Thursday, May 29, 2014

Working Mom Series | Tips for Pumping at Work

Thanks for stopping by again today for the third installment of my Working Mom Series! If you missed the other two, you can check out my tips for preparing to go back to work after maternity leave here and how we get out the door in the morning with a baby here

Today I'm going to discuss the always fun {hence the sarcasm} topic of pumping at work. 

I returned to work one day shy of Walker's three-month birthday. When I went back to work, he was still exclusively breastfeeding and only took a bottle once in a blue moon. I had no idea what it would be like to pump at work. I always thought I'd be super great at it and that I'd carve out time in my day to do it as often as I needed to. 

...But once I had been at work for about a week, meetings got in the way, crises happened and I did have to skip a pumping session here and there. Please know that I am by no means advocating for doing that, but I do want to be realistic and share with you that those things do happen. Also, I want to let you know that due to my job, I'm not always sitting behind my desk; I'm out and about. There have been times that I've asked where I can go to pump - but in a discreet way - and have been told I could go in the bathroom. I'm not getting all crazy here, but I refuse to pump in an unsanitary public bathroom. So, I want you to know that I have pumped in a lot of weird places: the back seat of my car, in a colleague's office, in an executive's conference room…the list goes on. But I will do anything for my baby. 

So, in being realistic, I want to share with you my tips for pumping at work. Note that I pump twice a day: around 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. - the times Walker takes his bottle at "school." These times are adjusted if he gets off schedule and eats earlier or later. 

1. Invest in a good pump, either purchased or rented. 
I mentioned on Tuesday that I use the Medela Pump in Style Advanced breast pump, but you can definitely rent a more high-end one from your hospital. Once you have gotten familiar with it, ensure you know how to change all of the parts and always keep some spare parts handy! I always keep a spare set of breast shields, a Ziploc baggie of membranes and some breast pads in my pump bag. You never, ever know when you will need them! 

2. Let a select few people know what you're doing, but don't be gross about it. 
My friend Liz came up with the code phrase, "I have to close my door," for us to use when it's time to pump. In our office, we never close our doors unless we're very stressed out, on an important phone call or are upset. So, when we came back, we were closing our door - literally - a lot more often than normal. We have two {female} interns, and we've let them in on the "secret" of what we're doing when we say, "I have to close my door." That way, if someone walks in and starts to barge into one of our offices, they can stop them. Also, saying, "I have to close my door" is a lot better than announcing to your office staff, "I have to pump now!" Trust me, no one wants that visual. 

That leads me to: Make sure you have some sort of a sign on your door. We originally had one that said, "Please Knock," but a male kept knocking on Liz's door while she was pumping, so we knew that wasn't going to work. I then made one for each of our doors that said - in blood red font and all caps - "DO NOT DISTURB." So far it has worked, but keep your fingers crossed on that one. 

3. Create a screensaver with photos of your baby. 
When I went back to work, I had a major problem with the letdown reflex while I was pumping. I would find it hard to relax in my desk chair and would have to pry myself away from my email inbox so that I could. In order to help my letdown reflex, I made a screensaver of photos with Walker and have it set to start three minutes after any inactivity on my computer. I have found that it really helps when I look at photos of him, especially those from when he was a tiny baby, and allow the sweet memories from when I was at home on maternity leave with him flood through my mind. 

4. Listen to some music. 
My office is teeny tiny and a guy offices right next door. I don't know about you, but hearing a guy's voice - who is not your husband - while you're in that vulnerable state is less than comforting. So, I turn Pandora on and listen to relaxing music while I'm pumping. My favorites are Jack Johnson and Ray Lamontagne because they're soothing and help me try to relax a bit. 

5. Don't look. 
I know it's super hard to not look down to see how much you're pumping, but don't. It only stresses me out if I look down and see that I'm not producing what I should be. I will only think, "O-M-G. I'm going to have to defrost X ounces tonight if I don't pump X ounces here today." Just relax, close your eyes if you can and look at how much you've pumped once you're finished. Worrying will only make it harder to relax, harder for the letdown reflex to occur and just frustrating in general. 

6. Take supplements. 
I take Gaia Herbs Lactation Support pills three times a day, and they seem to help…especially since my supply has significantly depleted since I went to work. I also try to drink a cup of Mother's Milk Tea at work and eat a bowl of oatmeal when I get there. I also have made the No-Bake Energy Bites that have made their way around Pinterest. Anything to help keep that supply up! 

7. Bring an ice pack. 
My pump came with a big ice pack and a storage "cooler." Since we only have a small college-sized community fridge in our office, I store the milk I pump in that small container as opposed to the community fridge. I personally use the Medela 8 oz. pumping bottles {and bring two} and just pump into those twice a day. Since I'm always on the go, it helps, too, to ensure I always have it with me and don't forget it at work. 

8. Sanitize/clean those parts! 
I bring the Medela Quick Clean Microsteam Bags to work and sanitize the parts after my second pumping session of the day. When I get home each day, I wash them in warm soapy water and let them dry on the Boon Lawn countertop drying rack overnight. 

I hope these tips help you out, especially if you have never pumped at work before. It's not easy, but it's so worth it for your baby! Good luck! 

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