Open Thread: Best Pumping Attire for Working Moms

The Best Pumping Clothes for Work | Corporette What ARE the best clothes for pumping breastmilk at the office? This is a question I get asked so often, I thought we’d have a discussion about it.  (We have talked about it once before, from guest poster Jenny Hamilton, who had some great general advice, as well as advice on how to travel for business while pumping.) Here’s the latest question, from reader K:

Here’s my dilemma, I’m headed out for maternity leave in a month or so and am looking for professional clothes that are nursing / pumping friendly. I don’t want to break the bank, but most of what I’ve found so far is either cheap looking or totally inappropriate. I don’t need to “show off my new assets” at work. I just need to be able to look professional and pulled together, and pump without having to strip all the way down. Any guidance would be appreciated.

Congratulations on your baby! The current American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines suggest that mothers nurse their children for the first year of their life (recommending that babies exclusively eat breastmilk for the first 6 months). I’ll say up front that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with formula if that’s what you choose to do. (I’ll also note: it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing proposition. You can nurse her for 3 months, then just nurse morning and night with your child and give her formula in the middle of the day, skipping the pump entirely.) But: working moms who pump — you guys are rockstars in my book. I’m always inspired by commenters who talk about having pumped for long periods of time (I think one commenter was recently celebrating an end to four years of pumping!) Even in a perfect world, it takes dedication and drive to pump regularly — but I’ve also heard war stories from friends, about trekking to windowless closets with pumping equipment, about enduring funny looks and having to explain their various funnels and contraptions when they rinsed them off in the ladies’ room. It ain’t easy.

First, let me set the scene for those of you not yet familiar with pumping — we’re talking 10-20 minute sessions with the pump, every 2-4 hours, depending on how old your child is. (Another thing that depends on the woman is how strictly you have to stick to your schedule — some women will be uncomfortable and maybe even leaking if they miss their schedule by 10 minutes; others can miss an entire feeding before they’re uncomfortable. To maintain your “supply” it’s best to stick to a schedule, though.) You can rent or buy a variety of different pumps, from handheld ones to hospital grade ones — I had the Medela Pump in Style, which just looks like a black tote bag, plugs into a wall or a car outlet (!), and I found pretty easy to operate. (Your insurance provider may reimburse you for the pump.) I always found it easiest to pump both sides at once, using a supersexy bustier to hold the funnel. Depending on the woman, you may or may not be able to continue working (at least typing or reading) while you’re pumping; but you may have to look at pictures of your child to get in the right place of mind to encourage your milk to let down. Pumps vary, but my pump makes a fairly loud mechanical sound — I would not be able to be on the phone with it, or do it discreetly in a shared space.  Certain parts of the pump should be cleaned frequently — the foghorn-like things you attach to your breasts, the valves the milk goes in through, and obviously the bottles and caps.  You may want to buy a mini fridge for your office, or at least carry a cooler/lunch tote with an icepack — you should refrigerate breast milk that won’t be drunk in 2-3 hours.  I was advised to only “mix” breast milk of the same temperature (e.g., cold with cold, not cold with warm) — so you’ll probably need at least 4-6 bottles to get through one day at the office.

Now on the question at hand: WHAT TO WEAR?  I never pumped regularly, so I will defer to the readers on this, but here are some of my thoughts:

  • You definitely want to wear a nursing bra.  I hate nursing bras, so I don’t say this lightly.  But I always found it easiest to pump with a nursing bra on — it gives the girls a bit more support and helps position them in the right place.
  • You want something that will make it easy to put the pumping corset on (for mine, you wrapped it around your midsection, and zipped it up).  I honestly just found it easiest to wear t-shirts or pullover tops that I could push up to around my neck for the pumping session.  I’ve always heard readers recommend wrap dresses, but to me it seems like you’d have to get entirely undressed in order to put the corset on.  (Trust me, you don’t want to wear the corset unless you’re actually pumping.) Similarly, the problem with button-front blouses is that you’ll probably have to unbutton them entirely in order to get it on.
  • Avoid V-necks and anything low-cut.  Not only will your breasts be a different size than they were before you were pregnant, but they may be different sizes throughout the day.  It depends on every woman, but in general I think you’re going to want to stick to tops with a lot of coverage, especially at work.  I never bought one of these, but my friends swear by nursing camisoles — they help raise the neckline of everything you’re wearing, but they open up for easy access.  Some have shelf bras, some don’t; they even exist for DD+ sizes.
  • Don’t spend too much money on nursing clothes.  Not only are they really not intended for pumping, I had bad experience after bad experience with them — I bought 15 pieces of nursing clothes and found ONE that I thought was intelligently put together for the dual goals of “nursing my child easily” and “not exposing my entire breast to the world.”  (My favorite one was a double layer top, similar to this Gap one.) You do need one or two tops — at the very least for airplanes (they recommend you nurse your child for takeoff/landing — the sucking helps with the ear pressure), playdates, and doctor’s visits (trust me, you’ll want to nurse after your baby gets shots) — but I don’t think you need an entire wardrobe of them.  I’ve never purchased from the brand, but Hadley Stilwell makes professional looking nursing clothes.
  • Prepare for possible leakage, either by wearing nursing pads or by wearing prints.  Not every woman has problems with her breasts leaking — I bought a 4-box set of Lansinoh breast pads and used like 4 pads total.  It may happen because you’re still new to breastfeeding; it may happen because you miss a feeding/pumping session; it may happen because you hear something heartwarming and lovely during the day.  At the very least, have a scarf in a neutral color, if not an entire back-up outfit at the office, if something goes awry.
  • Put a towel with your pumping kit, and lay it across your lap when you’re pumping to protect your pants or skirt.  When you’re done pumping, you can wrap your supplies in the towel (so nothing drips around the office) and take the wrapped-towel to the bathroom to clean ’em. Pumping can occasionally be messy!  (If any should spill on your leather office chair, or office carpet: clean it up asap.  Trust me on this.)

Readers, what are your thoughts on pumping at the office?  What are the best clothes to wear for pumping?

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  1. No advice, but the post reminded me that I’d been wondering what that rockstar poster ended up purchasing to commemorate the end of pumping – the Hermes scarves?

    • Pumping at Work :

      You are sweet to ask! I am still trying to figure it out. The twins actually turned 1 yesterday, so I am done pumping and am currently using up my freezer stash. I’m still nursing them morning and night, so we haven’t actually weaned yet. I am still considering the Hermes scarves or a Cartier watch, or perhaps gold bangles. My husband kind of says he’s supportive but acts like each of these “gifts” is a bit outlandish. So, we’ll see. But I’m feeling sure that I want something I will wear everyday (which makes the scarves less appropriate). I also spent some time researching the classic Chanel flap bag, but since I would not get much use out of it at this stage of life, I’ve stopped focusing on it.

  2. Charlotte :

    HA! So appropriate, as I am, in fact, pumping as I read this. The very best advice I received about pumping at work was to put your pump parts in a plastic baggie (or tupperware container) in the fridge in between pumping sessions each day (mine stay discretely tucked inside my cooler bag), so that you only have to wash them once at night. Totally saves the time and potential awkwardness of having to rinse out your parts in the office sink.

    • Or, do like I did and buy multiple pump assemblies, and just wash a lot at night. I think I ended up with three complete sets!

      • baby weight :

        I did both! Very helpful.

      • Yes – this tip was awesome! I did both and it made life so much easier. I also love the microwave steam clean bags.

    • Sugar Magnolia :

      I had never heard this advice before, but it is brilliant! Thanks so much for this tip!

    • Me too – sat down for my pumping session, and this was the first thing I saw in Google Reader! I got the tip about refrigerating parts between sessions, too — mine don’t fit in my bottle cooler, but I have the ziploc with them inside a basic reusable nylon shopping bag. So far, so good. This is my first day back at the office, though, so I don’t think I qualify as an expert yet!

      I’ll also add, on the v-neck/low-cut top issue, that one thing I found handy during maternity leave for nursing and for pumping was to go ahead and wear that top (or for nursing, wrap tops) but instead of a nursing camisole underneath, use a tube top…or repurposed belly bands from pregnancy, moved higher up. They’re much easier to deal with, for me, than anything with straps. I do agree on the wrap dresses not working well for pumping, though – fine for nursing when you only need to get to one breast at a time, but for getting the hands-free pump bra on over the nursing bra, separates are key. So for me, pumping means pulling the top up, unhooking the nursing bra cups, and strapping my hands-free pump bra on over, and then proceeding to pump away while typing emails (or, at this point in the day, when I’m brain dead and my output is lower so more relaxation is key, reading blogs).

      • BTW, I am a different Jennifer from the 3:02 Jennifer, in case anyone was wondering why I both have multiple sets of parts and refrigerate parts in the fridge between uses!

    • +1, and have multiple sets of parts. Changed my life!

      • Um I have 12 sets of parts. I don’t like doing dishes obviously. But do people really pump for 20 minutes? Ouch.

        • I used to have to pump 30 minutes 3 times a day to get enough milk for my little guy when he was exclusively breastfed. He’s now over a year old and I am finally pump weaning. I’m down to one mid-day pump session for 10 minutes. I hope to be pump free by next week!

    • Absolutely — no need to wash the parts between sessions. Like milk in the bottle will be fine in the fridge, but milk clinging to the pump parts will not? Of course not; it will be fine. I did have two sets of pump parts, so usually during the day only one set got used twice.

    • If you ladies are taking things out of the fridge and putting them immediately on your br***s you’re tougher than nails.

      • give them a quick wipe with a paper towel and it isn’t so bad. Not nearly as painful as a teething baby.

      • It never bothered me. The newborn baby figuring out how to latch on on the other hand…

      • Ha! The flanges are plastic so they warm up super fast. But I pump into glass bottles, and when those hit your skin on accident–brrrrr!

      • i keep everything in the fridge EXCEPT the horns, b/c BRRR. those i use fresh each time, wash them all at end of day.

    • I wish I thought of that- I ended up washing mine in the sink. Augh.

      I pumped for a little over 2 years (1 for each child) and I wore LOTS of button down and wrap shirts and wrap dresses. In fact, it took me years after to realize I could purchase “regular” clothes!

      • I just wore a ton of button downs. Honestly, I never bought the “bustier” thing Kat mentions. I just got good at holding the pumps on with one arm and typing one handed/reading while I pump.

        • I totally did that, too! My pumping days were 8 years ago and I don’t remember the bustier contraptions even being available. The things you learn to do as a new mom … :)

    • Agree!! Best advice I ever got for pumping at work. Saved so much time and the awkward trip to the sink to wash.

    • Me too! I just hooked up the pump and was thinking “hmm, haven’t checked out corporette in awhile . . .” SOO well-timed as I’m just back from mat leave!

  3. kerrycontrary :

    Don’t have children, but I’m so happy to know that when I do my workplace has 2 mother’s rooms with a chair, sink, and a mini-fridge. And it’s only accessible by key to nursing moms (and very tired pregnant women I hear).

    • My office has a mum’s room too. No windows or glass doors. They even have a pump in there …medella Pisa…so you just need your valves, bottles etc.

      • Actually the PISA is not made for multiple users and I wouldn’t recommend sharing it – its an open system and could share viruses between mothers, and the motor isn’t designed to be used by multiple people multiple times a day so it will probably wear out faster. Its nice of your employer to try to provide for you, but they should not be recommending sharing a PISA – a hospital grade pump like a Symphony or a pump designed for multiple users like a Hygeia would be a better choice.

  4. Oooooooh you make me shudder with horror at the memory of pumping at work.

    I did button down shirts with camis, or just pullover sweaters. And for my 2 cents, it didn’t take me long to get over the nursing bra thing and just stick to wireless regular bras. I never found a nursing bra that wasn’t horrible. I had the same pump setup that Kat did, down to the brand. Oh! Get the soft plastic cones for it! You can buy them on and probably other places. Worth.every.penny. Do not make yourself suffer through the hard plastic.

    And some will disagree, but I’ll offer it anyway: If lactation hormones are wearing you out and making you depressed, it’s a real thing. I was soooo afraid that if I stopped pumping even for one day I would dry right up and my baby would be doomed to only formula for the Rest of His Life. Well. Don’t be bullied into being miserable. Once I quit pumping during the day and let dear baby eat formula while I was at work, (1) I got my sanity and happy back, (2) my milk supply did NOT dry up, and (3) mommy and baby were both happier. It’s a highly individual thing, but I wish I’d had the courage to buck the mommyguiltmongers sooner.

    • THIS. I nursed for over two years with the kiddos and found pumping pretty draining (reductively thinking: I’m not with my kid; I’m not billing for this; and this 30+ minute session (from start to end) is just extending my already long and stressful day). The main/only change I really did between Kid 1 and Kid 2 was to start formula earlier to give me a break during the day and reduce/eliminate the need to pump at work, and I will preach that path to anyone who listens. So. much. better. for. everyone. And not to pick a fight, but after reading that Hanna Rosin piece in the Atlantic on breastfeeding v. formula, whatever lingering guilt I may have had was gone.

      (And for clothes: button downs or just pulled up my shirt, because I was lucky enough to get my office to install a lock on my door. This was once remarked upon to me by a senior partner who clearly didn’t get the message that the only people allowed to have locks on their doors were lactating women, and I had no idea how to respond. Super awkward.)

      (While I’m at it, the worst pumping experience I’ve had was at the bar exam. I can laugh it off now, years later, but going through bar exam security with a manual pump was not awesome, nor was furiously pumping in Javits’ nasty bathrooms during our short breaks. Ugh ugh ugh.)

      • omg, I can’t imagine pumping during the bar, and particularly not at the Javits Center. My hat is off to you!!

  5. I pumped for about 8 months with number 1, and am planning to do so with number 2, though hopefully not as much due to a more flexible work schedule.

    What I liked best to pump in was flowy-er silk blouses that were more shapeless (also nice for a post-pregnancy tummy) that I could just hike up, drop the clips on the nursing bra (totally agree with Kat, just wear the nursing bra) and then wrap the bustier thing around me that help the flanges in place. I liked pump-ease for that. Easy to clean, kind of cute and totally covered me up. Once I got everything set up, I could sort of let the blouse drape back down over the set-up.

    Agree with washing pump parts at night; nothing is that dirty that it can’t be thrown in the dishwasher before bed. I adopted a pretty loose approach to sterilization, etc. My kid didn’t have immune issues, nothing was going bad, and not being maniacal helped take the edge off.

    I was a resident when I did it, and my schedule varied. Sometimes I had to high-tail it out of the OR at the end of a long case because I was ready to explode. I often made phone calls while I pumped, and only once did someone ask me what the noise was in the background (I told them they were washing the floor — in a hospital its a credible lie :) what I like to do most though, was load my ipod touch up with TV shows and watch while I pumped — I was most productive and most relaxed and made pumping “my time”

  6. Separates, not dresses – that’s really it as far as I was concerned. I guess some dresses work well for some people, but it just never made sense to me, so separates it was. Actually, I probably always favored separates anyway, so I just wore my regular clothes. With some new purchases to accommodate my new size, to be sure, but the size was the only real difference from my pre-preg work wardrobe. The corset, or any other sort of hands-free system is really a YMMV type thing. Honestly, I could set the bottles on my keyboard tray and type without any problem while pumping, no special equipment needed. I don’t know what this says about my breasts, my height, or how ergonomic it all was, but it worked fine. I couldn’t move around freely — reach for the phone, etc. — but the tradeoff of not having to do any additional set-up or need special equipment made it worth it. To me — again, YMMV.

    • Charlotte :

      Actually, sheath dresses are my fave pumping attire (although I haven’t really found it necessary to adjust my wardrobe much, anyway)….so easy to just unzip to the waist.

    • My experience is dated (my baby is, sniff, 17), but I didn’t use a hands-free system. I didn’t know there was such a thing (and maybe there wasn’t, back in the day). I kind of held everything in place with one arm.

      • I still do. Honestly I find it way easier than having to wrangle a bustier thing.

  7. I pumped for both my kids. My advice is to: Schedule three sessions a day for as long as you can and keep nursing at night. Wear either non-iron button shirts or something sweatery that can be pushed around and not show wrinkles. Avoid silk as much as you can (one drop of liquid on a silk blouse looks like a major spill). I never wore a nursing bra – just pushed my regular bra up along with my shirt. Basically, I would end up half undressed during the pumping time. I also didn’t have a corset, so I would have to hold the pump horns to my chest. With no hands for reading or keyboarding, it was sort of like enforced meditation. And make sure your door locks! Nothing like getting walked in on when you’re half nude and half asleep. haha

  8. What a great topic! I’ve been pumping now for about 9 months. I think a big part of my ability to do that is having a windowless office, so I can pump and bill at the same time. The biggest challenge for me was figuring out the logistics of keeping my privacy. Some of the Medela kits come with an insulated bottle holder and I use this to avoid the communal fridge. I also didn’t want to be bringing pump parts to the kitchen for cleaning. I got extra “funnel” parts and bring in a pair for each pumping during the day (3 pairs total) and clean them every night. I also carry extra parts (tubes, membranes, etc.) in case anything breaks.
    I disagree with a couple things in Kat’s post, though. I don’t wear a nursing bra. Instead, I just hike up my regular bra (I’m a 34DD now, and this works for me) and strap on the hands-free pumping bra and I’m good to go. I have found that dresses and button-down shirts make this process difficult, though. Also, I’ve been mixing milk of different temperature since my baby was only a few weeks old (when babies are most vulnerable to infections). I know you shouldn’t mix frozen/nonfrozen milk, but I’ve been ok mixing cold and warm milk. The Medela kit only holds 4 bottles, so logistically, not mixing would be difficult since I’d need to hold 6.
    The last thing I’ll add is that pumping at the office is totally worth the time investment. My little one has only missed 2 days of daycare since January. Scheduled pumping, for me, beats an unplanned try-to-work-from-home-day.

    • Eh, no guarantees on the immunity thing though. My six month old is now on his second ear-infection and has been exclusively breastfed since he was born. Ah well.

  9. Blousey/drapey cardigans over stretchy tanks that I could just yank down, or loose, tunic tops that I could fit the flanges under. I never used the corset – way too much work. I just held both sides up with my one arm and used my other hand on the mouse to browse the web.

  10. Chicago Attorney Mama :

    I work in a rather conservative office and was pumping three times a day for more than a year (just finished — yay!!) First, if you are going to pump in your office, make sure that you put a do not disturb sign on your door so that people don’t pop in while you are pumping. I never had this problem (my firm is pretty small and everyone knew what I was doing…yes, a little awkward but people definitely stayed away when my door was closed) but I have friends who were interrupted several times. I found cardigans or jackets with button down shirts to be the easiest thing to wear (and definitely nursing bras) because I could unbutton to pump and then re-button when I was done. My assets were also nicely covered this way. I stayed away from most dresses (something about pulling your dress up over your head was unappealing) however I occasionally wore wrap dresses because I could loosen them and pump without having to take them off completely. I also invested in a number of nursing camisoles to wear under clothes (I am small chested so I could use these in place of nursing bras) because in my cold office, I could keep a bottom layer on to cover the rest of me while I pumped. Plus, nursing camisoles are nice for times when you are feeding your baby in public because they offer extra coverage (my little guy loved to pull my nursing cover away from my body and while often times a portion of my breast was exposed, at least my stomach was covered!) Another piece of advice — buy the most powerful pump that you can afford and make sure you have hands free capabilities. The powerful pump made pumping faster and the hands free nature of the pump allowed me to work while I was pumping. I suggest the Medela Hands Free Pump — you don’t have to worry about the corset because it comes with clips that you can attach to your bra or camisole. Your insurance company may reimburse you for the cost — mine did. I tried to pump on regular schedule but I always had nursing pads with me in case I was in a meeting or something popped up at the last minute. These offer an extra layer of protection in case your milk leaks a bit — this was mostly an issue for me right when I went back to work. Finally, keep an extra outfit at work…I had a few instances of major leakage / spilling a bottle of milk all over me etc – invariably when I had a client meeting. I was happy to have a change of clothes with me so that I didn’t have to spend the rest of the day covered in breast milk.

    • I also always did sweaters etc. over a camisole. I liked being covered up in the middle while pumping, so I’d just push the straps down. my office doesn’t lock, so I put a chair in front of the door. I also kept a stash of extra parts (the little ones) and bags, in case I forget a critical component in the office! Getting a fridge for my office was the best thing I ever did.

  11. I totally agree with the separates. Dresses are a nightmare. Stick with pants/skirts and tops. Anything with buttons can be a pain, but is do-able. I actually like v necks & tanks with a cardigan buttoned at the top for modesty. Then when I pump, I just have to undo the 2 buttons from the cardigan and I’m good to go.

    I also second buying multiple sets of parts. It totally eliminates the stress of washing parts during the day, especially if you’re in court or on the go. The parts are pretty inexpensive too.

  12. When I was pumping at work last year, I did separates and often just took off my top and regular bra and put on the pumping bra/bustier. I always seemed to wind up dribbling some milk on myself otherwise and just taking things off seemed easier than worrying about smelling like spoiled milk the rest of the day.

  13. Texas Attorney :

    So I had to chime in on this one, if only to think back to that time 9 years ago when I pumped at work. Button down shirts for me. Here was my fun story though. When I came back to work three months after my son was done, I immediately jumped in to second chair a three week trial. The attorney I worked with was a woman and she was totally great. I was able to slip out of the courtroom without any of the male attorneys on the other side knowing or the male judge noticing. The bailiff was a woman and helped me out by storing my milk in her husband bailiff’s refrigerator in the courtroom next door. I had to go to another floor so I would not meet the jury in the bathroom. I went nearly the whole trial without ever having to fess up to the judge until one day late in the trial he wanted to work through lunch and have me argue some expert related motions. I suggested as gently as I could that I really needed to take a break. Ultimately, when the judge insisted on working, I said, “Judge, I have a three month old baby and I have to pump. . .” Before I could finish, the Judge said, “Say no more, I have three kids. Recess.” Anyway, that is all an aside. Pump as long as you can, don’t feel bad when you can’t do it anymore.

    • Great story! I became expert at scouting out pumping spots, and through two kids, I think I only ever once had to use a restroom. The car-adapter was a lifesaver, and I was pretty shameless about pumping in the car. The set-up is quick, and then my top would drape down over the gear, and I think someone would have to be paying pretty close attention to figure out what I was doing in there. That’s what I told myself at least. Once, I was at a conference being held at a law school on a weekend, and taking public transit there. Couldn’t figure out what I was going to do, so I sent an e-mail to the organizer, and they set me up with a key to the dean’s office. So nice of them!

  14. I’ve been trying to figure out if pumping is even an option given the way my schedule is, and I hadn’t even started to think about the clothing issues involved. Most of my concern is that I often find myself in court, suddenly and for entirely unpredictable amounts of time (not unusual at all to get there at 9 and not get any sort of break until 2:00-ish. (which is heck on a gal who needed to eat regularly even before she got pregnant! I stock lots of granola bars.) This is often with a client in tow who needs constant handholding, and with a pile of files that are hard enough to manage on their own – I simply cannot imagine hauling pumping gear along and trying to sneak off to pump in the nasty courthouse public restroom during downtimes.

    Yay for you guys that do it, but my siblings and I were formula fed exclusively, and we all wound up unusually healthy, so I think that this is enough to put me over the edge and decide that to skip it. (We’ll see how things go with just mornings/evenings.) Shame, though, since the partner’s daughter (our law clerk) is already trying to make plans to turn a spare office into a very special pumping room for me. (I tried to tell her that I have an office already, but she’s gung ho.)

    • Anon for this :

      Without trying to start a war, and as someone who is currently pregnant, let me just tell you Lyssa that I hear you loud and clear. This thread just scares me! And like you, I was bottle fed without so much as an ear infection ever (despite being in daycare as a babe). I am uber impressed by all of you women, but I just cannot imagine doing it!

    • I don’t have kids, but Lyssa, whatever you decide to do for your baby will be fine. Breastfeeding is a great option both because of the health benefits and because it’s free, but there are plenty of women who never breastfeed or only breastfeed for the 6 weeks or so of their maternity leave, and their kids are fine. And think of all the adopted babies out there who are never breastfed. Don’t worry about it.

      If you do decide to pump, you’re just going to have to explain to your clients and to the judge why you need a break. It sucks and you may discover that some people are closet sexists, but it’s better than leaking in the middle of court because you’re scared to tell the judge, you know?

      LMAO at the special pumping room just for you.

    • I was (and am) pro-breastfeeding for my family, and while I think there is pretty clear evidence that there are some aspects of breast feeding that are health benefits (I’m trying to say this as neutrally and supportively to you as possible, so if I’m offending, I am sincerely NOT trying to) I am NOT one of those people who think formula is harmful. I can remember one of my friends, who was an anesthesia resident at the time, having a total breakdown over pumping for her twins. It’s not worth it. Your mental health and sanity are worth something. Your child will get nuturing and love and care, and breast feeding is not the only way to express that. I suffered from a ton of guilt about being a surgery resident and being gone from my child >80 hours a week starting a 6 weeks, and breast feeding made me feel a little bit better about that. But that isn’t the solution for everyone. One thing I would say, and this is not to badger you or attempt to guilt you in anyway, but if you decide to breast feed and pump, there are a lot of ways to do it and you may find a compromise that works for you.

    • I don’t have kids, but I have a friend who breastfed for 2 weeks before deciding to stop and formula feed her daughter. Her kid is perfectly healthy.

    • Research, Not Law :

      I hear you. It’s not something that everyone can swing with their work schedule and demands. A couple of thoughts:

      There’s nothing wrong with formula feeding. That’s coming from someone who breastfeed their first until 19 mo old and is on round two with a six month old. While I think I’m grateful that pumping is part of the workplace, no one should feel pressured to do it. There are SO MANY more important aspects to raising a child into a healthy, positive, assured, enlightened, responsible adult.

      I am able to pump enough in one 20 min session per day. I schedule two but usually miss one due to meetings, etc. You won’t know until you get there, but maybe you’ll find that encouraging if pumping is something you want to do.

      Mixing is a viable option. You can nurse while at home and have caregiver give formula when you’re not. I strongly considered doing it this time around because pumping is such a drag.

      Don’t let the clothing thing scare you off. It’s really not a big deal. I’m glad to have this post (I’m picking up some little tips), but finding clothes to wear for pumping is really, really not something to stress over. You already have them in your closet and will know what they are by the time you would start pumping.

      • Agree completely. After exclusively nursing for three months and then pumping/nursing for the next three, I can understand how nursing would be *very* difficult, if not impossible, to swing without a viable schedule. Whatever you decide to feed your baby will be fine.

        And, nursing is a h e l l of a lot harder than people would have you believe. And you may not even be able to do it. There is no reason to feel guilty if you choose to formula feed. What’s important is raising a happy, healthy, loved baby with a happy, healthy, sane mom.

        • Harder for some, surely. For me, day and best thing I’ve ever done, though I am a high achieving woman a la or header. Posts like this had me nervous for nothing. The post is great for research and comradeship but I hope it doesn’t intimidate anyone. Its a try and see thing. Enjoy you baby and your career whether you stick with it or not.

      • It sounds really silly, but I swear for the longest time it simply didn’t occur to me that I could pump and supplement with formula if needed. I’m starting to travel again for my job and giving myself permission to “only” pump twice during the workday and supplement a few ounces with formula made a huge difference to my productivity.
        And despite what some super gung-ho breastfeeding advocates will tell you, supplementing/giving bottles/skipping some nursing sessions will not destroy your supply or make your baby refuse to nurse when you are together. I was scared that my son would refuse to nurse the first time I came back from an overnight trip. Guess what? He resumed nursing just fine, and my husband loved being able to feed him more while I was gone.

      • This. All of it.

    • Lyssa, just do what you can, what feels right, and what is possible. Don’t let anyone guilt you. I belong to a formula fed generation and we turned out fine. I breast fed exclusively for 3 mths but am now supplementing due to low supply.

  15. (VERY) Slightly related TJ, but it’s a yay I have to share with someone…

    Maternity leave approacheth, and I’ve been kind of on ice about what happens when I return. As I blab on about, I’m at a receptionist desk in a quasi-assistant role with no malpractice insurance wondering where exactly I fit in here. Some days I’ve toyed with the idea of spending maternity leave looking for a real “lawyer job,” but I love love love the flexibility and the people I work with now, even though pay is low and prestige is not a thing.

    So. Today lawyer boss asks me what kind of furniture I’ll want for my new office when I get back, they’re adding me to malpractice insurance when they re-up when I get back, AND she’d like to start transitioning files to me. As in: She wants a partner. And she’d like to eventually hand me the baton.


  16. I second Kat’s recommendation to keep something on your lap, but I suggest using one of the 10,000 small receiving blankets you’ll get as gifts because it will smell like your baby and help with let down.

    Also, get an e-reader you can use one-handed.

  17. Don't really miss that stage :

    Second the refrigeration. And the separates, I also pretty much wore my regular clothes. My tip – decide ahead of time what you’re going to say to the one clueless man who asks what your pumping bag is, or why you’re carrying so many bags everyday, or some variation thereon. Because if your luck is like mine, you will encounter him at least 3 times a week the entire time you’re pumping and the first time he asks will catch you completely off guard!

    • Yeah, I brought an insulated lunch sack. It just looked like lunch.

    • a passion for fashion :

      i used the line from “friends” and told them it was a baby beer bong

  18. Diana Barry :

    I am pumping right now (lol). I wear any kind of shirt, and wrap dresses. The only thing I can’t wear is a non-wrap dress. Goodbye sheaths, until you stop pumping. I hold the pump parts up onto me with one arm and hand, so my other hand is free. The hands-free bras never really worked for me, something was always falling out of place.

    I don’t wash my parts until the end of the day. I wipe them out with the medela wipes in between. Milk keeps for 8 hrs unrefrigerated (look on kellymom dot com), so I don’t worry about it. I pump at 9, 11, 1, and 3. (I have an office with a door that locks.)

    Nursing bras are great. Try on a TON. Anita fits me best. Breakout bras dot com is a great site for these! I don’t know how I would pump if I didn’t have a nursing bra – then I’d definitely have to get undressed.

    I bought a Symphony pump – hospital grade. I had the $$ and wanted to make sure I had the most effective one that wouldn’t give out. I used it for about a year with kid 1 and kid 2. (I pumped at work for each until they were about 15 months old – does that make me a rockstar?) Now I am using it with kid 3, so I am getting good use out of it! The pump in style is also good, but the motor does wear out after a while, so if you are planning on pumping a lot it may not last through more than one kid. That one is also slightly louder than the symphony.

    • Diana Barry :

      Oh, and I need to wear regular shirts, nursing bras, and a cardigan and/or jacket (and sometimes both!!!) bc my office is COLD. If it is cold, your letdown won’t work. I also have a baby blanket over my pump to hide it, and I put it over my lap when pumping, so it keeps me warm, also.

    • Charlotte :

      +1 for Anita nursing bras (especially for gals who were busty to begin with). I love them so much I may keep wearing them even after I stop nursing.

      • Hmm, I might need to check these out. Free shipping/returns at any retailers that sell them? Bras are one thing I need to try on to know if it’ll work.

        • Research, Not Law :


          Another anita nursing bra fan.

        • also amazon (make sure its sold by amazon and not an affiliate) and bare necessities. tritto anita bras! i’m was just measured as a 32FF (absurd, right?) and the SUPPORT in these bras (as opposed to all the floppy soft cup ones) is SUCH a relief.

    • I’m still nursing my 2nd child, but stopped pumping at work after 9 months and I pumped at work about that same time with my first. Luckily for me I was able to nurse at lunch and then pump anywhere from 2-3 times a day otherwise (usually once in the morning and 2 times in the afternoon), but that will really depend on your and your baby’s schedule. I pumped in my office and often in my car on the road. Having the pump and a separate insulated lunch bag helps for transport and storage. I second the medela wipes. There was no way I was going to do any cleaning or storing of parts in the firm kitchen, so the wipes were fantastic. I also second the recommendation for Anita bras. I also ended up getting a wonderful Elomi molded cup nursing bra which I loved while nursing my 2nd child and it has been fabulous.

      For me, it was worth the hassle and I found being able to pump while at work (no fancy devices, just one arm across both breasts) helped me transition back to work without much guilt. As far as clothes were concerned, I bought a couple of nursing/maternity tops (usually sleeveless) from Motherhood Maternity, Target and Pea in the Pod that I could wear with a sweater, blazer or suit. On their own, they were somewhat cheap looking, but I got them in dark colors (helpful for potential leaks, etc) and just wore them along with wrap dresses/shirts (with camis underneath that I could pull up or down) and the occasional button down. I did not like having to disrobe, and actually appreciated being able to open them through the slits to use the pump or just pull down the necklines. I was a heavy producer and pumping could take a while, so cutting out any extra steps to open my door again and look like I was back to work were good for me. Good luck and congratulations!

  19. I have been pumping for about 5 months with my first baby. I usually wear a nursing cami under my regular shirt. I usually just pull off the ‘real’ shirt. I usually use the hands-free corset thing. If I forget that, I just snap the tops of the nursing bra/cami around the flanges. That’s not perfect, but it works pretty well unless the bottles get really full.

    I’ve heard that putting the pump parts in the fridge can damage them, and they always seem kind of gross to me after that, too. I have the Medela wipes, which work great. I wipe down the parts with the wipes, then I usually do a second wipedown with dry wipes, and stick the parts in a ziploc bag. I also have two sets of parts so I can wash them overnight and then they have all day to dry. I hate trying to dry all of the nooks and crannies by hand!

    I *could* work during pumping since I have a hands-free setup, but I usually end up taking the time to look at pictures of my baby. Videos are actually the best way for me to encourage letdown. I have the Medela Freestyle, and I have been very happy with it. However, it is definitely loud and I have never been brave enough to talk on the phone while using it.

    For storage, I put the bottles in the little cooler that comes with the pump and put it in the refrigerator at work. I haven’t had an issue yet. I stick the blue icepack in the freezer to use on the way home.

    • Yeah – I’ve pumped for three months now at work and have just weaned my baby to frozen milk. I wore nursing camis every day and just wore tops, sweaters, or cardigans over them. I liked that they gave me some coverage (things get very va-va-voom if I missed a pumping session) and the underwire wouldn’t dig in to me. I swear by the Glamourmom long nursing tanks – have one in almost every color and two in white. That way I didn’t have to worry about “nursing clothes” and nursing bras, which didn’t provide enough “oomph” for me.

      As for the actual procedure – I did everything tika55 did. Except, I bought a mini-fridge for my office and kept my pump parts and milk in there.

      • +1 on the Glamourmom nursing tanks. I wore them almost exclusively during my maternity leave and they were great!

  20. Also pumping right now (10 months, so ready to be done with this pump!) and I do the “parts in ziplocs in a lunchbag in the fridge” trick too. Can’t avise too much on clothes as my office is super casual, but my best purchase has been the Freemie system by Dao Health (google it) – it’s a handsfree setup that fits right in your bra so you can pull your shirt down and type witout worrying about spilling. It’s not perfect, and I wouldn’t walk down the hall wearing them, but if you are worried about being walked in on it’s a great setup. Also used in the car for my hourlong commute!
    Buy directly from the company and if you have any issues they help you out right away – I needed replacement membranes and they sent me 2 sets for free the day I called.

    Also, keep spare parts in your office, storage bags for the day you forget the caps for the bottles (it will happen) and a handpump in your car or desk is a good idea too.

    • Research, Not Law :

      Ditto the spare parts in the office!!

    • sorry for all the typos, sent from my phone in the pumping room. I really do know how to spell, I swear.

  21. Research, Not Law :

    My nursing/pumping friendly tops consist of:
    — Blouse/top that can pull up to my neck (I particularly like banded or smocked hems, since they stay up and hide the pouch)
    — Cardigan or button-up
    — Wrap top or suplice neckline

    I wear nursing tanks (or spaghetti strap camisoles with straps lengthened to go under b00b) under just about everything for modesty.

    For the most part, I avoid dresses when nursing, but shirt dresses, wrap dresses, and the Casual Belted Dress from Boden are the exception.

    I wear nursing bras or tanks until babe is no longer nursing mid-day, so until 12 months. They are just so very convenient. I’m a 32F/G when nursing and like bravado nursing tanks and anita nursing bras.

    I never bothered with hands-free nursing (although I have a freestyle pump) because, like some others have mentioned, I use the time to zone out. I also find I pump more if I relax rather than try to be productive.

    I also have multiple sets of parts, so that I don’t have to wash every night. I have one set per day, which I wrap in a prefold between pumping sessions.

    • Research, Not Law :

      In addition to spare parts in the office: I keep lots of nursing pads in the bag. I can’t count the number of days I leave home without pads. I really leak, so they are not optional. I second Kat’s neutral scarf recommendation – or a cardigan/jacket. I’ve had to go that route.

      • I also have stuffed tissues in my tank when I’ve forgotten nursing pads. Ah, memories of junior high.

    • I second bravado nursing tanks. I could not have gotten through pumping at work (twice for two kids) – or nursing in public – without them. I also was pumping/nursing in the fall and winter, so the extra layer covering my stomach helped. One thing about nursing tanks – the good ones can be expensive. I tried cheaper ones, and they didn’t work well at all.

  22. I pumped at work until my son was 1. I used the office of the judge I work for (I know, I was lucky to have an extremely accommodating boss). Her office was freezing, so I’d wear a camisole from the Limited to work every day. The straps were stretchy enough that I could just pull the shirt’s neck way down, and that kept my stomach covered (which prevented shivering, at least a little). I would always wear pashmina-type scarves at my freezing cubicle – they made good lap blankets for warmth and spill-protection purposes.

    I also wore regular bras (at a32H, any non-wired bra was sort of a joke), but I did sew nursing bra clips onto my regular bra – a whole bag of them is really cheap, and I felt so much more human wearing my regular bras to work. It probably also saved stretching the fabric out by pulling it up and down.

  23. Ditto on the pumping bustier, once it becomes routine, it gets boring…so I read book or even answer emails while pumping. So pumping is not ten minutes–its an opportunity to finish two chapters.

  24. I work in PR and once made complete arrangements for a television interview over the phone while I was pumping — Gasp! Do you think they heard?!!!

    I found the nursing bra held the pump accessories fine for me — no need for the bustier. (Then again, I had the suction setting all the way up.) I didn’t invest in nursing clothing; I just wore shirts that I could hike up over my breast while I pumped. This usually precluded dresses, but sometimes I wore them anyway and just zipped them down part way and endured slightly chilly pumping sessions.

    Having three sets of pump parts was a lifesaver! (My sweet husband even washed them when I got home.) No one in my office ever had to see them that way, and I just wiped off the excess milk with paper towels before I put the dirty ones in a large Ziplock bag. I had a clean bag for the clean pump parts and a dirty bag for the soiled ones; each week, the previous week’s clean bag became the new week’s dirty bag.

  25. I don’t have anything to share about pumping clothes, but this seems the best pumping routine to me:

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