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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?
Pump = high heel shoes.
Great post! There can’t be enough support for busy working moms who want to breastfeed their baby … I nursed (and pumped, a lot!) for 14 months and it is one of the things I am most proud of.
I also wrote a post a while back with tips and tricks for the nursing/working mom that I’m happy to share as well: http://momwhoworks.wordpress.com/2009/06/26/nursing-mother-working-mother/
Keep up the great topics Kat!
Terrific post! As a soon to be mom (and litigator) who is planning on breastfeeding and pumping, it is so wonderful to gain all of this practical advice and know that I am not alone.
Finally there is a solution to traveling with breast milk! Packit bags are these great new bags that are are actually lined with gel. They fold compacts and store directly in the freezer until you are ready to use them. Pull them out,pack em, and GO! They keep things cold for up to 10 hours without added ice or gel packs. Brilliant!
I pumped and breastfed my son while I was a general surgery resident. I had almost ten weeks of leave before I returned to work. I pumped one breast while breastfeeding my son on the other breast. Your body will make more milk (trick it into thinking you have twins to feed). Also, I had great let down while pumping one side and breastfeeding on the other. This way, I had a lot in the freezer when I went back to work. It’s a little hard to juggle at first — get baby settled, get pump settled, etc. I recommend having an extra pair of hands to help you get situated at first.
Everyone has made wonderful comments, so I will just add that if you’re a new nursing mom, be prepared to be incredibly hungry at the beginning. Making milk is hard work, so you might want to have a stash of protein- and calorie-dense snacks at hand. Sometimes I think that we are even shyer about eating a lot in public than we are about breastfeeding in public, but it’s really important for nursing moms to stay fed and – especially – hydrated.
And I think this was mentioned in the original post, but it bears repeating: while most nursing guides emphasize visualization and concentration as a way to get a good letdown while pumping, I found the exact opposite was true for me. If I just plugged myself into the pump and completely ignored it while doing something else, I got a lot more milk.
Oh my goodness, some of these post make me so grateful that California employers must provide a place OTHER THAN A RESTROOM for pumping.
To the poster above worried about how much work this sounds like, it’s just like someone else said: it’s worth it. But definitely find a good pump. I found the Medela Pump in Style was what everyone seemed to have/talk about, but wasn’t very adjustable (suction/speed), and was very noisy, for me. I ended up with an Enjoye pump that worked much better (after first renting a hospital-grade pump.)
I’m STILL nursing my daughter, my 3rd, who just turned 18 months! I pumped at work until she was a year old. I pumped at work unitl #1 was 9 months and until #2 was 10 months all while working full-time. It’s SO worth it! Pumping can be annoying, but I encourage moms to keep it up even when they are working full time.
While I have no tips whatsoever, I just want to say how inspiring all of you women are. Go you!
Yay for pumping corporate lawyers!
I also use a PUMPEASE for hands-free pumping – I love it! It’s been so much easier since I got it so that I don’t have to hold up those horns or even buckle in the things with my Medela Freesty le – the Pumpease is so much easier.
Love the post and all the support ive comments!
Thanks for this post–and all of the great comments. I haven’t been on here lately since I got pregnant since I felt like I couldn’t relate to a lot of the discussions (at least temporarily), so this was very refreshing.
If you don’t have a hands-free pumping bra – this is a good trick: Keep a bunch of extra ponytail elastics around (most with long hair do anyway) and take one and loop it through the other so they’re connected like a “figure 8.” Put the horn through one loop and then loop the other end over the hook on the strap of your nursing bra. Turn on the pump and the suction with the ponytailer “holster” will hold the horn in place!
I have to tell you all something. My youngest child is 20. Last night I dreamed I was lactating. It is so, completely, totally, utterly, absolutely, your fault:).
perfect timing -I’m 7 months through my second pregnancy and concerned with coming back to my current job where I travel and have to fit into the corporate life.
My company is a little more laid back than most, so I’m lucky, but it’s also filled with men who don’t really ‘get’ the whole breastfeeding thing.
You have to try one of these great freezable PackIt bags. You freeze the whole bag, take it with you, when you pump put the bottles in the bag and they will stay cold up to 10 hours. They are awesome!
I just stopped pumping for my now 13 month daughter and successfully pumped until my older daughter’s 1st birthday, too. There is a WEALTH of great advice here but one thing I was never warned about is excess lipase. Look it up on kellymom. Rather than waiting until you need to de-frost a bag of your frozen milk once you’ve returned to work, defrost one bag early on, like a week after you freeze it, and have baby try it.
I never had that problem with my first daughter, but it apparently makes the milk taste bad. It smelled soapy and rancid to me, even though I tested some defrosted bags that were only 1 week old.
I had 600 (yes, SIX HUNDRED) ounces of frozen breastmilk that I ended up donating to the local milk bank because of excess lipase. I had started pumping at 3 weeks and since my daughter hated bottles, I had a huge stash in my deep freezer. It was very painful giving the breastmilk away, even though I knew it was going to a great cause. I ended up having to add a midnight pumping and taking Fenugreek to keep up with my daughter. I know I could have given formula, but she was 8 months old and I wanted to make it to one year when she could then start on cow’s milk.
Anyhow, if you discover your breastmilk has excess lipase, you can scald the milk after pumping (which does affect some of the good stuff in the milk) but it will halt the chemical reactions and prevent the lipase from turning your milk soapy/rancid-smelling.
Great post and what a wonderful set of comments. I only have a few small things to add:
I got by just fine without a lock on my door. I had a sign and that worked fine.
I used the steam sterilizer bags and they were great.
The hardest thing for me was that I often needed to attend meetings/conferences in town but at hotels, other offices, etc. I *really* didn’t like going in public bathrooms to pump, but found that if I tracked down hotel conference staff they could often find me an unused hotel room or an office I could use.
The best was when my own company had its annual conference and by then I was one of THREE pumping moms on staff. One was the communications director, and she had a dedicated room at the conference that was fortunately not in use for big chunks of the day, so that became our pumping room. :-)
I had one of those Easy Expressions pumping bras and it was a lifesaver.
Go nursing moms!
Anyone read the recent UC study linking increased autism to increased breastfeeding rates and lengths of time? Makes sense that all the toxins we’ve ingested all of our lives are too much for a newborn to handle.
Lucky for most of the moms reading this, the link between pesticide specifically and autism. Which means that our farmworker sisters, and those who grew up on the coast of Mexico (where DDT is more common), have a higher amount of pesticide in their systems, and pass this on through breast milk. Most of us don’t have to add this to the many worries of whether we are doing the right thing by our children.
My “babies” are 13 and 11 now, but I nursed both of them. I had a portable breast pump and would store the expressed milk in a cooler with an ice pack. Neither of them has any allergies and both do well in school. I was lucky and has my own office with a door that locked, so that helped. It was exhausting, but I found a lactation consultant who recommended fenugeek and I was able to meet their needs. You have to take care of yourself, drink lots of liquids and eat right, but it really is a great way to form a very strong bond with your children.