work after baby: pumping

This is the third installment of a series of posts focused on going back to work after having a baby. For me, it really was all about planning and preparation and, while it wasn't always easy, we had a relatively smooth transition going from maternity leave to office/daycare life. I am certainly not an expert but my hope in writing these posts is to help other new moms like me who are finishing up their maternity leave and may be a little nervous about getting back to the workplace and leaving their little one. Just remember, that everyone is different so not everything will work for you but use what you can and throw out what you can't!

Going back to work after having a baby is never easy but I had the added bonus of starting a new job. And with that, I was not only going to be away from Olivia for extended periods of time but I also wasn't sure how she was going to react to being at daycare. However, the thing I was most stressed about was pumping at work.

I am lucky that my boss and coworkers are very supportive. I really think that is part of the reason that I am still pumping. I pump three times a day - a break in the morning, during my lunch break, and once in the afternoon. Although I don't think my boss or coworkers expect me to, I cut my lunch break short because of the time I use for the other two pumping sessions.

Another thing that has been helpful is that, being in a hospital, we have access to hospital-grade pumps in our "lactation support" room. We just have to bring our own pump parts. The pumps are definitely more efficient and it is great to have a private room with a sink to clean off the pump pieces. But since another coworker and I were taking awhile to walk back and forth to the room, my other coworkers helped to cover the windows of our break room with pretty wrapping paper and we use that to pump now.

I thought I would share some items that have helped me pump at work. Some of these things are obvious, while other things are tips I picked up from veteran pumping mamas.

1. Something to keep your milk in while it is in the communal fridge at work is a must because breast milk makes some people uncomfortable and, more importantly, you don't want to mix your milk up with your coworker's milk since she has the same pumping bottles.   That would be awkward. I used to use this cooler bag but the zipper broke a few weeks ago. I saw these insulated lunch totes at Sam's Club and they work great for keeping my milk cold while transporting it home but it also worked well with a few ice packs during a day-long work trip. I have a second one for Olivia's bottles that she brings to daycare.

2. I really didn't want to spend a lot on nursing tank tops. However, I ordered a few tops from Target not realizing that they all had built in bras. If you are larger chested like me, you don't fit into the built-in bras without pulling the top way down, making your attire far from work-appropriate. I decided to give the Undercover Mama tanks a try. I ordered a "value bundle" with a black and white tank as well as a tan, a cream, and a green. These are built to go under other clothing and they don't have straps - they attach to your nursing bra. While they are more than I would usually spend on a tank top, I am so glad I splurged. They make pumping at work so much easier than having to deal with a bunch of straps.

3. Obviously, you need a pump. I use the Ameda Purely Yours Breast Pump that my insurance paid for and I haven't had any problems with it. Check with your insurance company to see what you need to do to get one covered. In my case, my doctor had to write a prescription.

4. While there was a sink in the old lactation room I used, I have to walk to get to a sink (and past coworkers) from our break room. These Medela Quick Clean Wipes help with cleaning your pump parts when you don't have access to a sink.

5. I purchased the Lansinoh Simple Wishes Pumping Bra when I first started pumping regularly while on maternity leave. (Actually, I sent a sleep-deprived husband to Babies R Us to search for it. He was successful.) It makes pumping so much more comfortable since you can be hands free and it is great while I am at work. Since I don't have to hold anything I can check my email, make some phone calls, or just scroll through Instagram.

6. Make sure you have a set of spare pumping parts. I had another set from the hospital since I had to pump while Olivia was in the NICU for a day but it is definitely worth buying another set. I had a day when one of the valves tore and one side of the pump wouldn't work. I had another day when I forgot to clean the parts the night before and was already running late for work - that second set saved me. 

7. I bought this Nursing Poncho to be able to nurse in public but it ended up being too heavy and cumbersome so I threw it in my pumping bag for those days when I wear a dress and basically have to undress to pump. I also throw the poncho on so I don't get cold or feel naked in our break room. 

Another thing that I have found really helpful is having extra gallon Ziploc bags with me. I put my pump parts in one between pumping sessions after giving them a quick rinse or good wipe down so they don't get other stuff wet or gross. However, I do throw away a lot of Ziploc bags per week. I noticed that my coworker wraps her stuff up in a kitchen towel so I plan to start doing that which is definitely a lot greener and budget-friendly.

Feel free to share your pumping advice!