I talked about some of the perspectives that I gained from my breastfeeding and pumping journey in a previous post, so I want to talk more about the logistics and routines in this one. (Just a reminder – I am a firm believer that “Fed is best” and that breastfeeding/pumping doesn’t have to be all or nothing.) If you are nursing and pumping while your baby is at daycare, though, here are some of the what, when, where, and how tips that (mostly) worked for me.
I’m going to call all of the gear that you will need the what here. Obviously, you will need a breast pump. (One note: check with your insurance company before you purchase a pump. I don’t know the current status, but there used to be a mandate through the ACA that pumps were covered.) There are manual and electric pumps. Manual pumps are cheaper, but electric pumps are much more convenient. If you can manage it, I would definitely encourage you to get a double electric breast pump. The first time I saw this combination of words I didn’t really know what it meant, so – just in case – double means you can pump both breasts at the same time (faster!) and electric means that it runs on batteries or by plugging into the wall (hands are free for multitasking). There are plenty of options out there, but I used Medela’s Pump in Style. I had a manual pump too, but I am not sure if I ever used it. I kept it in my bag as a backup in case my regular pump broke (which never happened, by the way.) (I would not buy a manual pump again – I got it (and paid a lot for it, I’m sure) at the hospital after my first baby was born.) Your pump should come with one complete set of parts (all the pieces that touch your body/milk), a cooler, and ice packs. I purchased three additional sets of pump parts because I found it easier to have a clean sets of parts for each pumping session. I also used a hands-free pumping top, so I could work while pumping. There are bra-like things made specifically for this and I got one as a hand-me-down from a friend for my second baby (and did really like it). For my first baby, I cut holes in an old tank top and use that for basically free. It looked kind of weird, but it worked fine. It’s also helpful to have some cleaning supplies like bottle brushes and microwave sterilizer. If you have extra milk to stock up or save, you’ll also need milk storage bags.
One of the first things to figure out when you go back to work is where you are going to pump. The space that you have access to will probably impact some of your routines, so figuring this out early on can help you figure some of the other pieces out too. There can be a huge range here, depending on where you work. Some companies have dedicated rooms for nursing mothers that are fully equipped – sometimes even with pumps for you to use! I have other friends that have used their office, supply closets, their classroom, or their car. I have my own space, but it is a cubicle without a door, so it wasn’t possible for me to pump at my desk. The room that I used was basically an empty closet. It had an office chair and an electrical outlet. There was a shower in there too, but no one ever used it. It was nice that I didn’t have to share this space or coordinate with anyone else, but it was pretty simple (no fridge, no sink, etc.). I know some people have much nicer pumping facilities and some have much worse, so I’m not trying to make any comment on mine. I am just trying to set the stage because it did impact some of my routines.
Another thing to figure out is when you can schedule pumping in your day. I had meetings to plan around, but I usually have flexibility in how I arrange my other tasks throughout the day. I have friends that would need to have someone cover for them while they pumped or had very structured days to schedule around (teachers, for example.) There is more to consider and coordinate in these circumstances, but with some creativity hopefully you can find some time windows that will work. My routine was to nurse at home around 6:30 am, pump at 9:30 am, visit daycare at lunch to nurse at 12:15 pm, pump at 2:00 pm, pump at 4:00 pm, and nurse again at home around 6:00 pm. I sometimes deviated from this based on meetings or other structured plans for the day, but I tried not to completely skip a session. If it’s common for meetings to get added to your calendar, block times off on your calendar so that you don’t lose your pumping windows. I spent 10 minutes pumping each time, so the entire time away from my desk was about 15 minutes. It was kind of disruptive, but I don’t think it impacted my productivity. I saved certain tasks (replying to emails, reading articles, etc.) that were easy to accomplish while I was pumping, so I just did 45 minutes of my computer work from a different room. It didn’t take very long for it to feel pretty routine.
Once you have the what, when, and where figured out, the how is what’s left. These are the routines and habits that worked for me with my when/where/what situation. If you have a different when/where/what, you may find something else works better. Each morning (or previous night) I packed all of my supplies. I had the pump itself, three sets of clean parts, a cooler with frozen ice packs, and my hands free pumping top. I used a clean set of parts each time I pumped because the room I pumped in didn’t have a fridge or sink. (If you have a sink you could rinse/wash your pump parts between sessions or if you have a fridge you could keep the pump parts in the fridge between sessions.) After I pumped, I stored my expressed milk in bottles in the cooler with ice packs. You could keep yours in the fridge and skip the cooler, but I didn’t have one and wasn’t comfortable putting it in the break room fridge that everyone used. When I got home from work, I got everything cleaned and ready for the next day. Milk went in bottles in the fridge to send to daycare. Ice packs went back in the freezer and all of the pump parts and bottles got washed. I used a bottle brush for a first scrub, ran everything through the dishwasher, and then finished off with a sterilization in the microwave. I wrapped up 3 complete sets of parts in towels and repacked my pump for the next day.
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Do you have any tips or tricks for pumping to share?