What are the best tips and tricks for pumping at the office? Today’s guest post is from Jenny Hamilton — when she approached me about writing this guest post I thought it was something that folks would be definitely interested in — and definitely not one that I could write myself. Tons of good advice with a dose of humor up ahead…
You might call me the typical overachieving chick. I am a corporate attorney, which sends me all over the country. I am a personal stylist and mommy blogger. And when I was pregnant, I decided to breast feed my baby.
Like any tough decision, there have been issues. My company’s idea of a “new mother’s room” is a utility closet with a small desk and a few old Parenting magazines. I have taken eight trips for work so far, including a ten day trip to California, and in the middle of it, I sent my husband through the airport with 160 ounces of breast milk. (By the way, it’s easier to get breast milk through security than a bottle of wine.) I have navigated judges, mediators, managers, secretaries, and a weekly calendar stuffed with meetings. I have learned how to respond when men see my small milk cooler and ask me if I brought my lunch. (Well, yes, it’s somebody’s lunch.) I have pumped while driving, sitting on a plane, in airport bathrooms, during work meetings, and most of my blog posts have been written either while pumping or nursing.
I am fortunate to tell you that my baby girl is exactly eight months old today, and I am still going. So, what worked? Sheer determination, spousal support, and ironically the fact that I work in a male dominated profession. The fastest way to get a male colleague to shut down is casually drop, “I am breastfeeding and need to pump” into a conversation. They freeze like a cartoon, and then I leave to pump.
I would like to encourage other women who want to breast feed but wonder if they are crazy for adding this to their already packed workload. The answer is yes. You are crazy, but with luck and some support, you can do it. So, here we go:
Pumping at the office
– Get the smallest, lightest pump on the market, which would probably be the Medela Freestyle Hands-Free Breast Pump.
– Delegate wash duty. I nurse and pump so everyone else in our household can wash and dry pump parts.
– Find a space to pump at the office that works for you. My office is almost all glass, so to save time, I pump in the nearest ladies room with a nursing cape for discretion. I do not have access to a refrigerator, so I use a small cooler and ice pack. It’s not luxuriuos, but it works.
– You may be able to check your email and pump a half gallon at the same time, but for many women, it takes some mental energy. If you have a hard time getting milk when you pump, use visualization techniques (or use this as an excuse to upgrade your phone with video capability so you can watch clips of your baby). Deep yoga breaths may help, as does visualizing yourself on vacation not pumping.
– Try to nurse in the morning just before you leave and again as soon as you get home. Once you are at work, try to pump at times your baby would be eating.
– Block time on you calendar for your pumping sessions so people cannot schedule back to back meetings. If they do, warn them ahead of time and ask that they take a break. Of if it’s really boring, slip out for twenty minutes. I have done both, and so far, I can’t say I’ve missed anything.
– Be assertive. Come right out and tell your boss, co-worker or secretary that you will need to pump at X time, and people will generally move mountains for you. Maybe because it’s the law. (Although maybe not. See this case.)
Pumping in style, or what not to wear
– Since I am a stylist, this part has been tough: take everything out of your closet that does not allow easy access to your breasts. Otherwise, you may find yourself having to completely disrobe at work, which is particularly uncomfortable when you pump in a semi-public bathroom.
– Ditto for shopping, even the sales – do not buy clothes that are not pump friendly. However, if you must buy that dress that zips up the back, wear tank top underneath so you can comfortably pull it down to your waist to pump.
– Speaking of which, plan now to wear camisoles or nursing tanks under everything: knit v-necks, button front shirts, jackets, cardigans, and wrap dresses. I am a huge Only Hearts because they wash and wear like a champ.
– Another reason to invest in high quality camisoles with some spandex: even if your pump is not hands-free, you may try slipping the horns under your tank top and bra and see, if between your clothes and the suction, you can let go.
– You may or may not need to buy nursing bras. It may depend, more than anything else, on your chest size. I only went from an A to a B cup when my milk came in, so I can often get away with wearing regular tanks and bras.
Pumping and traveling
– You can pump while you drive, but as a product liability attorney, I must advise you not to do this.
– You can also pump on a plane. Break out your Nordstrom charge card because it is time to invest in a large, lightweight cashmere scarf that you can drape over the horns. Try to hide the pump, though, because the flashing lights and tubing system can make the passengers next to you nervous.
– Plastic storage bags may not be eco-friendly, but it may be the only way you get that many ounces through security at any one time. And please, please double check the zippers.
– Some of the best, most productive pumping may likely be away from your baby, so while you are missing her, enjoy the extra milk (and the rest).
– If you are visiting an office, tell the front desk you are a new mom and ask if there is a place for you. (The partner showing you around is probably going to have to ask them anyway.)
– Carry a few Milk Screen test strips with you, especially if you care to indulge in a glass of wine at a client dinner.
The key is to demand support from your family, rely on the amazing online resources we have today (like Kellymom and WorkandPump), and make up your own rules as you go along. I am not going to blunt this: until you get a system in place, the first couple of months are brutal. The rewards are tremendous, but they come later. So, be gentle on yourself. Even if your baby gets only part of his nutrition from you and the rest from formula like mine does, enjoy this experience. Believe me or not, you will start to dread the day it is over.
Pictured: Photo of author and her child, taken by Small Wonders Photography in Davenport Iowa.
Readers, any other tips on breastfeeding while working?