The Mom Files: Pumping @ Work

Breastfeeding was way complicated at first, and painful – oh the painful. Now it is almost entirely pain free and very simple (so take note moms-to-be! After the two week hump it gets much much much better). All good things. But breast feeding and going back to work adds another puzzle piece to an already hectic schedule, plus the added stress of having to come up with the next day’s food supply  while juggling my lunch break, meetings, being productive and making sure I’m still kicking ass.

I pump 3 times a day. In my office those times have to be scheduled and are not really that flexible. I pump in a conference room where sometimes I have to close the blinds – which makes me feel like it is obvious I’m about to get nekkey, and where I always lock the door behind me and say a little prayer that no one tries to bust in. So far, the bust in attempt has only happened once.

It takes me 15-25 minutes for me to set up, pop out the girls, and pump. Then I take the milk over to the office kitchen and transfer it into storage bags that live in a little zippered bag in the fridge. That is the weirdest part – pouring from bottle to bag while people are getting snacks or tea or filling their water bottles. All like, “Hi, these are my bodily fluids, they came from my boobs. Carry on.” It feels like it is private, even if it maybe shouldn’t feel that way. I make jokes to make people feel less uncomfortable with it. I reference being a dairy cow – not far off from the truth. But mostly I wish it didn’t feel so vulgar. It shouldn’t. It’s not like pouring pee into a sample jar or anything, so why does it make me flinch like it is? Sigh…

In general, pumping is awkward. I take my bag into a conference room every day at 9:00 am, 12:30 pm, and 3:00 pm. I sometimes need to walk in late to meetings, and most days I am racing to cram food into my mouth so that I don’t miss that 1230 time. It is difficult to keep the same efficiency as my counterparts because I’m taking extra breaks, so when I’m at my desk I need to be extra focused. Pumping at work means I am running and scrambling from the second I leave the house and it does make my weeks extra mentally taxing. By Friday I am wiped out.

And then! A week like last week happens – I had a content editing summit at work and my entire schedule was turned upside down. I was off site in meetings more than half the day and I skipped pumping sessions. At least 1 a day, at least 3 days a week. And what happened? By the weekend I had stopped producing the majority of my milk. Talk about STRESSED OUT. I almost accidentally weaned him, and I am still trying to rectify the situation. I went from overflowing with milk to running on empty most of the time. I now know that I cannot, under any circumstances, fuck around with pumping while at work. Even if it is inconvenient, even if it can be awkward.

So now I am drinking a shit ton of milk-stimulating tea, I am pumping like a crazy person, and I am making sure to feed Gabe as close to every two hours as possible when I am home. This aspect of being a working mom is the only part where I feel incredibly torn and spread too thin. I want to be good at my job – I want to be the BEST at my job, but I also want to feed Gabe. Everything else – feeling put together, juggling schedules, working out, gearing up for daycare, handling my postpartum body has been so much easier than I thought. Breastfeeding and all that it entails as been a journey, a learning process, and harder (and more important to me) than I anticipated.


13 thoughts on “The Mom Files: Pumping @ Work”

  1. Kudos to you for talking about this. I started weaning Frances before returning to work. I got 4.5 months of maternity leave though – if I had to go back sooner, I would have tried to keep pumping at work for a while at least. I say “keep pumping”, because I have super inverted nipples and ended up exclusively pumping. It is definitely hard to keep your production up, I found that taking Fenugreek pills and eating lots of oatmeal (yuck) helped me. Good luck! It’s hard, but you are kicking butt, for sure!

      1. Weaning was pretty easy for us, because she was mostly bottle fed anyway, and she never really displayed any preference between breast milk and formula once we introduced it (which was lucky!). I was really careful to do it slowly, because I have read that weaning fools around with your hormones and can make you depressed, so I spread it out over a month or so, pumping a few minutes less every day. I wrote up a whole schedule and everything. 🙂 My period came back while I was weaning, which was kind of annoying, but no real issues!

  2. Breast feeding is so hard and time consuming!!! I love it and have been lucky enough not to have to give Penelope formula but it has not been easy. I have a job that I can’t pump at so I pump while I drive to and from work. It works out well but whenever I am not with her I have to carry that damn pump and all its little pieces.

    I’m not sure what kind of pump you use but if its a medela brand they have adapters for you to pump directly into the storage bags. That might help eliminate a step for ya!

  3. Lauren thank you for writing about this! Not just the pumping aspect, but breastfeeding in general. I have known a lot of women who have stopped at a couple weeks because of the pain. And, oh yes that pain! But you’re right, it does get better and better! I think it’s great that you get those times to pump at work, because I think it’s rare, which is sad. Although V never really had a bottle, I pumped probably once every other day just in case I got stuck somewhere and couldn’t get back to her in time. So I think you are truly a Wonder Woman for pushing through and figuring out your best strategy. I just finally had to thaw and dump my last ten remaining bags since they were over a year old. It was sad watching all that healthy deliciousness circle the drain! I used to pull some out and use it on V’s eczema as well as many other things.

    I send you good vibes to last however long you and Gabe decide is best for both of you on your breastfeeding journey!

    1. oh man, having to dump breast milk makes me ache. All that hard work! AHH!!

      And wonder woman, I don’t know about that. I mostly feel like I am on the edge of disaster. On the edge of not having enough time to breath. Thank you for all of your support!! I will definitely be watching and taking notes on how you handle baby #2. 🙂

  4. Yeah. I have a related struggle: making enough to pump extra on top of exclusivly feeding a giant baby so I can ditch him one day a week with enough milk to make it through a wedding. Then I also have to pump at weddings, which feels super awkward. I always think the pump sounds like a sex toy, & people suspect me of being naughty in the toilet for 20 minutes during dinner. I can only pump once at weddings too so my supply is always low the day after. I bring a cooler with me. The whole thing feels mortifying.

    1. oh my goodness that sounds horrific. I am insanely impressed. And yes– the whiirr whiirr whiirr is totally a weird sex toy sound. I always worry that everyone can hear it. I’m glad i’m not the only one!

  5. I just want to say how amazed I am at your ability to juggle things and make them happen, even when it’s hard / awkward. You are incredible!
    You probably know already, but you have to keep on your schedule, if you miss a feeding / pumping the stimulus decreases and you will produce less milk. (And yes I know this from dairy cows… but the processes are the same.) Eg: cortisol, the stress hormone acts / blocks the oxytocin receptors needed for the milk to come out). So staying calm / chilling / listening to music as Kamel suggested are all good strategies. But I am sure you know all of this better than me.

  6. Ugh, gosh!
    I finally got to pain-free feeding after well on a month, and then got deep-breast thrush from antibiotics. Which means new pain. Pain that stops me going back to sleep after middle of the night feeds because my boobs feel like they are full of hot razor blades.
    So now I’m on more pills. Thankfully, I’m still taking the ones that help boost supply, even though I dont *really* need them anymore, so missing a feed isn’t such a drama for me at the moment, but man am I sick of pills and pain.
    And my whole coffee group has the same complaints. There is not a single one of the 12 of us who found breastfeeding easy and pain-free from the start.

  7. First time I am commenting and I am not even a mom yet, but am working on pre-pregnancy prep. I read during my obsessing times that after you pump to also hand squeeze a bit more milk out to really empty your boobs out if you are dealing with supply issues and trying to rebuild it. Good luck and I really love reading up on being a new mom from a true to life perspective not the either its all easy peasy or the mom who hasn’t showered in a week, house is a mess oh and the sink is broken and leaking. Thank you for a better medium.

  8. Oh man, pumping. I have to go back to work for a week before summer vacation starts & I’ve been pumping so that I have enough milk to leave at home with my boy while I’m away. I’m not looking forward to my first Monday back. Not to mention that even if I get to lock my classroom door it will still feel rather risqué and inappropriate to have bear breasts at school. I think I’ll make a nursing cover just for extra modesty.

    I’ve been advised to get a hands-free pumping bra to make it easier to multi-task while pumping. I can see grading papers & pumping in my future. You should totally see about pumping directly into the storage bags – I have been while at home & it’s super convenient.

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