By Kaley Decker.
Returning to work after having a baby is a huge transition, one that nothing can truly prepare you for. And, of course, everyone handles it differently. There’s no right or wrong answer.
One of the things I was anxious about as I returned to work was how I would integrate my new working mom pumping lifestyle into my already busy workdays. I’m not going to lie, it was hard. It takes commitment, strength and some tears to get through it, but it’s totally doable and worth it if you want to pump when you go back to work.
- Location, location, location. Find out from your employer before you go on leave about pumping space. I was fortunate to work in an office that offered private mom rooms, but when I was off-site or visiting clients, I often had to pump in the car, the bathroom, a break-room, or a closet. I realize how lucky I was to have dedicated space where I worked. If your employer doesn’t offer this, try to figure out your main pumping destination before you have your baby so that’s one less thing you have to coordinate when you get back to work.
- Set your pumping schedule. Determine the frequency that you want to pump and block the time on your work calendar. And then protect your pumping times as much as possible. When I first returned to work, I was worried pumping would make my milk supply go down, so I scheduled three thirty minute blocks of time. As the year progressed, I would try to get two good pumps in a day, but there were days where I could only fit one in.
- Be prepared with the supplies you need. Here were some of my must-have pumping supplies.
- Pump & Pump Bag I ended up getting a free Medela pump through my insurance provider, and then a friend had an extra one that I was able to keep at the office. The link here includes a pump and a tote bag. Because I didn’t have a pump tote bag, I used my Fawn Design diaper bag to transport the pump & milk during the week. I love my Fawn Design bag so this worked well for me. There are so many options for both pumps and pump bags so be sure to look around and see what will work best for you.
- Extra parts These are handy in case something breaks or you forget something at home after doing your sanitizing. Note: The standard size breastshield actually didn’t work well for me in yielding enough milk. I had to size up and order all these set parts separately. Be sure to test how the standard size works for you when you get your initial pump, and then go from there with how you need to order the extra parts.
- A box of extra milk storage bags There were many a times where I ran out and had to borrow from another pumping mama. Go ahead and buy a big box. Keep some in your bag, some in your car, and some in your main pumping location.
- Pump cleaning wipes I liked having these so I didn’t have to carry all my parts to the bathroom, and they were also handy when I was on the go and had to pump. I just made sure to take everything home each night to clean extra well.
- Insulated container To carry all of your hard work (pumped milk) home
- Kleenex Just in case you have to get some tears out like I did.
- Car lighter adaptor If your work has you on the road a lot, this comes in handy. I had to park my car and pump before and after off-site meetings several times.
- Handsfree pumping bra This made it easy to multitask while pumping. I could review documents, check emails, and check in on my baby while I pumped.
- Handpump This was great to have as a backup in case my main pump stopped working or if I didn’t want to break out the big pump while I was offsite. I also used this a lot at home!
- Nursing Cover It’s great to have your nursing cover on hand just in case you have to pump in the car or anywhere public. Here's a great one that's versatile and fashionable! Also, love the use of "smart fabric" and magnets.
- Give yourself some grace the first week back (and heck, the weeks and months after that too!). The first week back was extremely hard for me. The first time I pumped in the moms room, I sobbed. I had been pumping for weeks at home to build up my freezer supply, but this was the first time my baby was taking a bottle because I was at work and unable to nurse her. And on top of that, I just wasn’t great at the whole pumping routine and fitting it into my day. It was awkward at first. Give yourself some grace to figure this out, and in time, you’ll find your own rhythm.
- Make your pumping space your own. This is a little easier if you have access to a private moms room, but even if you don’t you can have a small traveling version of this. I wish I would have done a better job of bringing things from home that made the pump room more personal. Oftentimes several moms are sharing the same space, but it would be great to add pictures of your new baby and maybe add some flowers or a nice plant to the space to make it your own. And if you don’t have a dedicated space, put some pictures of your baby on your pump and carry something meaningful in your pump bag.
- Dedicate at least one pump break to you. You’re going to want to maximize all your time at the office to getting work things done so you can get home and snuggle your baby. At least I know I did. This meant I used the majority of my pump breaks to catch up on emails and take client calls. And if I wasn’t working, I was checking in on the nanny or doing something that wasn’t calming at all. If you can help this, don’t do what I did. I wish I would have dedicated at least one of my pump breaks to me. To doing something that was refreshing like a reading a book, doing a quick meditation, or listening to music.
- Connect with other pumping mamas. Another thing I felt extremely lucky to have when I went back to work was a tribe of pumping moms. Some had been through this transition with their first baby already and some were newbies like me. We were there for each other. If someone was missing their baby or having a rough day, we had a support system in place to be there for that person. I truly do not know what I would have done without these amazing women. I know how lucky I was to work in an environment where there were so many strong, supportive working mamas. And I know not every office has that. If you don’t, try to build your tribe outside of the office. Maybe you have friends who are going through it from afar or maybe there’s an online group that you can become a member of. Connection with others who are going through it is so helpful.
I hope these tips help as you prepare for pumping at work. Everyone’s experience is different so adjust these as needed. Wishing you lots of luck on your pumping journey, mama.
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