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The Pumping Professional: Become an Expert at Pumping at Work

Remember Kate? She’ll be popping in from time to time to share her adventures in motherhood with us as she navigates the working world with a 12-month-old!


Pumping at work? You’ll probably get good at cleaning bottles. Credit: nerissa’s ring

Up until the day I had my baby, I didn’t know if I was going to breastfeed. I knew about the benefits, but I just didn’t want to add any more pressure to the process. I mean isn’t actually HAVING the baby pressure enough? However, I am an “all or nothing” person so once I decided to do it, I was 100 percent in. The American Academy of Pediatrics says moms should breastfeed for a year? Right-o! No problem. Or so I thought.

During the first six weeks, I thought breastfeeding was a GENIUS idea. Good job, body! I don’t have to worry about bottles! I don’t have to heat anything up! When I go to Target, I can just park my car at the back of the lot and feed him in the back of my car. No coolers necessary! I also loved that while all of my friends and family were holding my baby, when the 2- to 3-hour mark hit, I got to steal him away in a room with just the two of us for 20 minutes. What was everyone complaining about? Breastfeeding? Piece. Of. Cake.

And then I went back to work.

And in came the bottles. OMG, THE BOTTLES. The word “bottle” sounds too nice. It should be called the Bottle-Nipple-Random-Parts-Germ-Fest-Nightmare™. Especially in the beginning, I wanted to throw myself out a window before I cleaned bottles. After everything I’d read about babies and chemicals and heat (oh my!), I felt obligated to hand wash and THEN sterilize. Guess how long that lasted? About three weeks. Package says BPA-free? Into the dishwasher you go, Bottle-Nipple-Random-Parts-Germ-Fest-Nightmare™. And the pump parts? OH. Talk about infuriating. I can’t even leave the house with both of the same shoes on (true story), and you want me to wash, sterilize and KEEP TRACK of those little dime-size circles? A little bit of advice: buy at least three sets of extras. It will help you keep your sanity.

So once you actually pack the bottles, drop the baby off at daycare (cry), how on EARTH do you keep up the pumping with all of the meetings, PowerPoint presentations and THE TRAVEL? After 11 months of breastfeeding and seven of them at work, I feel like I can now consider myself a Pumping Professional with a few tips.

Tips for Pumping at Work

It’s obviously way easier to quietly excuse yourself to go pump when you have a quiet day with little to no meetings. I just booked an hour meeting in the morning and the afternoon and had it reoccur every day until I was done. If you have a lactation room then you’re in good shape, BUT I have found that some lactation rooms are literally just rooms with a sign on the door, so you might find yourself pumping with a room full of coworkers. How are you supposed to be taken seriously to a junior associate if they’ve seen your boobs? I brought this up to my HR, and they did fix it. They said no one had brought it to their attention, and they assumed people were using it at different times of the day. (Clearly no one from HR pumped at work.)

If you don’t have a lactation room, look for a handicap accessible one-stall bathroom. A lot of companies have them in the reception area. If you don’t have one of those, here’s what I recommend to pack as extras (assuming you have an electric pump):

Extra Batteries. There is nothing worse than setting up the process and realizing your batteries are dead.

Extension Cord. I found that most bathrooms have a plug at the end of the bathroom stalls. It was really easy to take the last stall and plug it in under the stall door.

Unfortunately, like most employees in a corporate environment, I have meetings ALL day. And in these meetings are men and women of all ages. I usually just say that I’m “double booked” and excuse myself to pump, but some coworkers can’t help their curiosity. I told my sister this and she had the best advice: Tell them the truth — they’ll never ask again.

Check in next week when I’ll give you extra-credit pumping tips: Pumping while traveling! What made pumping at work easier for you? —Kate

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