the grumbles primer on pumping at work (part one)

March 29, 2010

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




Phew! I work for a tiny company and I guarantee this will be an issue for me as well. Consider yourself my go-to girl when I have questions about all of this someday (hopefully sooner rather than later!).

Mickey D.

Are you aware that Medela makes disinfectant wipes for the breast pump? They ain't cheap, but if you're looking for an alternative to the burp cloth, it might be worth exploring.

Pumping at work - a topic I'll bet we could discuss ad nauseum. Looking forward to part 2.

Ky (Two Pretzels)

(Just got finished pumping at work. Perfect timing.)

1. I agree, the medela pump in style is loud. Dare I say it's frightfully not, "in style" either?

2. Don't ever attempt to steam/disinfect the tubing. It will melt. (At least if you have me steam/disinfect it it will. Learned this a couple of days before Lila was born.)f

3. I cannot believe that the location in which you pump doesn't have outlets. That's a pain. However, my location DOES have an outlet: it's close to the floor behind a piece of office furniture. So, I sit on the floor and r---each back to the outlet and pump away. Comfy.

4. I don't wash my parts at work. (lol.) That would be my PUMP parts - I wait until I get home. (That whole sentence made me laugh.) I do the burp cloth thing, too. And I agree with Mickey D - those disinfecting wipes are great - but expensive and unfortunately not available in MX. I wonder if a tortilla would work.

5. So can I tell you about how I was pumping in my sister's office last week and our boss (president, owner of the company) opened the door and said, "What are you guys doing?" To which my sister replied, "Kylee's pumping" to which he responded by NOT MOVING and STANDING THERE and TALKING TO US while I pumped.

I was somewhat shocked.
But oddly like, "Well - eh, whatev."

(This is why I love those nursing covers. You know, for when you're boss walks in and strikes up a conversation with you while pumping.)

P.S. There's no such thing as sexual harassment in MX.

P.S. again - I am appalled that more small businesses AND larges businesses/organizations do not acquiesce to the needs of nursing employees. That's a whole other post, though.

(Sorry this is so long.)

the grumbles

Ky, i have in fact successfully steamed my tubing BUT!! i added THREE TIMES the amount of water they said to put in. it came out just fine.

totally awkward about the boss, at least you had your cover on? maybe he is just totally down with it? it seems like a lot of men i've met whose wives pumped/breastfed aren't really concerned about it after that, like, eh, no big deal.


After recently reviewing Shari Criso's Breastpumps and Briefcases which is all about pumping at work and a very useful CD at that, I kind of feel like I could equally just point someone in the direction of these posts. This is such great info!


thanks for linking up with this week's breastfeeding blog hop! i admire mom's that pump at work!


new follower LOVE the post! I work for a "big" company and we have a very nice mothering's a 5min walk from my desk and I have to get permission and get it unlocked, oh and we have a fridge but I'd prefer to keep my milk with me... not 5mins away LOL there are a few others pumping mom's on my "side of the world" and we took over a room and had them put up blinds, we explained how much more efficient it would be for us not to have spend as much time off the phone getting a key, getting down there extra ;) but we still have to have our breaks adj and some of the male managers seem to find bfing gross...oh well! :)

Mel- Never a dull Moment

Weather Anchor Mama

Interesting post. Now I don't feel so bad. I work in the news business and I have to pump in between shows. It can be tough, but it's a bit easier if I don't wash my gear after every use. I usually pump 2 to 3 times during a shift. So if I'm pressed for time, I'll rinse each part with water and thoroughly wash and sanitize the parts when I get home. It's refreshing to see other moms breastfeeding too. I'm the only one at my job. The other moms have decided to go the formula route which is fine. But, it sucks for nursing moms like me. I don't really have a nice pumping room. Instead, the office where I pump is freezing cold. I've tried to get them to move me to another location. But, they say that's all they have available. It sucks because if there were more nursing moms then I think they would have no choice but to give us a nicer place to pump.

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