Just when you've finally mastered the womanly art of breastfeeding, returning to work presents a new mountain to scale: pumping breast milk. "Not to worry!" you say. You're on top of it. You've already called the human resources department at work to make sure there will be a private lactation area and a place to store your milk, you've mapped out a feeding schedule with your child-care provider, and you've expressed and frozen enough milk to feed your baby in the weeks ahead (hint, hint). Now you face the two-headed monster of meeting the demands of your busy schedule and your baby's appetite. Fear not. The moms of the Parenting Group have gone through it, and they've come up with some great tips for pumping while on the job.
Be up front about what you're doing and what you need. If you're afraid of how a colleague or client will react to your pumping while at their office, try being direct. Explain that you're trying to breastfeed your baby for as long as you can and that you would appreciate it if they could direct you to a place where you could pump and store your milk until you leave. Ask about lactation rooms or health services departments, since many large or family-centered companies have them. Even in your own company, it helps to let people know what you're doing. At the very least, it could save an unsuspecting co-worker from absentmindedly reaching into the fridge for the half-and-half and grabbing a bottle of still-warm breastmilk instead.
Plan "pumping time." Schedule 20 minutes of uninterrupted time twice a day, and let your co-workers know what you'll be doing, so they don't barge into your office or call a staff meeting. Try not to schedule meetings too close to your "pumping time," as you'll need time to clean up and mentally prepare yourself for the next item on your agenda. If you really feel you can't stop working to pump, try Medela's Pumping Free Attachment Kit (available at www.medela.com), which allows you to fasten your pump to your nursing bra. That way, you'll be able to have your hands free to check your e-mail or type a business report.
Make pumping at work as comfortable for yourself as possible, so you don't feel inclined to discontinue breastfeeding. Try a baby-safe nipple cream like Lansinoh (available at most pharmacies) to heal cracked nipples. If you're experiencing breast soreness, MaterniMates soothing gel discs (available at www.kendallhq.com/maternimates) can be refrigerated and applied to the breast for quick relief.
Buy a backup pump. To avoid forgetting your pump at home or misplacing it in transit, get a second pump to use at the office and on business trips. All the Parenting Group moms loved their Medela pumps because they are portable, efficient, and nicely packaged in inconspicuous little totes. They also note that the Avent Isis hand pump (available from www.avent.com), which fits in your purse or briefcase, is great for relieving engorgement when there's no outlet in sight. If you're daunted by the expense of a second pump, consider renting one: Many breast-pump manufacturers and medical equipment suppliers offer rental pumps for as little as $1 a day.
Dress in layers. Since your breasts may leak in the course of the day, layering can help ensure that you don't have embarrassing stains on your outer clothing. Keep an extra blouse at work, and bring a cardigan or jacket with you when you're out of the office. You don't want to be caught unprepared and unpresentable on your way to an important meeting.
When you're away from Baby, pumping is sometimes more difficult. To stimulate milk production, try the following: On overnight trips, bring along a photo or an audio recording of your baby to make you feel closer to her. Drink lots of water. And don't be afraid to dump your expressed milk if you have doubts about its freshness. Preserving it on the trip home can be tricky, and keeping up your milk supply by pumping regularly is more important than how much you bring home.
One final note to breastfeeding moms on the go: Be creative about pumping, and don't feel embarrassed about expressing milk whenever or wherever you have to. Two TPG moms even admitted to pumping in taxi cabs en route to client meetings. They simply asked the driver to plug the adapter into the car's lighter socket and expressed away! It's just one more example of necessity being the mother of invention.