Everyone says going back to work after having a baby is hard, and they aren’t wrong. Leaving your sweet bundle at home or dropping them off at daycare can be heart-wrenching. And that isn’t the only difficult aspect to making your post-baby debut in the office. After each child, I was overwhelmed with the idea of using a breast pump at work.
But I have learned something. Planning ahead makes the first day back easier.
I will point out that I have a lot of support when it comes to being a breastfeeding and working mom. My boss had a baby less than a year before I did and my workplace has a designated lactation room with a door that locks and mini fridge.
I’ve been at my job for just under two years, and in that time SIX women have had babies. We have all returned to work and continued breastfeeding our babies.
In the morning at home, my husband puts all of my pump parts together, packs my cooler with my storage bottles and an ice pack and puts all of those things in my pump bag so I can just grab it as I walk out the door (I told you I have a lot of support!).
I use the cheapest gallon-size zip-top bag for my pump parts–I can reuse them for several days and it’s easy to see if they’re clean or not. And because they’re inexpensive, I don’t mind eventually throwing them out.
I like the idea of a Pumparoo from Sarah Wells, but I honestly don’t think I have my act together enough to wash the bag as often as needed. And it would be difficult to tell when it needed cleaning. I have a Spectra S2 pump. It didn’t come with a bag, so I use an old weekender tote I have from my college days.
Again, Sarah Wells has really cute and functional breast pump bags, but I can’t bring myself to spend that amount of money on a bag that has such a specific purpose that I would only use for about a year.
Walking into work every day, I look like I’m moving in to the place. I have my pump bag, my purse and my lunch tote. I’m used to it and tell myself it’s a good arm workout.
I get into work between 8 and 8:30 am and keep my pump bag at my desk and make my first trip to the lactation room at 9:30. I grab two paper towels on my way and lay them on the counter in the pump room. Now, I’m ready if I need to put my pump parts down at any point during my pump session. Finally, I pull my pump and parts out of the bag and pump away.
If I have a meeting coming up or one of the other moms needs the room, I’ll pump for as little as 12 minutes. If I have the time and my milk is flowing, I’ll take up to 30 minutes.
I pour milk from the pump collection bottles into the bottles in the cooler I use to transport my milk and store that whole cooler into the mini fridge. After rinsing the pump parts, I put them into the plastic bag, and put it in the fridge, too.
I repeat that routine at 12:30 and 3:30, then put the cooler and parts back into my bag to take home.
When I walk in the door from work, I pop my bottles of pumped milk into the fridge. If I don’t do it immediately, there’s a chance I’ll leave that liquid gold out overnight. There’s nothing more disappointing that pouring that milk (and all the time I spent pumping it!) down the drain.
In the evening, my husband either hand washes my pump parts or puts them in a basket to go in the dishwasher.
Before going back to work, I had no idea how many ounces of milk my son was drinking every day because I exclusively fed him from my breast. I read that said babies need about one ounce of milk for every hour they are away from their mothers.
That seems a little low from our experience. Including commute time, I’m away from my baby for about 10 hours. He usually eats between 12 and 15 ounces during that time. I also make sure to pump no later than 3:30 when I’m at work, so I have some milk on tap to feed the babe right away at home.
My biggest tips for pumping at work are to keep your pumping times during the day consistent, but maintain flexibility and advocate for yourself!
When things are busy, tell your coworkers you need to take a quick break and make it happen. I’ve found continuing to breastfeed after returning to work has given my baby and me such a strong bond. That makes it all worth it.