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Going back to work and breastfeeding: How to Prepare to Pump at Work

Timika HopkinsComment

When I had my son over a year ago, I was determined to perfect my breastfeeding skills and breastfeed longer and more exclusively than with my previous child.  I was 6 years older, I was a more informed mom, and I had clear 20/20 hindsight on how fleeting time is when you have children.  With my daughter, I remember feeling like time was standing still and I struggled to continue each additional month of breastfeeding.  With her, I made it to 10 months, I supplemented with formula at times, and my pumping routine was not a routine at all, but a sporadic set of attempts at collecting milk.  I was satisfied with my efforts though. I did the best I could at the time. 

This time was different.  I planned and set goals. I brainstormed possible obstacles to reaching my goals, and I researched ways to overcome those potential obstacles before they even existed. I was on a breastfeeding mission, since this was likely going to be my last time with an infant and last time experiencing breastfeeding…forever.  I wanted to savor and protect every moment of my final gift of nursing.

There were obstacles from the beginning.  My son had a great, but strong latch, and he was a hungry little cherub, so my left nipple underwent some temporary trauma.  Here is how I overcame that obstacle. My milk supply was abundant, and I needed to pump in between feedings to stay comfortable (but also to build an industrial sized stash).   But the obstacle that was the most anxiety provoking for me was the idea of pumping at work.  Here is how I did it:

1.       I watched youtube videos, like this one, of others that showed what they packed in their pump bags, and I took notes

2.       Using my notes, and my discussions with other working mommies, I developed an outline and packed a mean pump bag.  I listed the items in this blog post.

3.       I emailed work before returning, and let them know of my plans to pump, and to ask for information regarding the “pumping room”.  I asked very direct questions in the email, and made sure the tone was clear that this was an appropriate expectation that I had and needed. 

4.       A week or two before I had to go back to work, I adjusted my sleep pattern as much as I could with a new baby that was still waking up through the night.  My goal was to mimic the sleep cycle I could expect when I returned to work, and it helped me figure out when I would pump for the first time, and feed for the first time.  

5.       Go Time:  The first week was sad.  I missed my baby. I hated pumping. I cried a couple of times…briefly…just a couple of tears…like two tears.  But in the end, all the pre-planning supported me during this emotional transition.  I could stick to the plan, somewhat on autopilot, and make it through the days away.  The plan worked, even if it was difficult to transition, and after a couple of weeks, pumping became even more efficient and streamlined.

In the end, I made it!  I pumped longer than 10 months, I exclusively fed my son breast-milk, and I made it through the gauntlet that is pumping at work.  You can too.

To those who've also pumped at work, what was your pumping experience like?