How to Make Pumping at Work Suck Less

Pumping breast milk at work has to be one of the most dreaded but necessary tasks. You love giving your baby nourishment, but you’re afraid of prying eyes and what to do about stubborn tatas that just won’t do their thing — or will do it, but at the most inappropriate times. Ah, the joys of motherhood!

You know what? You’re a strong working mama who is going to conquer pumping right now. Make pumping at work suck less with these 17 tips for productive tataflow and workflow:

  1. Chat With Other Pumpers

It’s breast —  well, best — to be in the know about what other mamas do at work when it comes to pumping. Talk with coworkers who’ve breastfed and learn from their dos and don’ts. Where did they go? No one else knows how to pump successfully at your company besides the moms who have been there.

  1. Pump in Spurts While Multitasking

With stubborn tatas, pump in spurts — try again after fifteen to twenty minutes. In the meantime, pull out your smartphone and catch up on your work email. Clear out your cluttered inbox.

  1. Wear Pump-Friendly Clothing

Avoid low-cut shirts, as your breast size will vary throughout the day due to rates of milk production and retention. Stick with tops that offer more coverage. Wrap shirts and dresses, nursing tanks and button-down tops are helpful for freeing your breasts during pumping and still maintaining a professional look.

  1. Prepare for Leaks

As you make a professional go-to kit, prepare a just-in-case kit for impromptu leaks — they will happen. Make prints your allies, and extra padding in your nursing bra helps, too. Place a towel on your lap for spillage, and clean up any spills as soon as possible.

  1. Wear the Right Bra

Working mama, what are you doing wearing that bra? You know it’s only adding to your back pain and messing with your milk flow, right?

Wear the right bra. Shop online or go to your local maternity store, looking for comfortable and breathable materials. Some bras have zippers on the front to make pumping easier, and remember: More coverage means more support. Your bust size will have increased due to pregnancy and may reduce after you breastfeed. A hands-free pumping bra will relieve stress.

  1. Don’t Forget Nipple Cream

Your sore breasts and crackled nipples need soothing with nipple cream. Carry a small tube with you and apply some as you take your bathroom breaks. Your breasts will feel the relief, and pumping won’t be so painful.

  1. Make an Official Pumping Plan

Chat with your boss and coworkers in advance about your official pumping plan — without turning red. You all need to be on the same page so that you follow corporate policy, if there is one, and people know what you’re up to when they can’t find you. Plus, you know where to turn if judgy busybodies decide to make proper pumping proclamations when they know nothing. Here are a few ideas to break the ice:

  • For the boss: “Now that I’ve returned from maternity leave, I need to take breaks outside of normal break time to pump breast milk. Should we discuss the needed times and how to optimize my workflow as a result?”
  • For the random janitor or receptionist: “I’m a nursing mother, and I need a private area to pump. What room works best right now?”
  • For coworkers aware of your pumping: “I need a personal pumping break and will meet you in the conference room as soon as possible.”

Don’t be afraid to check with HR, either. It sucks to pump in a bathroom area and then find out you had a right to a private space according to policy all along. Some laws require private pumping areas, and HR is responsible for the implementation of that knowledge.

  1. Keep Up the Supply

Rotate your breast milk via next-day rotation to keep up your supply: milk pumped Monday is used on Tuesday. What’s pumped on Tuesday is used on Wednesday. Freeze any extra. Your pumping amounts will vary according to your stress levels and hydration, for example, but some pattern helps maintain your supply.

You may need to add in an extra session or two, especially at the beginning, but don’t give up! Your supply will adjust and you will pull through!

  1. Stay Hydrated and Snack Healthily

Hydration is vital to a healthy milk supply, as is eating healthily. Work sometimes makes it difficult to eat at all, much less a full, balanced meal.

Focus on consuming healthy snacks throughout the day to maintain a steady milk supply. For example, hard-boiled eggs store easily and provide protein, while cottage cheese with fresh fruit toppings provides calcium, hydration and various nutrients. Small meals may be easier for you to keep up with than large meals.

  1. Remember That Distraction During Pumping Is Encouraged

Don’t think of pumping as a chore or of being distracted during as a bad reflection on you as a mom or employee. Get on Facebook. Check work emails. Read a book. Wait it out.

  1. Say “No” More

“No” is a very powerful word that everyone needs to exercise in their daily vocabulary more. Stop sacrificing the quality of your work and your work-life balance, especially as a mom, to requests that are too much.

Start refusals off with a positive note: “I’m so happy you thought of me for this project, but I’m not equipped to handle it at this moment. How about talking with Bob in billing?” Make sure your body language matches your tone and statement.

  1. Invest in a Quality Pump

It’s not you, it’s the pump. Break up with low-quality pumps, and invest in higher-quality pumps, such as a reliable brand recommended by a coworker or a hospital rental. Cheap pumps won’t help you increase your milk supply.

  1. Plan to Nurse at Work Similarly to How You Do at Home

It’s easy to forget to pump at work with deadlines to meet and coworkers making requests every five minutes. On your office calendar, mark “personal” blocks of time to pump, similar to the time periods of the day that you pump or nurse at home. You’ll typically stay on schedule and keep your breasts happy this way.

  1. Hack the Pump Cleaning Process

Carry three sets of pumping parts with you to work for every session and wash them at home, storing them in a sanitary way like in a Tupperware container to reduce Ziploc waste.

Alternatively, carry pump-made disinfectant wipes to clean the parts discretely while at work. Micro-steam bags work well for sterilization after rinsing.

  1. Bond With Your Pump

Bonding with your pump isn’t the same as bonding with your latching baby. It’s an inanimate object that makes you feel like a cow being milked. Give your tatas encouragement by looking at your adorable baby on your phone via photos and videos. Ask your nanny to text you a cute daily photo.

  1. Pack the Battery — Always

Need to travel for work or run a related errand? Always pack the battery — you never know where you’ll need to pump.

  1. Know That It’s Okay to Use Formula

Sometimes, no matter what you do, you’ll be busy, or your supply will run low. It doesn’t make you a bad mother to rely on formula or a mix of nursing and formula. You do what you have to do to take care of your baby, mama.

When you get home from work, snuggle up to your baby, nap and enjoy the time together — being close to them for prolonged periods like this reduces your stress and keeps up your supply.

Don’t worry. You’re going to conquer this pumping thing, whether you’re blushing as you search for a private area to pump or not. To the pump!

For more tips on balancing work and motherhood, as well as other career topics, subscribe to Punched Clocks. Keep the conversation going by commenting your own tips and stories and sharing.


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Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks.

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