Keeping up a solid pumping schedule at home can be hard enough however once you go back to work – it can get really difficult. When I went back to work I often found myself in meetings when I should have been pumping or putting it off so that I could finish a project. Working out a schedule and then sticking to it at work is hard but can be done. Here are a few tips for keeping on track and recommended products to pack in your pumping bag.
- Discuss your pumping needs with your supervisor as soon as possible. Make sure they understand your plans and how important it is to you and your baby. Being at work may mean that you have to alter your pumping schedule slightly but frequency is most important so try and stick to a similar schedule as much as possible.
- Find a place to pump. This can be difficult depending on where you work. You need a place that guarantees privacy, has a place to sit and ideally an electrical outlet. I was offered a conference room however even though the door locked, I didn’t feel 100% comfortable that people wouldn’t try to interrupt. As strange as it may sound, I ended up pumping in a storage room. It had a lot of extra room, good lighting and there was only one key so I knew that no one would interrupt me while I was in there (because really, who wants to go to a storage room?)
- Making time. This can be the most difficult part of pumping at work. Since I end up in a lot of meetings, I finally put pumping time on my calendar. I marked those times as important so people knew not to schedule anything during that time. Knowing that I had that on my schedule (along with the handy reminder that would pop up) made it much easier to stick to my schedule.
What to pack:
- The pump (obviously). For women who have premature babies and may be pumping long term (or any women who is pumping long term), choose a double electric breast pump. This will save time and ensure that your milk comes in sufficiently. Most hospitals offer a breast feeding store/center that can help you purchase one. Stores like Target and Babies R Us also sell some. The two most popular are “Purely Yours” by Ameda and “Pump In Style” by Medela. I’ve personally used the Ameda one and it was great however I have heard good things about the Medela one as well. Make sure your pump comes with a battery pack or battery option just in case you end up in a location that doesn’t have an outlet.
- Milk storage. Make sure you have a supply of storage containers or bags at all times. Some NICUs will provide plastic containers for storage and others don’t. Even if your NICU offers containers, I would recommend buying bags to have on hand for emergencies. They take up less room than the containers so you can easily throw them in your bag. Medela, Gerber, and Lansinoh all make good milk storage bags. Storage tip for bags: when you put the bags in the freezer – lay them flat and stack them on top of each other. You can hold a lot more bags that way. If you are going to be pumping long term and especially if your baby doesn’t eat a full feeing right away, I would highly advise investing in a free standing freezer. We borrowed one from a friend and it was great.
- Cleaning products – Obviously you need to wash your pump parts after each session however sometimes at work it is tough to find the time to do a proper job. Medela makes two great “Quick Clean” products – the Micro Steam bags and Wipes. The wipes are especially great at work since you don’t need water. Just the wipes. The steam bags are great even for at home use. A lot of hospitals advocate sterilizing your pump parts with boiling water if your baby is in the NICU. If you can do that – great. If you just don’t have that kind of time, the steam bags are an excellent alternative. You put the parts in the bag, use a tiny bit of water and a few minutes later – your parts are clean and sterile.
- Something to do – now you may bring work with you when you pump. I did. For good measure, I also threw in a Sudoku book and a daily NICU journal (more on that soon). And a pen. That way I wasn’t stuck there just waiting for my time to be up.
- Milk labels – Most NICUs (if not all) require your milk to be labeled with specific patient labels. Keep some in your bag so that you can date/time the label and put in on there. That way you know the label is there.
- Refrigeration – If you are pumping and then using the milk that day or the next – I would recommend an insulated lunch bag or bottle carrier. It can go right into the refrigerator and makes it easy to carry home. If you are pumping and then freezing the milk for later use, then the milk should go directly into the freezer. I used paper lunch bags to store the milk bags or bottles at work and then brought them home in an insulated lunch bag with freezer packs.
- Nursing pads – If you need them, bring extra just in case.
- A bag to hold everything. Both Medela and Ameda sell their pumps with a bag at extra cost. If you can do that option – go for it. If not, most hospitals send you home with a diaper bag. I used that both times and it was great. I didn’t feel guilty if it wore out or things spilled because it was free to start with. They usually come in black which makes it great for work. If you don’t get one or want to use it as a diaper bag, then any large bag will do. I recommend a backpack or bag with a zipper – it makes it easier to keep things private.