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My 3 tips to adjust to pumping breastmilk at work

My 3 best tips on how to adjust to pumping breastmilk at work

Last week, I texted my cousin-in-law about her transition back to work after maternity leave. She was holding up but hating pumping at the office. It brought back a lot of memories for me, too. Here are the 3 tips I gave her on how I adjusted to pumping breastmilk at work.

First, my street cred

I pumped for a year-and-a-half in total. My kids are 19 months apart, so I never got out of the swing of things. I pumped on airplanes, in other countries, with a manual pump and an electric.

My first baby clusterfed…look that one up if you (like me) never heard of it before…and as a result, I had so much frozen milk, I donated 271 oz to babies in need through the Mother’s Milk Bank Northeast.

Credentials verified.

Here are three key tips I learned that I hope will help you or someone you know who might be struggling with pumping breastmilk at work.

Tip #3: brighten up the place!

My company moved offices when I was pumping. The first place I pumped was a dirty, dusty storage closet that shared a wall with our main boardroom. Pause. You know what that electric pump sounds like? Well, my firm’s all-male Investment Committee does.

It was depressing and embarrassing to pump in there.

In our new office, we upgraded to a room with a couch, sink and mini-fridge! But, that’s not what I remember most about it. People collected artwork and put it up in the “wellness room”.

It turns out, lots of people have one-too-many works of art in their office. Ask for donations. All of that artwork brightened up the room and the experience.

I understand that not every company dedicates a room to pumping moms. Sometimes, I pumped in bathrooms, in my car and underneath a blanket.

Just think out-of-the-box! Brighten up the experience with a blanket or nursing cover with a bright, bold fabric on the inside. Something that makes you smile.

Put some art in your pumping bag. Line the zipper flap with a laminated print (I like Rockwells) or put finger paint on your baby’s feet and make a sweet print of your own. Baby feet positioned just so can look like a flower, sun rays, butterflies, hearts, and more!

Tip#2: reframe your break time

Unless you’ve got some seriously odd ducks at your work, no one is gonna bother you while you pump. Enjoy your me-time.

Shut the door on all the craziness. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Relax your jaw. Roll your head around; loosen up your neck. If it sounds like a meditation, that’s fine. If you want it to be an effective pumping session, you should start by making an attempt to relax.

You’re going to spend the next 20 minutes connecting with your baby, not with your coworkers and the typical office nonsense like, having a meeting to plan the next meeting.

And anyway, it’s all temporary. In just a few months, you’ll be back to your old schedule. You can remind your coworkers of that fact if they’re fussy with all of your breaks.

Believe me, coworkers’ fussiness can’t compete with a 3 year old’s fussy time. Get ready. Actually, when baby is a preschooler, re-read my #1 tip to get kids to listen. I hope it helps.

For you, when the end of pumping comes it might be bittersweet…it might be a relief…either way, the end is not far from now.

I know it’s hard to plan for those break times. I know you might pump on the way to work in order to minimize your break times. Rushing to forced break times can be stressful.

The truth is, you’ve got to reframe it as a little calm respite. The more relaxed you are, the more you can focus on your baby, the more milk you’ll get.

Tip#1: get a good book!

I never read as much as I did while I was pumping breastmilk at work.

In retrospect, I was bored of tv.

Between waiting for the baby to arrive and taking some time off after, I watched shows and series and wanted something new. Books!

Someone left a copy of Gladwell’s The Tipping Point in our “wellness room”. That was the first book I read while pumping. It’s interesting and easy-to-read, but I quickly graduated to fiction.

I read American Gods by Gaiman (thank you to my friend, also named Tiffany, for that recommendation) and finally caught up with other moms on Fifty Shades of Grey.

Then, I started the Outlander series…but it took me over a year to read and listen all the way through to book 8. If you don’t mind not having a paper copy, your Audible app will sync with your Kindle or Kindle app on your phone or tablet.

To get through all 15,000 pages of the Outlander series, I listened on Audible during my commute and read on my Kindle app while I pumped or nursed. 

Oh gosh, and if you want nonfiction, the best books about pregnancy or childhood are by Dr. Emily Oster. Hands down.

Hey, you can always download a tv series and watch that instead of reading. I know plenty of great people who don’t read.

But, I’m still completely nostalgic for the feeling of anticipation I experienced when I knew that I would be near the end of an exciting chapter. I hurried to the “wellness room” to slap on my pump and pick up my book!

The anticipation to get back to a good book stays with you. It lingers. If you have any great book recommendations for other readers…please leave them in the comments! Thank you!