Going back to work as a nursing mom requires careful planning. You have to figure out a way to leave milk for your baby to eat while you’re away. Cue in the breast pump!
But it’s not just the pump – you need a whole host of supplies, too.
Pumping is just not as intuitive as breastfeeding, so I figured I would try to spell it out as much as possible for other working moms (& future me, in case I forget with the next kid!)
Now, this wouldn’t be a proper parenting post without a bunch of disclaimers: I am not a lactation consultant or a health professional. If any of these tips go against what a doctor is telling you, by all means please listen to the doctor! The views expressed here are my personal opinion. I have a ‘typical 9-5 type’ office job with cubicles & such. These supplies & tips are designed for that type of environment & might not work in other fields of work. I am using a Medela Pump In Style Advanced double electric pump & other Medela products. I am not receiving any compensation for recommending any of the below described products, they are just what I prefer to use. These supplies & tips are what’s currently working for me. If you feel uncomfortable with anything I’m describing, please don’t feel this is the only way. Feel free to leave me a comment & we can discuss!
Pumping at work requires A LOT of supplies. It’s different than pumping at home. For one thing, you can’t just be topless. Here’s what I use at work:
1. Double Electric Pump
This is really the only way to go at work, in my opinion. If you use a single pump it will take you twice as long. With my Medela Pump In Style Advanced, my 2 ‘on the clock’ pumping breaks take less than 20 minutes each: set up, pump for 12 minutes, break down. During my lunch break I usually pump around 20 minutes & get a little more. For me, 10 minutes is my absolute minimum to pump, but 12 is better.
BONUS TIP: Get a spare AC adapter plug. I have seen some tips online that say you should get 2 pumps if you can, one for work & one for home. I can totally see why because setting up and breaking down the pumping station at home & and at work is a pain in the ass. However, getting a spare plug is almost as good as getting another pump. I leave one permanently plugged in at my pumping area at home, and the other one stays permanently in my pumping bag for work (when not in use, of course). That way when I pump at home I just grab the pump out of my bag & the plug is ready & waiting for me on my little stool next to my glider.
2. Hands Free Pumping Bra
I could probably write a whole post just about this bra. I bought one of the Medela hands free bras & used it quite a bit during my maternity leave. When I first started pumping for Cupcake, I’d feed her on one side & pump from the other with this bra. This kind of only worked when she was really young – the older she got the more wiggly she got! Now this bra is a life saver at work. But at first I could NOT wrap my brain around how to use it without taking all my clothes off.
All of the photos you see on the packaging & online are women using them like this:
So I’m supposed to undress, put on the bra, then put my blazer/sweater back on, & smile? Got it. *eye roll*
I know there are other styles of pumping bras, but I already owned this one. Plus I was afraid of the styles you can wear ‘all day’. Would a breastpad show under it? Would I leak like crazy without a pad? Too much drama.
A friend of mine had her baby 2 months before me & used the same bra, so I asked her how she does it. She said, “I just push everything up.”
So that’s what I did when I returned to work. I’m not about to show you a picture of what it looks like, but here’s my process: I lift my shirt, zip the hands-free bra around my waist, push the bra I’m wearing up, & life the hands-free bra up over my chest.
Some of you might be like, well duh!!! But let me tell you that as a pregnant woman & as a first time mom I could NOT figure that out without someone telling me. So I am telling you just in case 🙂 I have never tried using it with a dress – please let me know if you have!
3. Breastshields with Removable Flanges
Removable flanges are the key here – you cannot use the hands-free bra with the one piece shields.
I do think it is still good to have spare shields, even if they are the one piece kind. I use the one piece shields at home where I can sit back & watch TV, or when I’m only pumping one side. It’s no fun to have to hold 2 of those 3x a day at work.
4. Cooler with Ice Pack & Bottles
Medela has these cooler bags with an ice pack that is grooved specifically to hold 4 of the 5oz pumping bottles. I highly suggest getting this, or at least something comparable. The bottles fit snugly & don’t move around much in the cooler.
5. Nursing Cover
This is not essential, but the first few days of pumping at work I felt much calmer using a nursing cover. Just in case for some reason anyone burst through the door of my pumping room (no one ever has, thankfully!). It has also come in handy on a few occasions where I have done video chat with my daughter’s caregivers while pumping.
6. Swaddle Blanket
In my opinion, muslin swaddle blankets are the best tool to drape over your lap so you don’t splash milk on your work pants once you’re done pumping. These blankets are way less bulky than a towel, and if you grab one that your baby uses often it might even help you produce more milk by reminding you of/ smelling like your baby.
7. Gallon Storage Bag & 8. Mini Fridge
These 2 go hand-in-hand for me for an important reason: I, personally, do not wash my breastshields at work.
Let me explain. I wash & dry them at home & put them in a gallon storage bag. After I use them for my first pump at work, I put them back into the storage bag & stick it directly in the fridge. Then I just repeat the process the whole day (3 pumping sessions total for me). I do not rinse them – I don’t feel comfortable rinsing them in the communal kitchen & hell no am I going to rinse them in the bathroom. The shields go from a clean bag, to my body, back to the bag, & then to the fridge. Next time I pump, I grab my cooler & my storage bag, pump as normal, & put them away again in the fridge.
My job was kind enough to provide me with a fridge I could keep right at my cubicle. If in the future I have a job that does not do this, I will ask them if I can bring my own. It is really very helpful & most of my coworkers don’t even know I have it.
A mini fridge is also great for storing breastmilk away from the communal fridge- no worrying about coworkers messing with your cooler in search of a snack! My job was kind enough to provide me with a fridge I could keep right at my cubicle. If in the future I have a job that does not do this, I will ask them if I can bring my own. It is really very helpful & most of my coworkers don’t even know I have it. Of course I also use it to store my personal lunch – if I don’t eat, the baby doesn’t eat!
9. Wipes/Paper Towels
This is for any accidental spills in the pumping area. I have splashed a few drops on the table a couple times & it helps to have something handy to clean up.
With headphones, you can listen to music, make phone calls, or just keep yourself entertained watching YouTube videos! Pumping can get boring & distracting yourself is important. (Don’t watch the clock! Set a timer on your phone & then do something else!) I keep a pair of headphones in my pumping bag, even though I don’t use them very often.
So there you have my list of supplies for pumping at the office.
It’s hard work, but my little Cupcake is totally worth it ❤
Is your list different? Let me know!