Pumping at work is a special experience. When else will you sit shirtless in your workplace while attached to a machine? Or hold a bottle of liquid that was just expressed from your boobs in the company of male colleagues. Cherish this special time, friends.
Now in my second round of pumping at work, I thought I'd share my routine and what I keep in my pump bag. At first, pumping at work seems strange and horrible. But with time and practice it will become something you look forward to each day.
Nope. That's a lie. But in my experience it has been downgraded to "slightly bothersome disruption" which might be as good as it gets. I'm hoping to pump for Cedric until he's a year old, as I did with Dashiell. So here's to eight more months of getting topless at the office daily!
IN MY PUMP BAG
+ Pump (including tubing and power cord). I'm currently renting a Medela Symphony, which I've found to be more comfortable and effective than other pumps I've tried.
+ Pump parts: 2 breastshields, 2 connectors, 2 membranes. I would highly recommend having a spare set of these parts at the office. I had to go buy replacements twice when I was pumping for Dash and it was stressful and a waste of time and money. Learn from my mistakes!
+ Bottles and caps. I am currently pumping three times during my work day and take a total of four bottles and three caps (I'll explain in my routine below), although I usually have a few extra bottle caps knocking around in my bag.
If you forget caps (which I've done many times) you can get creative with supplies at work to improvise a bottle cap. Plastic wrap secured with a rubber band works well. One time I even used disposable food-grade plastic gloves secured with a rubber band over the bottle when there was no plastic wrap. Motherhood give you MacGyver skills.
+ Small towel. When I'm finished pumping I lay a towel across my lap before removing my pump parts to prevent dripping breast milk on my work clothes. See above re: special experience.
+ Wet wipes. To wipe any breast milk from the desk where I pump. You're welcome, fellow coworkers.
+ Large ziplock bag. I use this to store my pump parts between sessions.
+ Do not enter sign. I lock the door to the office where I pump but it's a spare office and someone could try to open the door with a key. See above re: special experience. To be extra cautious I printed out the message "Please do not enter when this sign is up" and post it outside the door when I'm pumping. The only rule on this is to not use comic sans font.
+ Laptop. Thanks to my hands-free pumping bra I can work while pumping.
+ Small cooler bag and ice pack. I throw the ice pack in the freezer when I get to work and use it to keep my milk cool on the way home. Throughout the day I store my pumped milk in the cooler bag in the office fridge.
Timing: I usually nurse Cedric before work between 6 - 7 am and get to the office between 8 - 9 am. I need to fit in three pump sessions before leaving work at 4:30 pm. I aim to pump in the 9 o'clock hour, 12 o'clock hour and then close to when I leave so at 3:30 or 4 pm. Working around meetings gets tricky so it's important to look at my daily schedule and plan ahead.
Location: I have two office mates so I use a spare office to pump. On occasion I've had meetings or obligations in other buildings and have had to find places to pump. This is what I call "adventures in pumping." Finding a female administrative assistant and asking about a spare office or contacting someone ahead of time to make arrangements is the best bet. Sometimes you'll be offered an office that has a window into the interior hallway. Other times it will be an office stacked with boxes and random things. See above re: special experience.
Pumping wrap up: After pumping I spread my towel in my lap and remove the bottles and breastshields. I consolidate the milk into one bottle (I never have enough that I need two bottles) and put the cap on. I put the breastshields and the empty used bottle into my Ziplock bag and seal it. Then I get work-appropriate again (ahem, put on my shirt) and pack up my laptop, hands-free bra, towel and pump. I wipe down the desk area where I pumped before leaving.
Cleaning: I used to sanitize my pump parts in the microwave after each pump until I learned about the refrigerator method. Take note, this saves so much time! After pumping and consolidating my milk I'm left with one bottle of pumped milk and then an empty used bottle and the pump parts. The empty bottle and pump parts go into my Ziplock bag. I take the Ziplock bag of pump parts + bottle to the kitchen or bathroom sink and rise everything, including the bag, with hot water. Then I put everything back in the bag and seal it. Then I put the whole Ziplock bag in the fridge when I put my milk in the fridge. The next time I pump, I just grab the parts from the fridge. With this method I end up with three bottles of milk at the end of the day and one used but empty bottle in my Ziplock bag.
I didn't understand the reasoning behind this process at first but it follows the same principle as storing milk in the fridge. Keeping milk in the fridge keeps it from spoiling. By keeping pump parts in the fridge you're preventing any bits of milk on them from spoiling and so you can skip washing with soap or sanitizing. By rinsing them ahead of time I'm taking extra precaution. I feel comfortable storing my parts this way during the day and have never had issues. At the end of each day I take home my pump parts and wash them with hot water and soap. Yes, the pump parts are a little bit cold when I start pumping but it doesn't bother me and they quickly warmup.
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Do you have any tips for pumping at work? Or awkward stories? One time I came out of the room where I had pumped and a male colleague saw me and made a joke about me having a new office. I shrugged it off but he really thought I had a new office so I said that I was pumping. He said, "What?" I half-explained, "I'm breastfeeding so I have to..." And then I felt awkward because essentially we were now talking about my breasts. He said, "I didn't even know that was a thing..." Sure is, colleague, it sure is.
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