after five straight months now of pumping at work (and two months before that of pumping at home) i'm feeling day in and day out like a pumping pro. so, time to share the love and experiences with other working/pumping moms! this is written from my perspective which has been at a smallish employer without any special considerations for nursing moms. some of you maybe be luckier than i have been in having some sensitivity from your job. but, i can only write about what i know and to me, it's the norm. welcome to:
the grumbles primer on pumping at work (part one)
let's start out with the logistics of it all- what gear will you need?
i use a medela pump in style which is a dual-side electric pump. it's one of the nearly "professional" grade pumps. i chose it because it had excellent reviews, it's fast, and i knew i would be using it for a long time so it was worth the monetary investment. they can be pretty spendy. but, re: monetary investment, i bought mine through craigslist from a stay-at-home mom who had received it as a gift and barely used it. i got a great discounted price and then just replaced all the tubing and guts with clean new fresh ones i got free through the hospital's lactation service. now as an official medela mom maven i'm probably not supposed to tell you that, because they frown on it, but seriously. it works. just. fine. the only downside i've noticed to the medela pump is that it has a reputation for being incredibly loud and it has come by that rightly. it is NOISY. if you choose to use a hand pump rather than an electric pump that's fine too, it just takes longer because you can't do both sides at once. and i'd imagine after three times a day five times a week you might get REALLY buff forearms. but maybe that's a bonus feature for some people. like pirates? or rugby players? you know, all those buff lactating pirate rugby players.
i carry my pump in a little black backpack. it's a similac forumla bag that we got at the hospital and i take great enjoyment out of carting my breastmilk around in their free formula bag every day. it's plain, smallish, and discreet. here's what i keep in the bag: pump with tubes, shields, flanges; clean burp cloth; rechargeable batteries and charger (more on that in a minute); freezer bag with ice pack and two 8 oz bottles; extra flanges, breast pads, and a few sanitary pads for emergencies; and an extra bottle for accidental overflow. (and my lunch. i usually also put my lunch in there but that is not particularly relevant.)
on the batteries- the location that i pump in has no outlets. zero outlets. isn't that bizarre? so i use the battery pack adapter. after the first few weeks i found out i was going through 8 AA batteries every two weeks so we invested in some rechargeables. on the other hand if you find yourself needing to pump in the car very often you might want to check out the car outlet adapters. there's nothing worse that finding yourself a quarter of the way through a session and hearing that wheeze... slowly... die... out. shit. then for me, the frantic search of the office for unused AA batteries for... some mysterious reason. no i can't tell you why. just give me your batteries and leave me alone.
you're supposed to wash your pump parts after every use. so how does that pan out at work? i've read several possible solutions from other moms, ranging from washing everything after every session to carrying several sets of supplies so you can just switch them out every time. and what about keeping the milk cold? some larger offices may have a special 'mother's room' with its own fridge. some women just throw it in the lunch room fridge like it's no big deal.
this is what i've found works for me: i bring a cold bag with a frozen ice pack in it. the insulation seems to keep the milk plenty cold until i get home so i don't bother carting it up and down to the fridge. it just stays in its bag all day. i don't wash my gear in between pumps. i use the clean burp cloth to wipe the milk out of all the parts (that i can reach) to keep them cleanish and dry, and then i put them back in the bag for their next use. when i get home at night i wash everything and do a steam sanitize. it's worked just fine for me but if you're having yeast issues or have a history of thrush i would NOT DO THAT, just putting that out there as a little disclaimer.
the main issue with most of these decisions is time. it's incredibly hard to find a balance between the time you need and deserve to provide food for your baby and the time that your job deserves for paying you. in the interests of getting back to my desk i have chosen the fastest path possible for getting my pumping done and cleaned up and i've streamlined it as i go. if i chose to clean every part after every session and carry the milk to the break room fridge it would take my pumpings from 10 minutes to 15+. i'm just not willing to do that and thankfully it's worked out just fine so far.
but there's so much more- when? and where? and how often and how much? and how to keep going, day after day?
check back wednesday for part two of the pumping at work series.
(meanwhile i will be taking pictures of babies. jon's sister, her husband, their dogs, and jude's cousin are here visiting for the next few days. i will be getting intimate with my camera again, you bet i will.)
this series is complete- quick! skip to: part one | part two | part three | part four