them again in a few hours without washing.
There will come a day when you forget to pack your pump parts, or a day when one of the cords won’t work. Rather than freak out, just keep a spare set of parts inside your bag. Spare parts won’t take up much space in your bag and will help avoid a big disaster. It’s a no brainer.
Just like everything else that’s important in your life, you have to make time for pumping. But when you’re working, especially if you have a collaborative role, making time to pump on a schedule is easier said than done. First off, you have to actually block off the time on your calendar. Treat it like a meeting, set yourself as busy, and plan to keep this meeting as you would with any other.
If you aren’t careful, pumping can become like working out, it’s on your calendar but something else comes up and takes over. The scenario usually goes like this: you need to pump at 10am, but you get invited to a last minute meeting or an existing meeting runs over and starts eating into your pumping time. You’re left with a few less than desirable options: either decline meetings, leave early, have awkward conversations with colleagues, or miss your pumping window.
The solution is simple, make it a priority, be protective of this time, and be ready to get awkward. A simple “I’d love to join but have an existing appointment” will do. If that feels too formal and you work in a more casual atmosphere then be authentic, “I need to pump, but I’ll catch up with you afterwards” is acceptable too. Typically it just takes one mention of pumping and colleagues will get the jist. They’ll never press again, and they’re likely to check your schedule first.
Talk About It
Those first few weeks may be emotionally hard and you’re going to need an extra layer of support. The last thing you’ll want is to feel like you’re keeping a secret from your boss and your work friends. If you’re comfortable, talking with your boss about pumping at work will go a long way. If you bring it up early, you’re likely to get cut a little slack and will probably avoid an uncomfortable conversation (except for maybe the first one). Your boss will know why you’re disappearing every few hours and why you keep carrying that big bag around.
In my experience, being totally transparent is best. Tell them that you’ll be pumping breast milk a few times a day and may not be at your desk all the time. Show them that you’re managing your time well by mentioning that you have scheduled in time for pumping and your calendar is up to date. Let your boss know that these ‘meetings’ are harder to move than others and you’ll always do your best to accommodate anything that comes up. Most women are able to swing a pumping session 30 mins earlier/later than expected without causing a huge strain on her pumping schedule. However if you find that you need to keep your schedule 100% predictable, don’t feel bad about making your pumping meetings first priority.
The reality is that you’re making food for your child. If you don’t pump, they don’t eat. Period.
Back Up Plan
I hate to say it, but one day the sh!t will hit the fan, and this is where a back up plan comes in. Have a back up shirt on hand, make it something that goes with most of your wardrobe. Since boobs can be tricky, I’d also keep a set of nipple shields on hand at all times. You never know when you might start leaking. Side note, one of the most embarrassing moments of my life involved leaking breast milk at work and having a male colleague point it out. While it’s super funny to me now, I was totally mortified for a while.
If you only have one item on hand in an emergency, make it a shawl. You can cover anything up with a grey or camel colored shawl. Leaky boob? Shawl. Baby spit up on your shoulder on the way to work? Shawl. Accidentally rip your shirt taking it off and on so much to pump? Shawl. What can happen, will happen. You get the picture. Be prepared.
There are no doubt other great strategies for pumping, these are the top 6 that helped to get me through all 3 babies. Implementing these ideas allowed me stay as sane as possible, while giving me the mental and physical strength to continue providing breast milk. I can’t promise an easy journey, because mine certainly was not, but these tactics got me as far as possible.
When it was time to quit breastfeeding and pumping, both my body and my mind knew it, but it was really hard for my heart to accept it. Mamma, let’s be as gentle on ourselves as we would tell a girlfriend to be on herself. Just because breastfeeding/pumping/mothering doesn’t go the way we thought, we’re still fantastic moms and we are going to do great things by our kids.
Ladies, what other strategies have you implemented while pumping? Share your genius ideas!