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When I returned to work after having the twins, when they had just turned 12 weeks old. I was so tired, but so ready to get back into the professional world. I was also determined to breastfeed my boys for as long as possible. The hardest part about returning to work was figuring out how to do my part around the pharmacy, and still have time to pump milk to nourish my boys. Once I these awesome products, things got a lot easier! I felt like a pro by the time that their first birthday rolled around! I’m here to share the best products for a pumping mama with you, to make your working mama-pumping journey a bit easier!
Pumping and Working…
Years ago, many mamas stayed home with their babies. They were able to breastfeed on demand, and never had to touch a pump (not sure they even existed, but I digress). However, many mamas these days have to return to their careers after they start a family. If they have decided that breastfeeding is the right choice for their family, they have to find a way to make this all work. In case you were wondering, it is not easy, but it is definitely not impossible.
What makes being a Pumping Working Mama so hard?
- Well, for one, you are so stinkin’ tired! You are (still) sustaining life for another person besides yourself, on top of working, and it can be just plain exhausting!
- I had the toughest time keeping up after I returned to work- especially in the beginning. There were so many bottles and pump parts to wash, food to be packed (for mama and baby), laundry to be done…and I felt like I was always hooked up to my pump.
- Until you get your routines established, things might get a bit crazy. As with anything, you will have to figure out what works for you and what doesn’t.
Best Products to help you be a Pumping Working Mama
These products were seriously game changers for me, ladies! They will give you a bit of time and freedom back in your new chaotic world. Thanks to these products, exclusively pumping for 13 months was actually totally manageable.
- Pumping Bra: When I first started pumping I felt like it tied me down. I literally had to sit there for 20+ minutes, hooked up to my pump, and it was so so BORING! This was before I discovered the beauty of this amazing pumping bra! This bra was awesome! It kept my pump flanges where they needed to be, and let my hand be free to catch up on social media, online shop, or answer email/texts. I also found that I produced more milk using the bra for whatever reason- maybe I was more relaxed?
- Breast Pump: Obviously if you’re going to be pumping at work, every day, for months (or anytime for that matter), you need a really great breast pump. I got this pump free through my insurance, and it was fine for a while! However, quickly I learned that having two pumps was so helpful (one for home and one for work). Also, I never had to worry about being without a pump if one broke! This pump is my favorite! It has a variety of settings and suction pressure to help make pumping more efficient and comfortable!
- Cooler: Once your milk is pumped, you have to keep it cold the rest of the day. Some are lucky enough to have access to a fridge, but I didn’t. I found this great cooler, and ice pack, that lasted the whole day! It also fit perfectly in one side of my pump bag! Mama win!
- Pumping bag: Eeek my FAVORITE pumping accessory! This bag is stunning! It’s black with gold accents, heavy duty, durable, and best of all- it wipes clean! It has one large zippered pocked in the top, and two large side pockets underneath. I kept my pump in one side, my milk cooler in the other side, and my wallet, keys, chapstick, and snacks in the top pocket. It worked amazing! Also, no one knew that it was a pump bag. I would grocery shop after work often and got so many compliments on it! Just a note- it is pretty big, but man does it get the job done!
- Medela Quick Clean Wipes: These wipes were such a lifesaver! In between my two pumping sessions at work, or anytime I was out and about I would use these wipes to clean my pump parts. They were easy and quick and made me feel comfortable that everything was cleaned for my next session. I would also use them to wipe up around my pump area or wipe off any drips anywhere. If you don’t have access to these wipes, or a sink to wash your parts, you can place them in a Ziploc bag and stick it in the fridge until your next use. Since I didn’t have access to a fridge, the wipes were perfect!
- Car Pump Battery Adapter: I can’t even tell you how many times I needed to pump at the exact same time that we had to leave to go somewhere. To save time, I got really good at pumping in the car. I used a battery or a car adapter to plug my pump in, a nursing cover up to cover me, and I would get my 15-20 minute pump in while my husband drove us to the mall, church, or an event. This was also perfect if I had to pump between meetings or appointments. Doing this may not be totally comfortable for everyone, but it was a huge time-saver for me!
- Breast Milk Storage Bags: If you’re pumping milk, you will need some place to store it. I would rotate my pumped milk, fill enough bottles for the next day or so and then freeze the rest. These bags were sturdy, and held 8 ounces! They also make 4 ounce bags but I loved the bigger ones because it was equivalent to two 4oz bottles (one for each of my twins). Trick of the trade- freeze them laying flat, and you can fit more in your freezer space!
- Bottle Brush: When pumping and bottle feeding, there are a lot of pump parts/bottles/nipples to clean! We loved this bottle brush! The top brush was great for bottles and pump flanges, and the bottom pops out and cleans the bottle nipples amazingly!
- The Baby Connect App! Oh man did I love this app! It tracks everything from sleep to diapers and we used it all the time! My favorite part was that it tracked my pumping output and pumping times. It was so handy, especially as an exclusive pumper! Here is a screen shot from my last pumping session… 131.5 gallons of milk pumped for my little men! I guess you could say I am an expert on the pumping subject!
Get the FACTS on Pumping on the job
What are your rights as a pumping mama?
- Breastfeeding laws vary by state, but the federal law does give us some support. Your employer has to allow you “reasonable” time to express milk for you child if it is in the first year of life. They also have to provide a private location, other than a bathroom, for you to pump. However, they are not required to pay you for this time, and of course, there are always exceptions…. You can find a link to the federal laws here. To find out more about your breastfeeding rights in your state, you can follow the link in the federal information.
How can you set up a lactation area at your work?
- If you’re lucky enough to have a dedicated room to pump, there are a few things you could do to make it a bit more functional. I used a vacant office at work that I shared with a few other pumping moms. During this time, I moved the chair to a place that would reach the plug and the table comfortably. I left a few snacks and some water bottles in there, in case I was in a pinch. I also always made sure I had some tissues, hand sanitizer, and sanitizing wipes available. Since I was not the only one using that room, it was important to me to leave it cleaner than when I got it. Lastly, I always wiped down the table and chair to keep it fresh for the next person.
How often should you pump when you return to work?
- In most cases pumping every 2-3 hours should be sufficient. I used to pump right before leaving for work, take a 20 minute pump break 2-3 hours in, and another 2-3 hours after that, and then right when I got home. I exclusively pumped, so this worked for me, but you could always nurse before and after, and pump just while away!
The Last Thing You Need to Know about being a Pumping Working Mama…
There is nothing easy about being a working mom. Adding pumping to the mix adds a whole new layer of complexity. It is so important to remember that no matter where your working/pumping journey takes you, you are doing all the right things. Keeping your baby fed is of course top priority- whether it is with breastmilk or formula! I also cannot stress enough how important it is to take care of your mental health. If you are not in a good place mentally and emotionally, you will not be able to be 100% for your family. If this all gets to be too much, don’t beat yourself up over having to make an adjustment to your original plan. You are doing such a great job, and I promise that a few months (and certainly years) down the road, this is just one small bump in the road.
As always, I am so grateful for your support! Do you have any “must have” products that made your pumping/breastfeeding journey a bit easier? Please feel free to let me know using the button below!
Your Millennial Mama,