(This post contains affiliate links that I have personally used and found essential to my success pumping at work. You can find my disclosure policy here.)
So you have made it through the first few months of breastfeeding a newborn. Congratulations! You are doing a great job mama!
But now a new change is looming on the horizon: your maternity leave is slowly creeping to and end. And you are wondering how you are going to continue providing your dear baby with their primary source of nutrition, breast milk.
And, like me, there is probably a big question going through your head right about now:
I had so many concerns about being a “pumping mom” and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how I was going to make it happen without a ton of stress. But I knew I needed to be prepared. I am a registered nurse and I work very busy twelve hour shifts. Like most pumping moms who work, I don’t have time not NOT to be prepared.
I am happy to share that I have been successfully pumping as an ER nurse in a very busy level 1 trauma center for the last 4 months. And I still can’t believe how well it is going! Sure, there have been a few minor hiccups along the way (like forgetting my breast pump at home, whoops!). But overall the experience has been way better then I would have thought.
I now know that I will be able to continue pumping breast milk for my baby for as long as I desire. I want other working moms to know that they can do this too. (Read more about what I have learned about pumping at work as a nurse).
This device is the highest on the must-have items to pump at work list, for obvious reasons. Without it, you have no way to access your milk! I am using the Medela Freestyle portable pump because it is the one that my insurance covered and it works great. You want to make sure that you have a double pump so you can pump both breasts at once to save time.
Check with your insurance to see if they cover a portable breast pump before you buy one. I live in California and my insurance gave me a breast pump free of charge!
(Just a note, the different brands do not work interchangeably with each other. So you want to make sure you find one brand you like and stick with it! Otherwise you will end up with a bunch of parts that don’t work with one anther. You don’t need your back to work pumping supply list to be any longer then it already is!)
You will need breast milk collection storage bottles to store your milk until you get home from work. I use the Medela bottles because I already use the Medela pump but there are several other brands you can used as well. Just make sure the ones you are using are made without BPA (its a safer plastic that helps retain breast milk’s beneficial properties).
I also like the Medela screw on lids better then some other brands because they are leak proof. (I tried a different brand and had an issue with leakage all over my packed lunch!). You can wash them in the sink and they are also dishwasher safe.
I really like this nursing bra accessory because it makes it possible to double pump without having to hold the pumps with with both hands. Once you start pumping you will find that having to hold the pumps in place is really annoying and makes it difficult to do anything else.
This cleaver contraption can hook on to almost any nursing bra and make it a hands free pumping bra as well! That way you can still do other things like check email or scroll though your phone. Because lets be honest, pumping can be pretty boring after a while!
After you pump you need to make sure you have a place to store your breast milk until you get home. I always pack a lunch for work so I just use my insulated lunch bag to store my milk. You can use any insulated storage bag.
Engorgement is no joke. There have been a few times at work when I wasn’t able to pump on schedule and I ended up leaking through my scrubs (you could barely see it but still!). As a result of that embarrassing experience I started wearing nursing pads when I was at work.
I use reusable nursing pads made of bamboo because I have read that many disposable pads contain absorbent chemicals which come in direct contact with your skin. They also run the risk of trapping moisture, especially if your are leaking. This can increase the risk of mastitis, a very painful bacterial infection that will make you sick and can be dangerous if untreated. Disposable pads can also be expensive over time if you are frequently using them. I have 12 reusable nursing pads and I run them through the washer and dryer with all my other clothes.
The beautiful thing about pumping is that you can store your breast milk in the freezer! So even if you have a surplus of milk you can put it away for later use. These little breast milk storage baggies are great because you can write the date on the top section so you know how long they have been in the freezer.
Place them in the refrigerator for 12 hours before you need them to thaw them out. Or place them in a bowl of hot water for quicker use. These are on the high list of absolute must-have items to pump at work that you will need: I have used over 200 of them already!
My freezer got a little over loaded with breast milk within the first few months that I was back at work and this milk storage organizer helped me to keep things more organized. It also helped me keep the milk organized by date so I make sure to use the oldest milk first.
Your baby is going to need a way to drink your breast milk when you are not there, right? I tried so many different brands of bottles for our baby (their are so many!) but I finally settled on Dr Browns newborn bottle feeding set. Different brands are NOT able to be used interchangeably with one another so its a good idea to find a brand you like and stick with it. Otherwise you end up spending a bunch of money on bottles and parts you don’t even need.
In the beginning your baby will only need the 4 ounce bottles because they wont be drinking as much milk. But as they grow you need to switch to the 8 oz size. My son is 6 months and can take an entire 8 oz bottle in one feeding very easily.
The Dr Browns bottles have a blue vent system that is supposed to remove excess air bubbles from the milk. This supposedly helps reduce feeding problems like colic, spit-up, burping and gas. Our daughter struggled with pretty severe colic and constant spit-up and switching to the Dr Browns bottles helped the situation tremendously. She still had some issues but they were noticeably much better!
This is not a necessity but I included it because the Splirish baby bottle drying rack because it has been so helpful for me (and it looks cute on the counter too!). It comes in medium and large sizes. One of the unfortunate side effects of pumping breast milk is that you are going to be washing A LOT of bottles and breast pump parts. It is just par for the course with pumping at work!
Every night when I get home from work I put all of my breast milk into storage bags and put them in the freezer. I am left with several dirty bottles from work along with dirty pump parts and all the empty bottles that my baby drank during the day. That is a lot of bottle washing! To save time I soak the parts in soapy water and then wash them all at once and leave them on my drying rack to dry out until the morning. This system has saved me a lot of time over the months.
You may get overwhelmed, but you too can do this!
There are a lot of products on the market and it can be overwhelming for a mom who is preparing to go back to work from maternity leave. So, make it easier on yourself and have a plan in place before you go back to work (read more about how I pump at work as a registered nurse who works 12 hour shifts).
After successfully pumping at work with two babies I have whittled down my list to include the things that have helped me the most. I hope this helps to guide you in the right direction to find what works for you too!
It is your legal right to continue to provide breast milk for your children and pump while you are at work. Do not let anyone tell you differently or make you feel guilty about it. Only you know what is right for you and your babies.
Good luck, mama! Let me know how it goes as a pumping mom in the workplace and please reach out to me if you have any questions. I would be happy to help you!
Sarah Jividen is a registered nurse, blogger, writer, wife, and mother with an aspiration to empower nurses and moms to take better care of themselves. Sarah lives with her husband in a beach suburb outside of Los Angeles where they are raising their two-year-old daughter, newborn son and two rescue kitties. In a rare moment of free time you may find Sarah practicing yoga, socializing with friends, sampling dark beers or attending a local concert venue with her husband.