I started working again when my baby was seven months old. I pumped at work for eight months. After that I didn’t have to pump during the day anymore, because Isaya would only drink in the early morning, in the evening and at night. So eight months of pumping at the office. Here is my survival guide!
1. Make sure you know your rights
Find out what your rights are and what your employers obligations are towards you. Different countries have different laws: check out breastfeeding websites or ask your midwife, doctor or gynecologist. I checked if the organization I worked for at the time had a decent nursing room. I also made sure I knew how much time I was allowed to pump, so I wouldn’t feel rushed.
2. Plan your appointments
I can be quite assertive, but when I am in a meeting with ten other people, I find it hard to say “uhm, yeah, so I will leave you to it then, I have to pump”. So I have learned to block out my pumping time and say no to or rearrange meetings that are conflicting with my boobs.
3. Don’t bring the office on your pump break
Leave your laptop on your desk. Don’t read e-mails and don’t finish that rapport. It will kill your milk buzz. Only take your phone to Face Time partner/grandma/nanny/whoever is taking care of your baby while you work, or to look at pictures of your cutiepie. I actually started my Instagram account as a pumping pass time. Looking at other people’s cute baby pics and connecting with other moms helped me to leave work outside of the pumping room.
4. Try to relax
Biggest reason for lower milk supply, in my experience, is Stress. Take a deep breath, tell yourself you have time to do this, make yourself comfortable and find a relaxing way to pass the time. Make sure your shoulders, arms and legs are relaxed, your belly is soft and your mind is in baby mode. And again: breathe! You are a human being, not a machine. You are making liquid gold, be kind.
5. Feed yourself woman
Breastfeeding takes a lot of energy. Make sure you bring enough food and water into the pumping room with you. For me this meant a healthy bar and tea in the morning and some salty potato chips and lots of water or a bottle of coke in the afternoon.
6. Make the most of it
It can feel like quite an inconvenience, burden or heavy task to pump two or three times a day. You don’t have your sweet, soft baby near you. You are in a completely different state of mind at work. You have to go from serious, working person, to mushy, milky mommy in a few seconds. But there are ways to make it all a little less hard! Find something fun to do to pass the time. Besides Face Timing my baby, I went on Instagram and YouTube or read the Harper’s Bazaar. For you it might be Netflix, a book or some music.
7. Talk to other Mamas while Pumping Milk
It can feel quite lonely, being the only person at work who ‘sneaks off’ to pump. Find out if there are other mama’s who are nursing. Maybe you can even adjust your time schedules so you can pump together. There was one other mama at my office who pumped and when our times coincided we talked about our babies, our highs, our lows, our fears. If you don’t have anyone at the office, find other pumping mama’s online, in your neighborhood or through your (babies) doctor.
8. Buy a nice bag
I got myself a nice DKNY backpack for my pump gear. I didn’t want to walk through the office with one of those boring bags that comes with the pump. I wanted something nice, something that went with my outfits and made me feel pretty. Shop! You deserve it!
9. Keep tabs on yourself
Make sure you check in with yourself every now and then. Is this still what you want? Can you handle it? How do you feel? How’s your energy? What is all of this asking of you? Maybe you have a fixed idea about ‘how long you must nurse’ and feel like a bad mom if you were to stop. Of course there are recommendations. And of course you want what is best for your baby. But a healthy, happy mama is what is best for your baby. So if you find yourself struggling, talk to someone. Find out if it’s ‘just’ a bad week and if there is something you can do about it or if you are ready to hang up the gear. I know you know I’m not saying ‘stop when you are tired’, because as a mother you know tired comes with the job. But I am asking you to listen to yourself.