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Being a working mom is a tough gig. It becomes a little tougher (and potentially more awkward) when you add pumping to that equation. This week I had the exceptionally awkward discussion with my male manager about where some of my time has been going since returning to work. “Um… well, I have to spend a certain amount of time during the day pumping.” Queue the awkward laughing and apologizing. Yup. Pumping at work can be awkward. But it doesn’t have to be all bad, just make sure you’re prepared.
These are the items I make sure to have every day:
A Pump/ Pump Parts
This is fairly obvious, but in order to pump at work you need to have a functional pump and pump parts. Picking a pump can be difficult, but I recommend checking with your health insurance provider to see if they give you one for free (or at a discount). I was incredibly fortunate and didn’t have to pay anything out of pocket, but going this route really narrowed down my options. As an indecisive person by nature, this was a real win for me. I really like the pump that I have, the Medela Pump in Style Advanced. The version I have did not come with a bag, like the one linked here, because it came from the insurance company, but the pump itself is the same. I picked this because I could plug it in AND it has the functionality to run on battery as well. This means I can pump anywhere (though I’ve never had to use the batteries)!
I honestly didn’t think about this when I first got my pump — oops! Since it’s a double pump I either needed to get this bra or never use my hands for anything other than simply holding the bottles while I pump. I tried pumping this way once and it was uncomfortable and, to be honest, inefficient. Without the Hands Free Pumping Bra for Double Pumping, adjusting the suction on the pump would be virtually impossible. In my mind this is an absolute necessity
Cooler bag with bottles
Even if you have a refrigerator at work and a short commute, chances are you’ll still want a cooler bag. And you’ll definitely want bottles. Since you can’t combine milk of different temperatures, the bottles will hold your milk from each individual pumping session. At 3 sessions per day, this Breast Milk Storage System works perfectly for me because it comes with 6 bottles. The cooler bag comes in handy in the event I’m delayed between the office and home (not to mention potentially stopping at daycare). A couple of years ago the weather was so bad that it took me 2 hours to get home – I lived 4 miles from the office at that time. Having my milk go bad on my commute is just not something I want to have as even the slightest of concerns.
Cleaning and Sterilizing Equipment
I know some people just refrigerate their pump parts between uses rather than washing them off (its time consuming!), but I’m an anxious person by nature and would rather clean and sterilize my parts after each use rather than risk bacteria. For this reason I keep Quick Clean Breast Milk Removal Soap, a Bottle Brush, and sterilizer Micro-Steam Bags at work. The cleaning process probably adds another 6 of 7 minutes (the sterilizer bags work in 3 minutes, but pump parts should be cleaned first) to each session, but the peace of mind I get from knowing the equipment I’m using isn’t breeding bacteria between uses is so worth it for me.
This may seem obvious, but it is so, so critical. My first week back to work I didn’t have a great grasp at exactly how much time I needed to delegate for pumping purposes and I did not pump for long enough. It was a huge mistake. I ended my first week back from maternity leave with mastitis. I don’t say this to scare you, but to show you just how important it is to carve out the necessary time to pump effectively. You need to make the time to properly clear out your ducts or you could end up like me. That is not how you want to spend your first weekend after a week away from your baby.
Returning to work is a big step, for you and for baby. And being a nursing mom certainly adds its own challenges to the transition. But if you make sure you’re prepared, it will be totally fine. Even if it can sometimes be a bit awkward.