Four weeks postpartum: the thought of going back to work brought tears to my eyes and an ache to my stomach. I felt nervous about childcare, worried about getting back into work, anxious about finding clothes that fit – not to mention figuring out how to pump to continue exclusively breastfeeding Little M. I had a pump I didn’t know how to use, no clue about feeding schedules, and little to no idea as to what would be involved to pump at work.
I researched the heck out of labor and delivery, baby care, and breastfeeding, but still didn’t have a solid understanding of what the day to day would be like as a pumping mom. I’ve got some great stories to share, but for now, let me share my top 5 tips to get ready for returning to work and starting your pumping journey!
This post has affiliate links to products I’ve used; all opinions are my own.
Get a private space
This might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s definitely something you want to know in advance. If you have an office, does the door lock, and are all windows covered? If you don’t have an office, is there a space you can use during the day? At first, plan for 3 sessions up to 30 minutes each – that’s not something that you can just “wing it” on day one. If you’re not sure what your options are, talk to your supervisor, or your HR team. Don’t be shy – US federal law mandates a private space (not a bathroom) and regular breaks for nursing mothers to pump at work up to one year. This applies to almost all US employers, and some states have more specific regulations.
Make a list of everything you need
All pumps are different, but most have a flange system attached to the pump via tubing, and an AC adaptor for power. There are lots of little pieces to make it run, and it takes a bit to familiarize yourself with each part. On my first day back to work, I forgot the AC adaptor for my Medela PISA. I had every single pump part assembled, but no power. So, make yourself a checklist of what you need and stick it on the fridge until you can pack your bag blindfolded. That brings me to the next one…
Have a backup plan
I always kept a silicone pump or manual pump in my car or purse for back up. There were times like when I forgot the power cord, or that I didn’t have power or enough time for a full set up, and the manual hand pump got the job done.
Spills happen, and yes, you might cry over spilled milk. Hopefully, you don’t have any major spills (put those bottle caps on quickly!), but you will probably have drips every time. Keep paper towels or a burp cloth handy. I would put the cloth on my lap, as breast milk can leave noticeable stains on gray or light-colored pants/skirts.
Don’t stress about washing pump parts
It’s a common misconception that you have to wash parts between every single pump session. Use wet-dry bags or zip lock bags, then just keep everything in your cooler bag or the fridge during the day. Toss the parts in the dishwasher at night, and you’re good to go. Bonus tip: get two or three sets of pump parts (flanges) so you don’t have to wash every single night.
Althought you might not be working during your pump breaks, you’ll probably want to be hands-free to be on your phone watching cute baby videos. There are several options which don’t even involve a separate bra. First, test your nursing bra to see if you can somehow attach the flanges. I had one that I could just unhook and tuck the flanges in and it balanced perfectly. Also, try this rubber band / hair tie trick for a neat DIY option in a pinch. If you do wish to buy, I’ve heard nothing but good things about this Simple Wishes bra, and I personally loved the Lactamed Simplicity Hands-Free bra.
That’s my first round-up of tips for breastfeeding working moms, but there’s more to come! Also, I highly suggest that you read the book Work.Pump.Repeat. and join some Facebook groups for working breastfeeding moms.
Have a few extra minutes? You might like these posts:
What tips do you have for first-time pumping moms?