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How to Survive Your Breast Pump

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It stares at me. From beneath my desk at work, the non-descript bag stares at me. Inside sits my best and worst friend. That torture device that we like to call a breast pump. It really is thoughtful of the breast pump people to make those nondescript bags, the ones that everyone knows is a breast pump, but we all pretend we don’t know is a breast pump. Because really, what is more embarrassing than announcing to the world that over the course of the next nine hours you will be hooked up to a machine that makes you feel more like a milk cow than a working professional?

I don’t know how long I will be able to tolerate pumping at work, because it really is the worst. Some days, I feel like a superhero. On those superhero days, I was able to produce and procure the nectar of the gods for my baby, all while at work and being relatively productive. Other days, I can barely squeeze out a few ounces and feel like a total failure. But for now, I’m pumping at work. I’m doing it because at this point I want to. I want to because it’s cheaper, the baby likes milk more than formula and I think it’s probably what I should be doing. At some point, I will drop the “shoulds” from my parenting vocabulary. When the day arrives that I no longer want to pump, you’ll be reading a post about the benefits of formula. Here are some things I’m learning about getting through the workday as a pumping, working mother.

  1. Convenience is Key. You are now a working mom who is trying to pump in order to nourish your baby.  That means you are juggling approximately 8,000 things on an hourly basis. Make pumping as convenient as possible. Get the quick clean wipes for cleaning between pumping sessions. I like these from Medela. Get the disposable bags for storage. This cuts down on the cleaning. You can get the ones that attach to your pump so that you don’t have to do any transfers, or the off brand ones from Target, which I also like. Whatever makes the whole affair more convenient for you, do that.
  2. Nursing covers aren’t just for nursing! A nursing cover is for nursing, you say? True. However, when you share an office and you need to pump, but you don’t want to shlep your pump to the designated pumping area, you might want the cover for privacy. I did not have this foresight, so I sat hunched at my desk, pretending like I wasn’t fully exposed to the world. (Don’t worry, my back was to my office mate, and she was very gracious and discreet about the whole thing.)
  3. Embrace the awkward. Let’s just agree that expressing liquid from your body and then transporting it to the fridge so that it stays fresh is just an awkward process. Period. So just embrace that you will run into that the awkward co-worker who is missing all the cues that we don’t in fact want to chat in the very public hallway while holding the very warm bottle of breast milk. Know in that moment that we are with you. There are throngs of working women who feel your pain, who anxiously want to just get to the fridge and back to their desks. Soldier on, dear one. Soldier on.
  4. Don’t cry over spilt milk.There will be a moment when you have to pull the lovely breast shields away from your boobies to readjust, scratch your nose or flip the page in whatever trashy magazine you are trying to read while pumping. This will result in spilt milk. There will be a time when you are trying to transfer your milk into whatever storage container you’ve chose. You will knock it over at least once.  Don’t cry. It’s okay.  You will survive. Your baby will survive. I promise.
  5. Don’t worry. Pumping might be great for you. It might not work at all. You might love pumping. Or you may hate the pinching at the readjusting and the worrying about your supply and the trek to and from the refrigerator to the pumping room and back again. No matter what, do what works for you.

Originally posted on 12/8/2014

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