Breast milk is liquid gold for growing babies.

Tips to Survive Pumping at Work

Whoever said “don’t cry over spilled milk” was clearly not a working mom. We’ve all been there; you’ve snuck away from your busy schedule to pump, and inevitably as you transfer that liquid gold from a bottle to a bag you’ll spill some. Or a lot. Probably on your clothes or all over your new suede booties. Add in those postpartum hormones and we might as well call for clean up on aisle five because things are about to get messy. 

While we can’t promise this scenario won’t happen, we can commiserate that you aren’t alone. Every working mom has done it at least once or twice and shed ugly tears while cleaning up. We can’t save you from spills, but we can give you some tips to make your pumping journey just a little easier.

PUMP BASICS

  • Start early if you can. While it’s recommended not to pump for the first 4-6 weeks or until your supply has regulated, try to get a session or two before you return to work. Push all the buttons on your pump, figure out what settings work for you, and learn how to properly clean all the parts. The prep now will save you stress later.
  • Read your pump manual. Seriously. There are some great gems and tips in there for basic pump operation to help maximize your pumping sessions. Not only that, the care of your pump is important to prevent maintenance issues.
  • Have a back up. Even if you’re taking expert care of your pump, it can still break. Or you might forget to charge it one night if you have a battery operated version. The time to find out you need a manual pump is not when you’re already engorged because a meeting ran long and you only have ten minutes before your next one. There are several manual pump options on the market that will run you in the $25-40 range, having one either in your pump bag if you have room, or stashed somewhere nearby, will save you when the worst happens. 
  • Look up hand expression. Consider this your backup-to-the-backup. If all else fails, being able to express enough to relieve pressure and prevent mastitis is important. La Leche League International has a great how-to here.
  • Know how to safely store and transport milk. After all your hard work, the worst feeling is realizing you left a bag of milk out too long and having to throw it away. Safe storage guidelines from the CDC can be found here
  • Know how to clean your pump and sanitize parts. The CDC no longer recommends storing parts in the fridge as a way to reduce cleaning between pumps. If you have a kitchen area, bring a brush and soap with you. If not, look into pump cleaning wipes that don’t require soap and water. Make sure you give everything a good scrub at night, and sterilize everything routinely. See the CDC’s current guidelines here.

BUILD YOUR SUPPORT STRUCTURE

  • Discuss your needs with your boss. While South Dakota law doesn’t always require employers to give you time to pump, many employers will work with you. Just have an honest conversation about how much time you need, and come up with a plan to cover the time away from your desk if necessary. 
  • Discuss your needs with coworkers. This might be a little uncomfortable depending on your work situation, but it’s important. Remember why you’re doing this at all—to maximize the health benefits for you and your child. Figure out where you’re going to pump at work, where you’ll store your parts and milk, and let others who use those spaces know you’ll be using them as needed. Remember, most people either have pumped or know someone who has, so it’s become a fairly normalized part of a new mom’s life.
  • Know how to safely store and transport milk. After all your hard work, the worst feeling is realizing you left a bag of milk out too long and having to throw it away. Safe storage guidelines from the CDC can be found here
  • Know how to clean your pump and sanitize parts. The CDC no longer recommends storing parts in the fridge as a way to reduce cleaning between pumps. If you have a kitchen area, bring a brush and soap with you. If not, look into pump cleaning wipes that don’t require soap and water. Make sure you give everything a good scrub at night, and sterilize everything routinely. See the CDC’s current guidelines here.
  • Here in the hills, Monument Health’s Rapid City and Spearfish locations provide breastfeeding support, including help with pumping and supplies. Find them here.

KNOW THE RECOMMENDATIONS

For most moms, your maternity leave will be shorter than the time you want to breastfeed. The AAP recommends breastfeeding for at least six months, and encourages a full year. No matter how long or short your breastfeeding journey is, however, remember that you are an amazing mom. You’re doing everything you can for your new bundle of joy, and it shows. Breastfeeding can be tough, and pumping can add a new layer of stress to both your work and home life. Just take a deep breath and know that there are resources to help you, and other moms in the community to support you. 

WORDS: ASHLEY JOHNSON