I’ve been back at work for more than a few weeks now, so (despite last week’s hiccup) I feel like I’ve gotten the hang of pumping at work. I’m not a pumping expert by any means, but if you’re a mama who’s looking to transition back to work and are wondering what to bring to pump at the office, here’s what I bring with me:
- A double electric breast pump (I have this one). I would recommend a double electric pump if you’re planning to pump at work because it’s much faster and more efficient than other manual types of pumps. You’re likely going to be pressed for time while you’re at work, so you’ll want to get through pumping as quickly as possible.
- Two sets of pump parts (flanges, connectors, and definitely extra membranes). I leave one complete set locked up in my desk at work and take the other back and forth. This way, if I ever forget my bag of goodies at home, or something breaks, I’ve got a spare.
- Small bottles and/or breast milk storage bags (+ a Sharpie). I bring small collection bottles to store milk in the interim between work and home, and use a Sharpie to label the bottle as 1, 2, or 3, based on which pump session it came from. I prefer to use bottles because I worry about bags puncturing or leaking when they’re crammed into my work bag, but I also keep a stash of Lansinoh breast milk storage bags in my desk, just in case I need extra storage.
- Hands-free pumping bra. I bought this bra, but I actually just use an old sports bra I cut holes in for pumping.
- Small cooler + ice packs. You’ll need a cooler with ice packs for transporting your milk from your office to home, but it also doubles as storage for your milk during the day in your work fridge. I have a black cooler that looks like a pretty normal lunch bag, so nobody looks into the shared fridge and is like, “Oh, I bet there’s breast milk in there!”
Tips and tricks:
- Bring your pump parts in a large Ziplock bag. You can toss the used parts into the bag in between sessions, throw it in the cooler and keep them in the fridge along with your milk. Refrigerating your pump pieces keeps them sterile so you don’t have to wash everything in between sessions (because I really don’t want to wash breast pump pieces in front of my coworkers. Do you?)
- Bring some lanolin (or something similar) to use on the flanges during pumping (right where it gets narrow). This will help a bit with the inevitable irritation that comes with pumping multiple times a day.
- Keep photos and videos of your baby on your phone so you can look at them while you’re pumping (it helps with your let down reflex). Better yet, see if your caregiver can send you periodic updates in the form of photos and videos of your little one.
- Try to pump at the same times and in the same place each day. This helps your body acclimate to pumping (though, be warned, pumping at work is likely to never be a comfortable and wonderful experience.)
- Know that you’re going to have bad days, and even bad weeks, where you may not be able to pump enough to cover what your little one eats while you’re out. Your supply may dip a bit when you transition back to work, and it will likely go through some changes over the weeks/months that you’re pumping at work. Hormonal changes, growth spurts, your baby’s eating habits, and your own stress level can all affect your supply and pumping output. Remember that if you have an established milk supply, even if it drops a bit here and there, it should come back up if you continue to nurse and pump full time. (Pumping was terrible for me last week due to stress and other things, so this week I’m trying out some lactation bars to boost my supply back up. I’ll let you know how it goes!)
- If you’re able to pump before you go back to work and build up a supply a frozen milk, it will be that much easier on you when you do transition back, knowing that you have that cushion for the days where your supply might not cover what your baby eats.
- Going back to work after having a baby is so hard, and pumping is certainly not glamorous (or even pleasant…) so remember: no matter what happens, you’re doing your best and you’re the best mama your little one could ever ask for.