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Motherhood is all about logistics and sacrifice; not to sound all sanctimommy, but you simply cannot DO everything you did before you had a baby – whether you breastfeed, pump or formula-feed, you have to give up SOMETHING in order to be a mom. In the case of pumping and working, it’s your sanity. Kidding. But I have seen entire days ruined by forgetting one tiny little plastic piece to a breast pump. One of my bosses once missed a flight for a business trip because she forgot her pump at home – true story.
Here are my tips to make pumping and working a little less crazytown:
1. Get a good double electric pump. Insurance covers them now, so definitely explore your options. I have two Medela Pump in Style Advanced breast pumps, one that I bought before insurance covered them (in 2012) and one from after insurance covered them (in 2014). My insurance only covered the little square “starter” pump, whereas the pumps you buy in store include a few more accessories, most notably a “breastpump bag”. A specialized bag is not essential; you can just throw the starter pump in whatever bag you’ll be taking to and from work, plus haul a little soft shelled cooler, like a little lunchbox. If you have access to a mini fridge, no need to bring an ice pack, but if you don’t, pack a frozen ice pack each morning to keep the milk cool. But if you forget the ice pack, don’t trash the milk! Just freeze it as soon as you get home – it won’t go bad from being at room temp all day.
2. Make a solid plan. Before you go out on maternity leave, ask someone at work where, when and how new moms can pump at work. If you are uncomfortable asking your boss, reach out to someone in HR. My office has several “Mother’s Rooms” that are equipped with locks, mini fridges, and sofas – I never would have noticed these rooms before! You can also look to other new moms to learn the ropes of pumping in your office. I had someone I knew was a pumping mom show me the pumping rooms in my office the day I returned from maternity leave.
3. Schedule your time. Block out 15 or 30 minute private appointments on your Outlook calendar. If you aren’t comfortable marking them as “unavailable”, make the time bookable – even having it on your calendar will just remind you to go (unless your boobs don’t – and they will). If you do get booked, try to get into the room at another time. At first, I pumped 3xs/day – 10:30, 12:30 and 2:30. As time passed, I dropped the lunch pump, then the morning and afternoon session in favor of a midday pump, then finally nothing around the 11 month mark.
4. Don’t feel sorry! No need to apologize for taking time throughout your day to do something you really care about. The work will get done, and you will have to commit the extra time and/or be more efficient when you are at work. Like I said, logistics.
5. Communicate. Make sure you make things clear with whomever is caring for your baby – leaving work within the hour? Tell them to hold off on feeding so you can nurse when you get home. Let the caregiver know how much to offer baby per bottle (my daughter never took more than 4 ounces at a time, my son hossed down 10 ounce bottles on the reg) and be specific on what to do with the milk the baby doesn’t drink in one sitting (hint: put it back in the fridge and reuse it! but this is a personal preference).
6. Don’t bother washing pump parts between use. Save yourself the time and effort and use the same pump parts (flange, membrane, etc) all day. Just stash them in the fridge or your little cooler.
7. Shift your thinking. Taking a break to pump isn’t
a total an inconvenience. It is kind of nice to get to take a break by yourself multiple times a day while browsing Facebook and shopping on Amazon.
8. Adjust your schedule. Maybe it means coming in 15 minutes earlier and eating lunch at your desk. Maybe it means pumping in the car on the way to and from work. Maybe it means logging in from home for an hour after the baby goes to sleep. It’s all a balancing act…
9. Really try to relax. Had a shitty meeting with a cranky coworker? Let it go. Have to get an email sent to your boss, ASAP? It can wait an extra 15 minutes. Being stressed and hurried almost guarantees the milk won’t flow.
10. Protect your supply. If your supply drops, try fenugreek, drinking tons of water, eating and sleeping enough, and even watching videos of baby while you’re pumping. Other supply problems? I love this website for everything breastfeeding-related.
11. Do what works for YOU and your family. If pumping isn’t working, don’t kill yourself over it. As long as you are feeding your baby something other than pizza and burgers (for the first 6 months, after that, game on), you’re doing a great job. If you’re miserable, your family will be, too. So take care of yourself and listen to your needs!
12. If there isn’t a “culture” of pumping at your office, start one! Our Mother’s Rooms had signup sheets blocked off in 30 minute increments, where you could sign up for a timeslot to be “yours” everyday. The moms in the room also let the other moms know that they were flexible, or if they were dropping a time slot, or if they were going on vacation and her times would be open for the week. Even though we didn’t all work on the same team or even know each other, we would share articles like this or post pages with quotes like, “Keep calm, you’re a good mom.” – a really cool way to bond with people in your building you may have never met otherwise.
And that, my friends, is how you make both milk and make magic happen at work 🙂