7 Essentials for Successfully Pumping at Work
I officially stopped nursing in December and stopped pumping at work in November so I thought I would share what worked for me and helped me stay successful and able to make it 10 months pumping at work and 14 months nursing.
Amazon was (and still is 😁) my best friend during this time so I will include links to all of the items I mentioned at the end of this post, and they are also accessible via the pictures in the post.
1. Breast Pump (s)
So I primarily used a Spectra S2 Breast Pump for pumping which I got through my insurance company. The Spectra S2 was reliable and consistent. I usually pumped for around 30 minutes and would alter between 3 settings. I would usually pump on Cycle 70 for 3-4 minutes (low suction around 4) , Cycle 54 for 15-20 minutes (Medium Suction around 5-6), and Cycle 38 for around 5 minutes (Medium to High Suction 6-7). This was after a lot of trial and error figuring out what worked for me. There were times early on when I was struggling with supply that I would power pump where I would (time permitting) pump for 20 minutes rest for 10, pump for 10 rest for 10, pump for 10 rest for 10 to help increase my supply. This pump helped me pump easily over 800 times and was quiet and consistent.
The Spectra S2 was great but it is certainly not a small machine and I found there were situations (conferences, long drives, times away from a plug..etc) where having a smaller more portable breast pump was more convenient. I did not want to spend a lot of money on another pump since it was not going to be an every day item but found the Bellababy Double Electric Breast Pump on Amazon. I was skeptical but impressed by it and found that I was able to get similar output to the Spectra S2. I wouldn’t use this as a full time pump but it was something that was convenient at times. It is rechargeable and small. I wasn’t crazy about the attachments but ended up using Spectra S2 attachments that easily attached to this product and their tubing. Ultimately for convenience I would leave my S2 at work and bring the Bellababy home for times away from the office that I needed to pump.
2. Pump Parts (Have Extras)
So there are a couple reasons why having extra pump parts is helpful:
1. It is helpful to not have to constantly clean parts.
2. You never know when something may break.
When I pumped at work I brought 2-3 sets of pump parts with me this would include: 2-3 sets of flanges, bottles, duckbills, and backflow protectors. I also had an extra set of tubing just in case. This may seem like a lot to carry but it made my day easier. I didn’t have to worry about cleaning parts all the time and could focus on pumping and it made clean up easy. I would bring all my parts home at the end of the day and wash them thoroughly and get them ready for the next day. There are several brands on Amazon that make parts for breast pumps. I used Maymom Pump Parts and NENESUPPLY Wide neck Collection Bottles.
As I mentioned earlier things break. I had duckbills break on me and I will never forget the day my backflow protector completely snapped in half and I DID NOT have a back up on hand (my husband came to my rescue thankfully). The back up parts provide peace of mind and make the day run smoother overall.
3. Nursing Bras and More
So I started wearing nursing bras midway through my pregnancy just because I could not stand the underwire of a normal bra anymore hitting my stomach. I purchased some by the brand iLoveSia on Amazon. They have a pack of 3 that are very supportive and comfortable. I pretty much lived in these until a few months ago. These were an essential part of my next item which is the BRAVADO! Clip and Pump Hands Free Nursing Bra Accessory. If I had to say there was one item that changed the game for me it was this one. I had purchased a more ”standard“ hands free nursing bra that felt like a contraption I had to velcro myself into and was uncomfortable and cumbersome.
The clip on accessory allowed me to quickly pump without any hassle. I would clip down the cups from the nursing bra and clip the accessory on and easily strap it in the back like a normal bra. It was extremely comfortable and held onto the flanges well and allowed me to continue to work/be hands free while I pumped. I have seen other products that advertise being an all in one product (nursing and hands free pumping) and I think if you have a smaller chest those may work well for you but I found the accessory to be helpful for me so I could have a supportive bra and not have to compromise on comfort and ease of use.
4. Breastmilk Storage
This is going to vary greatly on your work environment and storage preferences. I am going to speak to what worked for me and my work setting as I had easy access to a fridge and freezer at work. I would store my pumped breast milk for the day in bottles. It was a lot easier than messing with breastmilk storage bags at work. I would pump, transfer to a larger bottle if necessary or use one of the large wide neck collection bottles and place it a cooler bag in the fridge. I kept countered ice packs in the freezer and would take them out and put them in the cooler bag with the bottles when I was heading home. When I got home I would lay out how much milk I needed for the next day and if there was extra (on rare occasions) I would store it in my fridge separately or put it in breast milk storage bags for the freezer. I used the Lansinoh Breastmilk Storage Bags. I tried a few and always came back to these as I had minimal issues with leakage and they were very affordable. On Fridays I would freeze whatever milk I pumped that day since I nursed on the weekends.
5. Extra Accessories
There are a few things that I used that helped make my day easier in regards to managing all the parts.
These were great for storing pump parts. I usually had two bags one for clean parts and one for dirty parts. These bags helped keep everything else in my bag clean and organized.
When I did need to clean parts and didn’t have access to soap and water I would use Medela Quick Clean Breast Pump and Accessories Wipes. These were easy to use and convenient when I was low on time and needed to quickly clean up.
Find a bag you like that you will be able to store your pumping needs and work needs. It is a lot to carry a bag for work, pumping needs, lunch bag, and cooler bag for milk; but based on your work environment you may need to have all those things. I tried to consolidate as much as possible to avoid bag overload but most days I had a large work tote that I carried all my work and pump materials in, a lunch bag and cooler for breastmilk. I mentioned this earlier but it became helpful for me to not have to carry my S2 to and from work every day and I just stored it in my office.
Depending on your work set up you may feel more comfortable using a nursing cover up while pumping. I was very fortunate to have a personal office at work with a lock on the door and no windows so I didn’t need to worry about this, but I could see where it would be helpful in other settings.
6. Maintaining Supply
So there are are few things to note with supply....just when you think you have it......you don’t. I wish I could tell you the magic to maintaining your supply but it is still a mystery to me. So many things can effect your supply both based on physical and emotional changes you may be going through. What I can say is I found a few things to be paramount to helping maintain/increase my supply when I was struggling:
Drink and Eat:
If you want to maintain your supply you have to eat and drink water all day every day. Especially with twins your body needs an immense amount of caloric intake in order to produce the amount of milk your twins need. I had a drawer full on snacks and was easily snacking/eating something every 1-2 hours. The days I noticed I was making less were usually the days I wasn’t eating enough or drinking enough water.
Work is not home. That was one of the biggest hurdles was getting my mind and body adjusted to pumping away from my babies. What worked for me was watching videos of them, a long with bringing an item of clothing of theirs with me to work to have their smell near me (usually their pjs from the night before). This helped me relax tremendously in the beginning. Towards the end I didn’t need these items as much but I always had them with me just in case. Your mind is powerful, ever hear the term a watched pot never boils....well same goes for your breastmilk. If I sat and stared at the bottles while I pumped I can promise you I would hardly make anything! It’s like I would have stage fright! In the beginning I had to physically cover up my bottles with a sock so I couldn’t see how much I was making. This again helped me relax and not get worked up regarding how much I was or was not making.
I had read countless times that supplements may or may not work with maintaining supply but I did find one that helped significantly for me especially early on when I had a huge dip in supply around 1-2 months after returning to work. I couldn’t drink the Mother’s Milk Tea by Traditional Medicinals which is a favorite among many moms as I just couldn’t stomach the taste however they make a Traditional Medicinals Mother's Milk Lactation Chew version that I found was much easier to stomach. I would chew 1-2 per day and found that it helped a lot when I had dips in supply.
7. Know Your Rights
When you are getting ready to return to work take some time to review federal law, state law, and your employer’s employee handbook on nursing mothers. I was very fortunate to have had a work environment that allowed me to have more than reasonable accommodations to pump, but not every employer may be knowledgable or as accommodating. In the United States under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) guidelines are laid out to clearly state what an employer must provide/allow for nursing mothers.
“ Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (29 U.S.C. 207) is amended by adding at the end the following:
An employer shall provide—
(A) a reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk; a
(B) a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.
An employer shall not be required to compensate an employee receiving reasonable break time under paragraph (1) for any work time spent for such purpose.
An employer that employs less than 50 employees shall not be subject to the requirements of this subsection, if such requirements would impose an undue hardship by causing the employer significant difficulty or expense when considered in relation to the size, financial resources, nature, or structure of the employer’s business.
Nothing in this subsection shall preempt a State law that provides greater protections to employees than the protections provided for under this subsection.”
-Department of Labor-FLSA Section 7 (r) - https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/nursing-mothers/law
I would encourage you to have a conversation with your employer prior to returning to work about what you need to include space and time in order to pump at work. Set boundaries with your employer and peers at work in regards to what you will need them to be respectful and mindful of. Take some time before you go back to work to consider what a feasible schedule will look like and how you can implement it successfully. No, I was not perfect everyday with sticking to my planned schedule but I made every effort to do so. On the days things didn’t go as planned or crisis emerged I did my best to adjust accordingly and make sure I still had time to pump.
The items/ tips I have discussed are things that worked for me, but there are countless products and advice available that may serve you better based on your needs. I would encourage you to reach out to the amazing social networks available to us at our fingertips. There were several Facebook groups, blogs, and YouTube videos I turned to in order to compile my toolkit of what worked for me. These groups and information can be great resources and I would encourage you to reach out to communities of women who may be going through something specific to your life/work environment.
List of Items:
Click name for link to Amazon
1. Spectra S2