Now that I’ve had a couple of months of being a breastfeeding mom who works full time and pumps, I wanted to share more insight about how I make it work. When I was on maternity leave, the idea of going back to work and pumping scared the hell out of me. I found comfort in reading posts from other moms who were successful at doing both, so I want to do the same and share what’s currently working for me in hopes of easing some fears of other mamas on maternity leave who have as much anxiety as I once did.
My schedule can vary day-to-day, but what’s documented below is pretty typical. I try not to go more than 3-4 hours between pump/nursing sessions during the day. I’m pretty flexible with moving my pump sessions around, as long as I’m given plenty of warning ahead of time. There have only been two or three occasions when I was at my 4 hour limit and had to excuse myself from a meeting or conversation to pump. Otherwise everything has been pretty seamless.
Also, the amount of ounces I pump can vary up to 5 ounces per day! It’s crazy what an emotional roller coaster pumping can be in terms of what you’re pumping versus what your baby’s drinking. I always find I get more ounces the day after I eat a milkshake, fried chicken tenders (total guilty pleasure), or drink dark beer. However, I try not to do those things everyday because, if I’m being honest, I would prefer not to balloon out of my clothes again.
My Daily Pumping Routine
6:30 am: I typically shower as soon as I get up then immediately head to the kitchen to prep the bottles and pump parts for the day. This is generally a threefold process:
- Assemble the pump parts and place in a ziploc bag
- Screw the lids on the four bottles I’ll be pumping in for the day, then place them in my cooler with a freezer pack.
- Prep Annalynn’s bottles for daycare. I typically fill the bottles the night before, then add their labels and nipples in the morning. Annalynn’s daycare requires all bottles be ready to go, complete with nipple and cover. They also require daily labeling with the day’s date and Annalynn’s name. The daycare provides the labels, which are bright red to indicate breast milk.
7:00 am: Wake Annalynn up for the day (if she’s not already awake) and nurse her while eating my breakfast. She’s super distracted in the morning, so this process is becoming longer and longer.
7:45 am: Derek and I trade off taking Annalynn to daycare. We transport Annalynn’s bottles in the Skip Hop Bottle Bag. She drinks four bottles (each bottle has three ounces) throughout the day. They’re good at feeding her on demand every 2.5 – 3 hrs.
10:00 am: My first pump session of the morning. This is usually my largest pump of the day. I pump in a storage closet that has a “do not disturb” sign I hang up when I’m pumping. The door has a lock, but the IT department also has a key so the sign is to let them know the room is busy. The room doesn’t have WiFi and my phone barely gets a signal so I bring my iPad and usually read while I pump. Depending on how much I pump, I’ll combine both bottles into one or I’ll leave it as is. The bottles will go back in the cooler and the parts are stored in the ziploc bag at the mini fridge under my desk.
1:00 PM: My second pump of the day. If I need to run an errand during lunch I’ll usually do this pump session in the car. The car adapter I ordered off Amazon months ago has really come in handy. I’m also not shy about pumping in front of female co-workers and have had to pump with them in the car on more than one occasion. When I’m done I’ll combine the bottles into one. The bottles go into the cooler and the pump parts go into the ziploc and then back in the fridge.
4:00 PM: My last pump session of the day. Typically my smallest pump. All of my pump sessions generally last 20 minutes. I usually still have a tiny bit of milk still flowing, but I can’t spend more time than that away from my desk. When I’m done with my last session, I combine the bottles, put the milk bottle back into the cooler, the parts in the ziploc, and everything goes into the pump bag.
6:30 PM: I nurse Annalynn as soon as we get home. She usually has her last daycare bottle around 5-5:30PM and is ready to eat when I get her. If there’s still a bottle left after 6:00 PM, I’ve requested that they hold off until I get there since it’s easier for me to nurse her at that point.
7:15 PM: Derek or I get Annalynn ready for bed, then I nurse her to sleep.
7:30 PM: As soon as Annalynn is in bed I wash all the bottles and parts for the next day. She uses the same bottles that I pump into so all I need to do is divy the milk up in the bottles I just pumped in and store them in the fridge for the next day. If there’s any extra milk, it’s automatically bagged up, labeled, and placed in the freezer. I freeze everything flat in our main freezer, then once I have about 15ish bags I’ll stack them in a gallon ziploc bag, label the ziploc with the dates, and move to the deep freezer.
To help rotate the freezer stash, I’ll freeze all of the milk on Friday (minus 4 oz). On Sunday I’ll move frozen bags to the fridge to defrost over night and mix them with the 4 oz of Friday milk for Monday’s bottles.
So that’s my day-to-day routine. There have been a few occasions where I’ve had to work outside of the office, which have been interesting. The best was the time I pumped next to our tent with a makeshift cover on.
Pro tip: If you need to pump at an expo (or conference, etc), keep asking until you find the right person who can help you. I had to work an expo in the Tampa Convention Center last month and asked 5 different people before I found someone in charge who understood what I needed and was more than happy to find a spot where I could pump. If they offer you a bathroom, politely decline and ask someone else.
I’m sure I’ll have even more stories to share when our season starts next month and I start traveling for work. Gulp.
Also, I’ve blogged about this bra before but I feel like it’s worth repeating because it’s THAT amazing, but the Dairy Fairy pumping bra is seriously a life saver. There’s no way I would be able to pump so effortlessly on the go if it wasn’t for the Dairy Fairy bra. It’s a real bra that I wear as I would any other bra, only there’s two slits for the flanges of the pump. That way I never had to worry about messing with an additional hands free pumping bra, I’m always ready to go.
Oh, and shout out to MilkBox for helping with my pump-friendly wardrobe. (full review of their service HERE). When the powers of my new MilkBox wardrobe and DairyFairy combine It’s MAGIC.
Right after I went back to work I read Work. Pump. Repeat.: The New Mom’s Survival Guide to Breastfeeding and Going Back to Work. It covers everything from your legal rights of pumping at work to building your stash before returning to work to pumping while traveling, and so much more. The author gives insight from her own experience so breastfeeding both of her babies while working full time and needing to travel internationally for work. She’s also very real and makes sure moms know it doesn’t have to be “all-or-nothing” and we all have to figure out what works for our own family and sanity. Highly recommend.
I also recommend that all pumping moms join the Working Moms who Make Breastfeeding Work Facebook Group. I can not say enough about this amazing Facebook group. These people GET me and I can relate to pretty much every mom’s post on here.
I feel like I could write SO MUCH about pumping and working, but I’ll start with this. Please let me know in the comments if you have any questions or anything you’d like me to focus on in an upcoming post. Right now my goal is to make it to one-year of pumping and then transition to just nursing in the morning and at night until Annalynn weans herself. At least, that’s the goal for now. We still have so long to go and anything can happen. We’ll just have to wait and see how everything unfolds.