breast milk, pumping

Pumping Hacks for Working Mothers

I have a love-hate relationship with my breast pump, and pumping in general.

I love the fact that it allows me to express milk for my baby to drink at daycare since I can’t nurse her myself. I hate having to hook my breasts up to a machine and “milk” myself 2-3 times per day. I feel like I should be mooing and chewing cud the entire time.

I’ve pumped for all six of my kids (which means I’ve spent five years of my life as a mother pumping multiple times a day, five days per week, and I’m currently pumping now for my 2.5-month-old daughter). I’ve gone through two Medela Pump-in-Styles and now have a brand-spanking-new Spectra S2  (thank you, federal government, for requiring insurance companies to pay for breast pumps!).

I’ve learned a lot along the way, as have the other moms in the Catholic Working Mothers Facebook group, and you get to benefit from our combined wisdom with the following pumping hacks for working mothers.

Leave pump parts in refrigerator between pumping sessions

I’m an hourly employee. I have two paid fifteen minute breaks, and one unpaid lunch break (it can be 30 or 60 minutes long). I mostly work from home now, but when I commuted 90 minutes one way, using the extra 30 minutes at lunch meant I left the office when traffic was at its worst so I usually tried to take only a half hour lunch break. Since my daily breaks totaled one hour, that gave me three 20-minute pumping sessions as long as I ate lunch while pumping or at my desk. That gave me about 15 minutes to actually pump, and only two and a half minutes on either side for set up and break down of all my pumping gear. What with washing my parts, I was usually a few minutes late getting back to my desk and would have to stay a few minutes later as a result.

When I realized I could just put my pump parts in the refrigerator between sessions instead of having to wash and/or sterilize the parts each time? GAME. CHANGER.

If you don’t have access to a refrigerator or are unable to leave your parts there, Medela makes quick clean wipes for breast pump parts that work, too.

Keep pump parts at work

One day, while driving to work, it suddenly hit me that I’d forgotten to put my pump parts back in my breast pump bag, and they were still sitting on the drying rack by my kitchen sink. It was too late to turn around and go back home to get them. I ended up having to make a mad dash to the nearest Target store to buy extra pump parts. Not cheap, but better than being painfully engorged the entire day or having to hand express into whatever container I could find. I ended up leaving those pump parts in my desk at work in case I ever forgot again.

Check with your insurance company and see if they pay for an extra set of pump parts — as it turns out, mine did, so now I have an extra set for my Spectra, if needed.

In a pinch, though, you can pump into anything if you have to. Mugs, mason jars, bowls, and rumor has it that Dasani water bottles will fit a Medela pump. (I’d forgotten the flanges as well as the bottles, though, so that wasn’t an option for me.

Pump directly into bags

I’ve never tried it myself, but several of the women in the CWM Facebook group recommended the Kiinde system, which allows you to pump directly into bags, which saves time since there is no need to transfer the milk into bottles, and, subsequently, no bottles to wash.

Go hands-free

It will make your pumping sessions infinitely easier and more tolerable if you have use of your hands instead of holding the flanges to your chest. In my pre-smartphone era, I made sure I kept a book to read in my pumping bag. These days, I play Words with Friends, read on the Kindle app, or surf Facebook (fun fact: I created the Catholic Working Mothers Facebook group while I was pumping).

There are several ways to go hands-free with your pumping — you can purchase a pumping bra like this, which holds the flanges in place; you can try making one out of an existing bra; or you can try the rubber-band trick (this works in a pinch if you forget your pumping bra at home).

I bought a pumping bra similar to this, and I put it on over the nursing bra I’m already wearing to save time.

Microwave sterilizer bags for parts

I sterilize my pump parts once per day, usually in the evening, and the quickest and easiest way to do so is with microwave sterilizer bags. My favorite brand are the Munchkin Steam Guard Microwave Sterilizer Bags.

Car pumping

Some women with a long commute like to save time by pumping in the car on the way to or from work. I always wanted to try this but never did. Bear in mind that you should only do this if you think your concentration won’t be affected, and also be aware that it can cause problems if you should get into an accident and the airbags go off. (Ouch…)

If you do choose to try pumping while driving, a vehicle adapter or battery pack for your pump is needed. Medela sells a car adapter for their pumps as well as a battery pack. There are adapters that work with Spectra and Ameda pumps, too, or you can buy a more generalized adapter that converts the cigarette lighter into an outlet.

Milk storage

Working in an office without a refrigerator? Or maybe you don’t want to put your breast milk in the shared office refrigerator? Or maybe the only refrigerator you have access to is several floors up or down? You can buy a portable mini-fridge that can sit on or under your desk and hold several bags of breast milk.

General tips

Watch a video of your baby while pumping to stimulate let-down. If possible, keep the outfit s/he slept in close at hand (some women put the outfit in a Ziploc and keep it in their pump bag so they can smell it as they pump).

Breast massage while pumping can help increase output, as can 500 mg of magnesium before bed.

If you typically do some kind of activity while nursing (reading, scrolling through social media, watching a show, etc), do it while pumping if you can. As similar an environment between nursing and pumping as possible can yield more milk.

Read up on the Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex, or D-MER. If you experience it, eating chocolate immediately after it occurs can help.

Do you have any pumping tips and tricks to share? If so, leave a comment!

One thought on “Pumping Hacks for Working Mothers

  1. For hands-free pumping, I recommend using the Medela Freestyle pump. They make two, so make sure you get the one that specifically lists “hands-free” as a feature. It has been a game changer for me!

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