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Where There is a Pump, There is a Way
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?
Love love loved this post. I am a recently graduated general surgery resident who pumped from the time my son was 8 weeks old till the time he self weaned at 10 months. I worked 80 hours a week and would pump up to four times a day while I was away from him. At th county hospital I work at the pumping room was amazing — brand new, quiet clean, multiple outlets, locked, etc. At the university hospital, the “pumping room” was a corner of the women’s locker room for all the housekeeping staff. Not private at all. Some random thoughts:
*If in the beginning, you are pumping more than your child is drinking, freeze the extra. Your production will go down over time and having a stash is helpful.
* I am generous of chest (even more so when breast feeding) so I chose to wear a nursing bra at all times. This is when my floaty silk blouses from BR came in really handy — they hid my post baby belly and were easy to pull up to pump
* I strongly encourage a hands free device for pumping — there are a million out there on the interweb. I used a pumpease, which worked great. This allowed me to be productive as I pumped.
*Conversely, the best thing I did for myself was by an ipod touch and load it with my tv shows and watch a few minutes while I pumped. I found that I had a lot of trouble relaxing, and doing something for myself helped my efficiency and production.
* I would often talk on the phone as I pumped. I would play dumb when people on the other end would ask me what the noise was — usually I’d say someone was washing the floor. I wish I’d been more open and honest about it — it’s nothing to be ashamed with but I was literally the only woman in a group of 80 residents who had a child during residency, and I didn’t want a word said against me about my dedication. That being said, some of the guys with wives who had pumped recognized the bag (Medela is the best pump, totally recommend it and it’s worth the money).
I have a lot of mixed feelings — it was the right choice for our family, but incredibly time consuming and totally exhausting. For me, pumping allowed me to keep my production up so I could breast feed at home, which was very important to me emotionally because I had a lot of guilt about being gone so much. OTOH, I don’t think my child would have been damaged in any way from taking formula, and if it’s too much emotional stress and difficulty, I wouldn’t want any working woman to feel less of a mother because she chose not to pump. Mostly, I am grateful I was able to do it, and grateful that I don’t have to do it anymore!
Thanks for this post! I pumped till my son was 6 mths old and I was lucky to be able to go home at lunchtime to pump (I did it 4x a day). The worst was a trip to HK when he was 3 mths old with all day mtgs and I did not have the gumption to excuse myself for 30 mins to pump (boss was not supportive of my pregnancy to start with) and milk levels fell drastically!
Oh well, it’s all in the past but am glad for this post that helps women assess what they want to do/not do and to NOT feel scared/ashamed to tell people that they need to pump & make time for it.
GREAT post. Thank you for this!
I am SO happy to see this article! I am an attorney and first-time mom of a 6 month old girl and one of the things I promised myself I would do for her is to provide breastmilk as long as I reasonably could. So far, so good.
I am lucky to have a private office and understanding co-workers and employers so I don’t have to do much explaining. Another attorney here is just concluding her pumping stint so thankfully she paved the way for me. The most challenging part is the time it takes out of my day. By the time you DND the phones/email, get hooked up, pump, disassemble, and then clean parts, it’s a 20 minute production. Multiply that by 2-3 pump sessions a day and it eats away at your day. But like anything worthwhile, you will make the time if it is important enough to you.
My piece of advice is if you are going to endure the hassles of pumping, then do yourself a favor as well and take the time to actually nurse your child every day. I do it first thing in the morning and before her bedtime. THAT bonding time is priceless and such a relaxing way to start and end the day.
Thanks, Kat, for reaching out to your mommy readers!
One tip — I had extra horns, flanges, parts so I did not have to clean them right away and did all the cleaning at home when I had time. I would pop the used horns in a baggie and fridge them until I had time to clean it properly. I would use the 2nd set of horns for the 2nd pump of the day. It may speed up your DND time.
Excellent advice. I broke down and bought a second set within the first week back at work.
Don’t bother disassembling/reassembling. Either store them, in a ziploc, in the same bag/fridge you store the milk in, so they stay chilled to a safe temperature. Or buy a second set of horns for your second pumping session. You can also leave your pump set up and just drape a scarf over it or something.
It’s still a 20 minute production, but the more you cut back on cleaning & set-up the better. Plus, that’s a good 20 minutes to grab a quick snack or lunch at your desk.
Someone else mentions them further down, but these are great for cleaning:
you nuke them for like 3 minutes, dump them on a paper towel, and you’re done.
Also, no one ever mentions that the first two weeks (especially) of nursing is REALLY hard. Buy something like this:
and thank me later : )
I’m expecting my third in October/Nov. And nursing is so worth it. Cheap, easy (no bottles to heat up/sterilize/etc), and once you establish it, relaxing. I also love my Medela pump in style.
I too am a lawyer, a litigator and mother of two. I breast fed both my daughters until they were one year old. I was lucky because my office had blinds and a door (although it didn’t lock) so I could pump at my desk. I also pumped in cars, airplanes (although I used the bathroom) and various attorney offices when there wasn’t a lactation room. I was very glad to be able to do this for me and my child.
One additional tip – if you can’t wash the horns, if you keep them chilled, you can reuse them the same day. You can also buy cleansing wipes to clean when you are on the road and can’t wash them.
I found everyone to be supportive. With my second daughter, I completed a six week jury trial when she was five months old. I pumped during our morning and afternoon breaks. The bailiff made me a sign and would let me into the courthouse locker room. The judge and counsel were aware of what I needed to do and no one objected or even questioned me.
It can be tough but it can be done – like anything, we can make the time if it is important to us. Good luck to you new nursing moms!
Bravo for pumping moms! I also pump at work (luckily no travel!!) and here is what works for me:
– Take as long a maternity leave as you possibly can. When leave ends, see if you can work from home at least part time. (I work from home 2 days/week, so I can nurse baby then)
– If you have an office that can accommodate pumping, get a lock put on the door.
– Unlike the post author, I would recommend getting the best pump you can, a hospital grade one if you can afford it. I got a symphony pump, which was expensive, but so far I have pumped at work for 9 months with my first (when baby was 6-15 months) and 3 months with my second (3-6 months) and expect the pump to last through this kid and then #3 when we have another. I have good supply and haven’t had to use any formula (knock on wood).
– Don’t wear zip-back dresses! Wrap dresses are great, and regular shirts of any kind.
– Hands free pumping bras work well.
– You don’t need a nursing cami under clothes, just a nursing bra and pads. Unlike the post author, my boobs went from D to G when baby was born, so I had to get a lot of new bras.
– For camis/tanks, I like glamourmom bc they have long torso sizes.
Great tips – here are some others
1. If you think of nursing/pumping as a chore, you will inhibit your ability to do it well.
2. Enlist a work friend to re-direct others if you have privacy concerns. My old law office now has a certified Lactation room, which has a couple of recliners, soft lighting and a dedicate refrigerator, but it took a new female partner who was still nursing to get it. when I was there, I made a simple privacy please sign for my door, nothing cutesy. And my neighbor stopped a couple of people from just barging in, although not my managing partner (thankfully I was rear facing). (I suspect he jumped at the chance to say yes to a lactation room after I left-lol!)
3. I had a nursing kit – baby pic, onesie that smelled like the baby, always helped if I was having trouble with let down (toward the end)
4. Schedule periodic nurse-ins with you baby on a Saturday or Sunday. Spend the day in bed, allowing baby to nurse at will. You can mark up documents or watch sappy movies or whatever helps you relax…
5. Start pumping well before you go back to work. With my oldest, I was able to nurse him mid-day because his day care was close to my office, but with #2, we had transitioned to a nanny. Luckily, I started pumping around 6 weeks, sometimes just a half ounce after the baby nurse. Good rich hindmilk. I had a great stash built up by the time iIwent back to work, and toward the end of the first year – I had milk to add to cereal, and she was able to stay on bm for a month or so after I’d weaned.
Best of luck….
Hey Divaliscious11 – Wearing my Spring Garden dress today. Cute! I did want to add that I had VPL this morning and hesitated about wearing a slip or spanx. I chose neither, and wore some undies that are a little snug and more supportive. I think it could’ve gone either way. That said, the more I wear this, the lighter it feels. That’s in a good way, though, because it’s 95 degrees today in DC. All things being equal, though, I think I’d prefer it if the fabric were a a tad heavier: maybe a cotton/rayon/poly mix instead of just rayon/poly. Even so, the taupe/lavendar color and the elegant sleeves give this dress more gravita and visual “heft” than it would have otherwise, I think. Anyhoo, that’s a long, lawyerly, disclaimer for: I still love it!
LOL…I know all about long lawyerly disclaimers…and yes the District is on fire according to my friends…. but good to know! I am moving shortly, but as soon as I am settled, I am ordering….
Yay! Congrats on the move!!
LLM in BsAs
I usually just lurk but here are my $.o2.
I am a corporate lawyer (senior associate) in fairly laid back Buenos Aires, but I work at a BigLaw equivalent as regards to corporate culture. I have a 6month old and have been working since she was 2.5months (6 hours a day until last month, full time now). She started solids this weekend, but has been exclusively breast fed until now.
It really helps having a supporting work environment. If the partner I work for called me for a quick meeting when I had to pump I simply asked him for 20 minutes and then I’d go up. (Did it this morning in fact).
I am fortunate enough that I have an office with a door and a not too see-through glass wall. I just close my door and pump at my desk… while reading corporette!
Another thing that helps is dealing with the pumping matter-of-factly. I had a baby, I chose to breastfeed, I pump. Easy. And don’t be embarrassed. One I was first back one partner opened the door to my office and found me pumping. Embarrassing? a litte. We both laughed it off, his words? “don’t worry, I have a wife that works full time as well, it’s a part of life”. I don’t stress, I don’t worry. And that helps.
I usually use that time to call home and check in with the nanny (or my husband who often works from home). Thinking about my baby also helps with production.
And I’ve found that loose-ish knits work better for me than button downs. I am (pre-pregnancy) a fairly full C-cup (I use nursing bras 24/7) so button downs just gape open (I have to say I am one of those people we all hate… I was back at my pre-pregnancy weight at about 3 months, and have continued to lose weight – so going up a size in shirts is not doable.
I don’t really have any other advice, just accept that it is what it is and relax!
Been there, done that, as a federal litigator. I advise learning how to express by hand. I never used a pump, so I can’t compare, but you can avoid infections and ease discomfort on the road by expressing in the shower once your child is old enough that you don’t need to bring the milk home. Then you don’t have to carry anything with you. When I was at work, I used a Medela funnel that attaches to a bottle, and expressed by hand, in my office. Wipe out the funnel to wash at home later, and I was done. I was really efficient at it, and took maybe 10 minutes to do both sides. There was also no noise, so I bet most people in my office never knew what I was doing.
I’d also like to give a positive viewpoint for future moms-to-be. You hear lots of horror stories, but many women have no problems breastfeeding. It was all pretty uneventful for me, and I ended up nursing my first for 18 months and my second for 12 months, with no major issues.
Seconded — some women have problems with breast feeding, but in general most women can do it (sometimes with the help of a lactation consultant,w ho can trouble shoot issues). While pumping is not an activity I would do in my free time, breast feeding was awesome, and an amazing way to bond with my son. Highly encourage women to try it, and keep at it through the first few weeks when things can be more difficult.
Great post! As a breast-feeding mom that has done a lot of flying, I would recommend printing out the guidelines on traveling with breast milk from the TSA website. You would be surprised at the number of screeners who are not familiar with their own regulations! I once got in a 15 minute argument over whether I could bring my pump and expressed milk on the plane when I didn’t have my baby with me. (Hello, why would I be lugging around a pump and milk storage paraphernalia if I could feed my baby directly!)
Also, if you are going to be away for a week or more, you can ship milk home overnight on dry ice. It is a little pricey, but a lot of dry ice companies will deliver the ice, shipping container, and appropriate labeling right to your hotel or office. You will need to label the package to indicate that it contains dry ice, but if you call FedEx or UPS they can also provide you with the appropriate labels. (You will probably need to talk to a manager, the first person who answers the phone will probably try to convince you either that a label in not required or that you can’t ship on dry ice, neither of which is true.) Once the package is labeled properly, it can go out with the regular pick up. Also, you want to make sure that you leave room for expansion (liquids expand when they freeze) and that the bags that you ship you milk in won’t become brittle with the extreme cold. (I used Lansinol bags and they worked fine, but I also double bagged in an outer Ziploc an put a layer of paper towels between the dry ice and the bag so that the dry ice did not come in direct contact with the plastic.)
Thanks for the tips! Will take your advice!
Congratulations to all of you. I know this can’t be easy. Some women just cannot make it work, and this shouldn’t make them feel bad. There are so many ways to mother. But it’s great when society supports all modes. I was home with my kids full time when they were babies, so didn’t have to deal with pumping or working infant motherhood, but I celebrate all of you doing it now.
I also used the Medela Hands Free pump with my youngest. It’s pricier than most breast pumps, but I agree that the ability to have my hands free was completely worth it. I used it between three and six times a day for about a year; some of the plastic pieces eventually started to warp a tiny bit from boiling water sanitization baths (I probably should’ve just steamed them clean) but otherwise the pump never gave me any problems.
The worst part about pumping, for me, was having to cart around the pump, ice packs, empty containers, and whatnot all the time, and having to clean and sanitize the pump. Otherwise, I loved it. Pumping gave me much-needed breaks that I probably wouldn’t’ve otherwise taken (especially given that I suffered some very, very nasty post-partum depression for about eight months – I was not altogether aware of my mental/emotional condition). Being able to shut a door on the world and turn off the lights four times a day was very important.
I was a C cup before the pregnancy and grew to a DD cup afterward. Nursing bras and nursing pads were essential for me. Since almost nobody makes button-downs that don’t gap at that size, I bought shirts which were a couple sizes too big; over them I wore fitted jackets or cardigans (sometimes with belts around my waist) to add some shape. I also wore long tunics that I could pull up easily. I wouldn’t’ve even considered wearing a dress to the office, unless it was some stretchy material that I could pull down.
I also recommend learning how to express milk, as North Shore suggested. I have one “problem” breast which has always been prone to bouts of mastitis and blocked ducts, and the pump never helped.
Thank you Jenny for your post, and thank you all for your comments! I don’t have kids yet, but we plan to start trying in the next year or so. I have a lot of anxiety about being able to travel for work and breast feed, but I’m going to save this to help when the time comes.
I’ve pumped as a full time litigator (with travel) for two kids. I am not going to lie and say it was always easy or pleasant — certain airport bathrooms, certain uncomfortable exits from meetings, etc — but it was totally do-able and, for my family, worth it. I will do it again for baby 3. The only real thing I have to add to what’s been said already is to try to find a friend who has been there, done that, so that you have someone to commiserate with — most of the unpleasantness of it is also really comical (did you see that guy’s reaction when I told him I had to pump?) and sharing that with someone can help.
My son is now 7, so it’s been a while since pumping was an issue, but we nursed through toddlerhood, and he was nourished exclusively by breastmilk through about age 7 mos. so I had a lot of experience pumping.
I agree with the info in this post, and think it’s really important to get this encouragement out there! I’d add a couple of things:
even if you eventually split between nursing and formula, it’s important to start out with nursing. Otherwise you will not have enough milk supply. If you think your babe isn’t getting enough to eat, put him/her to the breast more often. It is amazing, but little ones know the techniques to use to increase your milk supply, or to tone it down. I had heard that it was a supply/demand system, but didn’t realize how much that’s true until we were well into it–amazing!
I used a Medela hands-free also. Looking at the price in the ad, I doubt it’s the same pump.
I was surprized by what tops were actually nursing/pumping friendly. Things that split down the front, like wraps, didn’t work well because I was afraid that edge would get stretched out. Buttons down the front left me quite exposed. Basic camis or T-shirts that can be pulled up were my favorite option. Pumping, you just stick the attachment under your shirt. Nursing, the shirt falls to the baby’s face and as long as they don’t break their attachment, you’re covered.
One other additional time that worked for me was right after a nursing session, essentially the leftovers that he didn’t take while nursing. Done consistently, this increases your supply.
Taking the cooler through security sounds like the way to go. A friend of mine checked a cooler FULL of the milk she had conscientiously pumped throughout a 5-day conference, only to have it show up several days later, putrid and, of course, unusable.
I saw beautiful pix of mother/child nursing pairs, asked my mom to take some of us. They were awful. Me with boob. Pay to have a professional photographer take some lovely shots.
Enjoy! This is a beautiful time of togetherness with your child, one you can never return to.
I pumped for a year with each of my kids, both of whom breastfed for a few years. It was worth every moment – I felt like a champion!
Great post! I never had to deal with breastfeeding at work, but have friends who have. (I work from home.) I do have a great story though that tells you that you really can pump ANY where. A friend of mine was going to a bachelorette party in NYC. Her first time away from her new baby and she was extremeley attached, anxious, and breastfeeding. Well she forgot her license and was carded at the door to the “All-Male” review. The guy at the door told her “no ID, no entry”. She held up her breast pump and started crying about missing her baby and that she came all this way and she has to lug around her breast pump all night long…needless to say the guy was dumb struck and let her in. She “pumped and dumped” that night.
Love this article. I had my child in my 3rd year of lawschool and used the career services interview rooms as my pumping room. I too pumped while driving and it is a special skill I mastered.
We are trying for #2 right now. I anticipate breastfeeding/pumping again. I think the key is to not be embarrassed and know that you have a right to provide nourishment for your child.
I pumped at work for my son for 10 months. These are great suggestions! Some more from my experience:
1. If you share a pumping room with another working mom in your office use outlook for scheduling the pump room! That makes it much easier to work around both (all) of your meeting schedules.
2. Don’t stop cold turkey when your baby transitions to cow milk, you’ll be in a lot of pain. I made an excel spreadsheet to track my output, and used it to taper down by 2-3 ounces a week until I was comfortable not pumping at all.
I don’t have kids, but one of my bosses went on maternity leave and came back while I worked at the office, and she pumped during the day. She had a pretty ingenious system: when she pumped, she would hang a sign with a magnet on her metal office door that said, “DO NOT ENTER – PLEASE KNOCK! If you ignore this sign, you will be EXTREMELY EMBARRASSED!!” It was kinda funny watching men go to knock on her door, read the sign, look terrified, and walk away. :-D
Ha! That is awesome!
I love this. I nursed three kids; pumped but not very successfully. I’m so glad that the pumps have improved. I nursed a three week old through an evening client meeting. The clients knew I had the baby with me, but were unaware he was nursing. My youngest nursed until he was nearly 4. He’s 13 and yet to have an ear infection. He’s had a handful of colds, no asthma, no allergies, no major illnesses of any kind. If you can nurse, it’s an experience not to be missed and the best possible start for your baby.
Anon for this one
I would be interested in hearing how women have dealt with derisive comments regarding scheduling meetings, for example, 15 minutes later due to a pumping break. I am imagining one particular scenario where the partner demands to know what else I have going on that would prevent me from attending a 10:00 meeting instead of a 10:15 meeting, telling him (because I am a matter-of-fact person), and being told to move my pumping break or having him say something else that conveys annoyance, disgust, or his discontentment with firm policies that allow this kind of behavior, launching into a diatribe on how if he was on the policy committee each pumping break would count against my time in service to make partner, etc. Ultimately harmless to my career because everyone knows he’s an a** but annoying nonetheless. Just to clarify, I am imagining this might happen– no actual experience for another couple months.
You can plan your pumping around meetings or whatever’s going on in your day. E.g., in this case, pump at 9:45 so you’re done for the 10:00 meeting. Or wait to pump until 10:45, when the meeting’s done. Once you have the baby and have been nursing for a bit, you’ll know your body’s flexibility/tolerance. If the meetings are back-t0-back, there’s nothing wrong with saying you need to put a 15-20 minute buffer between them, for various reasons including pumping.
I tried to be somewhat flexible. I usually had a window in which I would pump and would try to plan around that. I would tell people that was what I was doing, so they would know why I was asking very particular questions about when meetings would start, how long they would last. But you have to do what you have to do. The second time around, it was not a big deal and I had no qualms about telling people that I needed to stop to pump.
The ONLY time I got any grief was when I was taking the deposition of a corporate representative in a business dispute case. I had explained my need for breaks to opposing counsel beforehand and offered several options to make it easier on them and the reporter. I explained this again before we started the depo and the witness was fine. After we took the second 20 minute break, he acted a little put out. I suspect, however, that his anger was related to the fact that I was making him look like a dumba** on the record.
It helps to have an established schedule. Work it out with your direct supervisor (if you have one) first, and then make it known among the people you work with that you will not be available at a given time or times every day. The more you can stick with that fixed schedule, the easier it will be for your colleagues to schedule things, and the less likely they will be to get annoyed.
My current employer also has a committee that deals with employee requests for time off or special accomodations for medical/family/personal reasons confidentially. Essentially, if you need a special accomodation beyond what’s normally permitted in our leave policies, you submit the request to them, they consider it confidentially, and then they tell your boss to accomodate you without telling him the reasons why. If your firm has a similar committee, it might be easiest to go through them to keep Partner A– off your case.
Finally, your description of Partner A– makes the words “hostile environment” come to mind. If he does behave that way perhaps a quick conversation with firm management or the ethics/professional responsibility folks could resolve things.
Wonderful post! I nursed my two bio kids (one adopted, not nursed b/c he was older when we got him) for 14 and 24 months, pumping extensively with each one. It can be done and is really worthwhile. Some advice:
— GET A LOCK ON YOUR DOOR. In most offices, this can be arranged if you request it. HR people usually have it on their doors. It will take some time, so start asking for this while still on maternity leave or maybe even before you head out. It will resolve the need for a sign and guarantee that no one will barge in. At my former firm, the mail staff would knock and walk in without waiting, since they were just dropping off stuff, not really disturbing you in their eyes. So the lock was really important.
— Ditto to the wardrobe suggestions; you’ll need to plan what you wear to make pumping easier. It doesn’t have to be nursing attire, but easy access makes things go faster.
— I kept my pump at my desk, only bringing the bottles, etc home every day. I kept 2 sets when I was pumping 2x day, so no need to wash at work. Though I did try the Medela microwave bags and liked them. Rinse, sterilize via nuke, done.
— Don’t be ashamed of what you’re doing. Tell people if needed, do your thing if not. I answered calls, responded to emails, etc. while pumping. Some people made comments about the background noise. Oh well. At least I’m still being productive on my pumping “breaks.”
In the beginning, you’ll need to pump a lot more than later, when your milk supply is more established and baby’s needs are starting to decrease as he takes in other foods. Make a schedule, try to stick to it and keep track of how you’re doing. That way, you won’t miss a session on a busy day and then wonder later why your supply is dipping.
Thanks for all the great info! I am 15 weeks pregnant and planning to pump, so the timing is perfect.
I’m 16 weeks and was thrilled about this post and the comments. Thanks!
Ladies, I was thinking of you last night, and I posted some dresses that transition from maternity (at least early on like you) to post-baby today.
Thank you so much for this post! I am pregnant with one more semester of law school left and have been worrying about how to make this all work. It is SO helpful to hear from others who have gone through this.
Also, I’ve been feeling left out lately since so many of the corporette fashion posts are no longer applicable to my current situation. If anyone knows of a corporette type blog aimed at moms and moms to be, I’d appreciate suggestions!
I met Audrey at a Women in Business conference. She’s really nice and I enjoy her posts. Just can’t believe that she has 4 boys and can manage to look so good.
Disclaimer, she is a personal friend, but you will love: http://lagliv.blogspot.com/
She starts out having her son the summer between 2L and 3L years, had a nightmare (which makes any problems you will face seem totally manageable), and now is a second year associate who has a 4-week old baby girl. She also references several other law school mom and young associate mom blogs which you’ll probably also enjoy.
I regularly post on maternity and post baby fashion with a focus on professional office attire. Would love to have you visit and get your feedback.
I’ll probably nurse my child when I have one, but this just sounds so difficult!
Its not easy-peasy, but like most things with motherhood, once you get into a rhythm, it gets better. I had more scheduling challenges with my first, but he was a champion nurser. With my second, I knew the drill, but she had some latching problems, so we had to visit the lactation consultant for some tips to help her latch from different direction. Don’t expect everything to go smoothly, but also don’t expect everything to be horribly disruptive, its rarely either extreme.
It’s also hard to explain, but once you have a kid, your whole outlook shifts, and what sounds awful in the abstract becomes something you just do. I hate being one of those smug mothers who smirkingly say “you just don’t understand what it’s like to be a mother,” but actually, I had NO IDEA what it would be like. We got pregnant accidentally, so I hadn’t thought a lot about what being a mother would be like. Pumping was not super fun, but I just did it because breast feeding was so important to me. Don’t borrow trouble in advance. Though I think it’s important to commit to breast feeding in advance if that’s what you decide to do, if it doesn’t work or if pumping is too hard, it’s not the end of the world. But I can practically gaurantee that there are things you have done in your life that are harder and less rewarding.
Ironically, once you get into the rhythm, nursing is actually much easier and more convenient than formula feeding. It takes some effort, work and commitment, but the rewards (for both you and the baby) are very much worth it.
Yes, it sounds difficult … but honestly, many things sound difficult in the abstract but once you’re doing them, you’re not focusing on the details. You’re just DOING it. Same with nursing.
And ditto to Deborah’s comment above. IMO, breast-feeding really is so much easier and quicker than formula-feeding. If you formula-feed, you have to wash way more bottles, think about how to transport the formula *everywhere* you go, probably warm it if baby’s not into cold formula, research and choose the right brand, etc, etc.
I’m expecting a baby in the fall and really hope to breastfeed and pump after I return to work. This post was extremely encouraging! Thanks to Jenny and everyone for all the great tips.
Oh another thing, which I’m almost embarrassed to admit — I never “sterilized” anything. I used the medela breast milk bags to pump into, or the bottles, depending on a variety of factors. I just dumped my horns and bottles into the dishwasher and ran it. YMMV, but I think if you have a healthy, immunocompentent child, there’s no need to be boil everything on a daily basis.
This is actually really good to hear.
The dishwasher runs hot enough.
The only time I ever boiled anything was when I used some horns and bottles that I had borrowed from a friend.
I so like the fact that people here are just matter-of-fact and this hasn’t turned into formula vs breast wars.
Totally agree. Rational, helpful conversation. Yay us!
Yes, me too. My local parents listserv would have erupted into an all-out flame war by this point in the discussion.
I adore this post. I pumped for both of my kids until they were at least one year, and nursed both of them well into the next year. This is one of my proudest accomplishments. Pumping takes a lot of dedication, but it can be done.
I did not have the easiest time pumping and the things that helped me most were:
A lock on my office door. Thank goodness for my understanding firm and our Partner in Charge who saw to it that I was taken care of.
A mini fridge in my office. I did not want my milk in the communal fridge. I also didn’t want to take an extra couple of minutes to go back and forth. Plus, as a nursing mother, it was nice to have easy access to drinks and snacks. I also kept my bottles and parts in the fridge during the day so I would not have to wash between pumpings.
Lots and lots of extra bottles, horns, valves. Everything but the pump and the tubing can be sterilized. One of my co-workers gave me her collection and I added to it. I had at least a week’s worth of parts, so I never *had* to do dishes on any given night. And – here’s the important part – I always kept an extra complete set of parts in my desk drawer in case something got left at home (which I learned the hard way many times).
Finally, don’t be shy about telling anyone what you are doing or what you need to do. Babies drink milk and moms make milk. There is nothing to be ashamed of or worried about. Many of the male attorneys I work with have wives who nursed their children and understand the importance. Even if they don’t, that’s not your problem. I had to turn down second chairing an out-of-state trial because of nursing. I told the attorney and he not only understood, but commended me for being forthright and for working so hard for my child.
Here is my novel about pumping: I took a 7 month leave from my job, but pumped 2-3x/day for 8 months after that (and then nursed just mornings and evenings until LO was almost 2). I used the Medela Freestyle, which is teeny tiny and rechargeable, unlike the old backpack Pump in Style, and a Free Expressions handsfree bustier. I had four sets of horns and flanges (3 for work, 1 for home) and an extra set of tubing at home so I only ever had to haul the pump back and forth. I pumped 2x day rotating the used horns/flanges through a hot water and dish soap bath in a Tupperware style container that I shook up to clean the stuff: After every pumping, the set of parts in the container would get rinsed out and folded up in a clean burp cloth (I would bring a few from home each week) and left under a cloth on my windowsill to dry, and then go into a Ziploc in my desk, and the just-used parts would go in their soapy bath until the next pumping session, so there was always one clean and dry set, one drying set and one set soaking. I also ditched the bulky bag and cooler that the pump came with in favor of tucking the pump into a large purse and carrying a Built lunch bag with a small ice pack and a stash of clean bottles (I had a million, and just ran them through the dishwasher – Freestyle wasn’t compatible with the little Medela bags that you just hook up to the horns). After one tragic incident where I left the milk bag over a weekend, I got a cheesy little Coca-Cola logo plug-in beverage cooler for my office. It’s too small and weak to be a real fridge – no compressor – but with the ice pack stuck in there it kept the milk sufficiently chilled in the event of episodes of mommybrain. I also used the Medela wipes and microwave bags on occasion, and periodically brought the whole lot home to run through the dishwasher. It wasn’t pretty, but I look forward to doing it again some day.
The Built lunch bag is great! Thanks for the tips.
As much as I think Canada is a ‘friendly’ place for breastfeeding working mom’s, storing my pumped milk in the communal fridge certainly garnered a few raised eyebrows and the odd negative comment. I like others suggestions of a mini fridge in your office to avoid making co-workers uncomfortable. The HR woman loved arranging for a lock on my door in support of my cause and I was glad to have it – not sure I could have ‘let-down’ while worrying that someone might do the knock/open! While I was nursing and had to travel for work I brought my baby and nanny along (my expense) but talked my firm into paying for either a 2 room suite or a second hotel room.
1) Lansinoh storage bags are the best & here’s a tip. Get Sterilite ice cube trays at Target for about $2 each – they are PERFECT breastmilk organizers. I have about 8 of them that I keep filling & switching out at my kids’ daycare.
I’ve pumped/nursed 2 babies and am on no. 3. It’s a pain, but worth it. Pumping kinda stinks, but being able to nurse is wonderful. I’ve pumped on an airplane (bathroom only) and pump in my office. I have a glass sidelight and I bought a cheap curtain and rod that I let down over the window while I pump.
2) I bought a fridge/freezer for my office – it’s great and was only $75. WORTH IT. I don’t even clean out my parts during the day – I just keep them in the fridge.
3) When in long trials (out of town, of course!) while pumping, I try to bribe someone in my family to come w/ the baby for a while. I also get a free fridge at the hotel by telling them I need it for medical / breastmilk reasons. For one trial, I had a friend in town where I could wash my pump parts. Not sure what to do about my trial coming up…will ask the hotel if they can wash them for me! Or else get creative with dish detergent and a coffee pot of hot water. I have extra parts, but not weeks’ worth.
4) Start pumping early. For number 3, I started pumping at about 1 week old and had a huge stockpile by the time he started daycare at 12 wks.
5) For the person who asked what to say when asked “What do you have going on at 3:15?” I just say something like “I need to take a break for the baby…” and trail off. (Almost all) guys get it. Even a very formal and discreet partner I work with (with 2 daughters) says to me “Are you still nursing and are you okay?” and I just assure him I’ve got it handled. It surprises me he’s comfortable saying it, but it’s cool with any man who has been a father.
It’s so nice to hear from so many others moms who have done this. I wish we could all start the Wonder Woman Law Firm!
baby on way
Lock on door question — My office recently switched its policy because federal law requires it to have a pumping room. We no longer get locks on our doors and there is one pumping room for the about 225 employees. (I don’t know how many are breast feeding.) Anyone else’s office have this policy change? Thoughts on whether to move to an office with a lock, clamor for my own lock, or be happy that there is a dedicated pumping room?
Put up a sign. Can’t imagine that it wouldn’t work as well as a lock.
Put a sign up and a chair in front of the door.
Do whatever you can to pump in your office. It’s so much easier — you can take calls, read/write emails, basically keep working.
If you can’t get the lock, see if you can finagle something else. The note is an option. Also, I think I’ve seen things out there that you can use on hotel room doors to make sure no one opens it — maybe you could stick one on your door while pumping.
Anon for this
LOOVE this post! Thanks Kat. It’s been a while, but I pumped/nursed my 81/2 yr old twins for a year, while working full time as a litigator in biglaw, and I also nursed (much less successfully) my firstborn, now 11. It can be difficult/frustrating, and plenty of humans have done fine on formula, so if you just can’t get there, don’t feel bad. That said, if you can get past the first few weeks of 21 hr screamathons while milk supply is being established, everybody is figuring out latch-on, sleep dep, etc, it is definitely beneficial, good for bonding, oh and there is that weight loss thing. Most important tip (IMHO): start pumping early, early – if you can, for a few mins after every nursing session in the first few weeks. It ups the milk supply (which helps EVERYTHING), you have a little ‘liquid gold’ reserve started in the freezer, and you just get in the rhythm of it.Agree that you don’t have to sterilize horns if you can keep ’em cold, just a hot water rinse. I used whatever the 2001 version of the Medela was (I don’t think it was handsfree – remember using headset for phone and balancing it on my lap while I did email). Definitely get a private, if at all possible, LOCKED area at work – at least one of those signs like people described above. And travelling is doable, even if you just pump and dump on a short trip, it’s worth it.
A few comic memories (cuz levity helps here). When I started travelling with the pump when my twins were ~4 mos old, it was about six mos after 9/11 – you cannot believe the things I went through with TSA (most of my travel involved National, so they were extra scrupulous…I once offered to demonstrate the operation to get a vigilant inspector to let me go, and go with my pump!). Then there was the super obnoxious opponent in a depo who refused to take a break 3 hours into it and I threatened to call the (female) magistrate for a ruling…didn’t have to and after that, Mr. Obnoxious agreed to do all depos at my office so I wouldn’t monopolize one of his conference rooms with the ‘milking machine.’ Oh, and jury duty – got called for that, brought my pump, bailiff treated me like a queen (I had the clerk of court’s office all to myself every two hours until I was excused – guess who got excused FIRST :-)). Last really funny: my then 3 year old daughter running around the house topless holding the extra set of horns across her little chest so she could ‘help’ make milk.
It is hard, it is worth whatever you can get done, and it is not worth making yourself crazy. Like I said, I was much more successful the second time around (even though it was with twins), and I think the reasons for that were (a) a really good lactation consultant – several sessions after I got out of hospital, worth it! and (b) I kind of knew that if I hung in for just a few more days when it seemed like for sure a non-starter, we’d probly get the hang of it (which we did, albeit with all three ‘participants’ and the two ‘outliers’ all crying in unison at times).
Good luck, stay positive and whatever you do, you are doing it right – even if you go to formula – you are the mom and you know and will do what is best.
Other posters have said most everything important, so I just wanted to add that having a cheering section rooting for you can really, really help. My husband and coworkers were all supportive, and that helped me nurse both my boys until almost 2 years old.
I did have a partner walk in on me while I was pumping, after each pregnancy. This was despite the fact that I had a cute (and large) little picture of a cartoon cow taped up outside my (nonlocking) door at eye level that said “PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB.” It happens. Just laugh it off and move on if it happens to you. Chances are, they won’t see much of anything and they will be as embarassed as you are.
ASK IN ADVANCE FOR ACCOMMODATION. I had the attitude of “I am a successful career woman and pumping will stop me from keeping on as if nothing has changed.” As a result, I ended up pumping in the public bathroom DURING TRIAL as the female juror members walked in and out because there was no plug in a stall and I hadn’t yet bought my battery-powered device. Plus I was sleep-deprived from having a 3 month old and prepping for trial. In hindsight, I should have tried to find a more private place to pump so the juror members didn’t see me. Nothing bad happened as a result (we won handily) but I think I would have felt better about it. So, don’t be afraid to ask for accommodation.
Love this post and comments. The only thing I would add is be kind to yourself- if this pumping is too difficult or stressful, I think it’s ok to stop. I am a full time biglaw litigation attorney, and with my first child, I only lasted two months once I got back to work (so I stopped nursing by the time my son was 5 months). I couldn’t take the stress of traveling and meetings and feeling sick and tired all the time and all my anxiety over pumping schedules and chilled milk. It would have been great if I could have used more fenugreek, or figured out how to visualize calm serenity, but I just couldn’t do it. With my second child I managed to pump and nurse to his first birthday, and I’m very happy that I was able to do this- but I’m also happy with my decision to stop worrying about it and switch to formula with my firstborn. I think what made it easier with my second was: 1) my willingness to be more open with co-workers; 2) the purchase of several pumps for all sorts of situations (the spendy medela one for the office, a portable battery powered avent for travel, and a manual pump for cars and other emergencies); and 3) I was more focused on pumping as a way to simply keep nursing, and so I didn’t shed a tear when I had to throw out milk if I didn’t have access to a refrigerator.
I def agree with viewing pumping as a way to keep milkflow up, not just as a way to get the milk out. That said, I almost never threw milk away once it was in the bag. I let my son make that choice. His babysitter was very willing to open up another bag if he turned up his nose at the first one, and he proved pretty sensative to which bags were no longer sterling quality. No one else was as well qualified to if the milk that had, say, lasted an entire commute home without refrigeration was ok for him to drink, especially as the seasons and therefore the temps on the back of the bike/ in the car changed
Not that Kat
Awesome post! Lawyer, mid-size firm, midwest. I nursed all 3 of my kids for a year and pumped until a year with the first 2, until about 10 months with the third. I was lucky – a partner had blazed the way at my firm and we had a mother’s room with a fridge. They even provided hospital grade Medelas, so you just had to provide your own tubing, horns, etc. (Although I bought my own portable pump.) I second much of what has already been said – here are a few other thoughts:
– I kept a tube of the lotion we used on the kids in my bag and put it on my hands right before pumping. I found it more helpful than carrying a onesie the baby had worn.
– I never sterilized my pump parts. I also kept them in a gallon bag in the fridge during the day so I didn’t have to wash before the second pumping. This probably won’t work for a germaphobe, but I see from the previous posts that I’m not the only one who was comfortable with that approach.
– Don’t get stuck on what people say should work best – my Ameda Purely Yours pump always worked better for me than the hospital grade pumps I tried. And although you’ll read that pumping at the same times you would nurse will be best, that would have been 3 times day which was hard to fit in and I never seemed to get enough. I eventually figured out that I got more if I only pumped twice at work, maybe because I was less stressed about losing time.
– My ped always suggested introducing the bottle at home at about 5 weeks. That worked great for us and we never had trouble with baby refusing the bottle, nipple confusion, etc. Don’t wait until a week or two before you head back to work – you don’t need that kind of stress if baby doesn’t like the bottle at first.
Thanks, Kat, for the awesome guest post! And good luck to those who are pumping or planning to pump soon!
thanks for this post, and for all the comments! I’m 18 weeks w/ 1 year of law school to go – thankfully classes sound easier to schedule around. But I’m so glad to hear about everyone’s experiences!
Love this post! I loved nursing. I still miss it (my little ones are now 3 and 5.)
Nursing while working is definitely doable (I did it for both my kids, each for a year), but those who can’t should definitely not feel bad. I remember a friend who struggled with her milk supply even before she returned to work and felt so bad for quitting after returning to work, feeling she was a failure. Not true! She did the best thing for her baby by stopping killing herself when her body wasn’t up to the challenge.
(1) Get a lactation consultant early on if you have any problems at all. I had an “overabundance” problem which led to mastitis. My mom was of no help, b/c she didn’t breastfeed. So I found a lactation expert, took her suggestions on the right latch, etc., and problem was solved. Many cities have lacatation support groups — a great way to meet new moms, too.
(2) Get a handsfree bra that you can attach the pump horns to and you can work while you pump. Strangely enough, I remember abovethelaw putting a picture of the handsfree pumping bra on its website a few weeks ago. I loved that bra — I was able to work, without having to spend probably more than 3-5 minutes attaching/disengaging the pump/refrigerating milk.
(3) Get a good pump. I had the Medela one that was right below hospital grade. It was awesome and lasted through both of my babies.
(4) Get lots and lots of extra pump parts so you don’t have to do dishes everyday.
Thank you! So many have shared great advice. Here is mine:
1. Outlook appointments are key. Mark them private, don’t mark them private; it’s your call. I work in a male dominated industry (software) and have found that a firm “that’s my pumping time” or “I’m nursing my daughter and can’t reschedule my personal time” will fluster the most self assured colleague.
2. The hands-free pumping bra is your friend. I prefer the Simple Wishes bra. I tried the Easy Expressions and it just didn’t work for me. Keep a spare washed one at work just in case you forget yours at home when washing it.
3. Which brings me to the pump. I’m all about the closed system pumps. My daughter and I had thrush by the time she was a month old and you DO NOT want that stuff backing up the tubing and reinfecting you. I have an Avent Isis IQ Duo for work and an Ameda Purely Yours at home. I rented a hospital grade Medela for home until I figured out what I needed. I hated how the milk would back up the tubing in those closed system pumps and I knew I didn’t want one where it could actually get into the motor.
4. Make sure you’re using the right size flanges/shields/horns whatever you want to call them. Even if you think your pump won’t take anything but the standard size, chances are you can use the Pumpin Pal Super Shields (www.pumpinpal.com). I love these things because I can sit back while I pump AND I get more milk out of them.
5. If you use Avent bottles, spend the money for the conversion kit to pump directly into the bottles so you won’t lose milk on transfer.
6. Find a great lactation consultant, lactation support group, and a breastfeeding friendly pediatrician and OB/GYN. Breastfeeding is hard and it’s hard on you. It’s good to have support.
7. Finally, know your rights w/r/t pumping in the workplace, nursing in public and all of the rest of it. You have a right to feed your child.
Excellent advice. I also saw a nutritionist post-partum. Pregnancy and breast feeding take a lot out of your system, and you have to make sure you are replenishing your body properly. Take lots of flax seed oil, fish oil, great prenatal vitamins and eat lots of fruit and veggies. Also, ensure you are getting enough protein. (I often incorporate protein shakes into my morning ritual to cover my bases and save time.)