Pumping at Work: 9 Months & Counting

Michele Zipp

woman with cows
We are the milk makers.
When I was pregnant and scared to breastfeed if someone told me I would be still pumping at work to bring home breast milk for my 9-month-old twins, I would have told them they were more likely to see Bristol Palin on Dancing With the Stars. But as we all know, unexpected things do happen.

My first experience with my breast pump was almost as frightening as the first time I had sex. The awkwardness. Feeling confused from the sensations. The small amount of white liquid that results. I screamed when I first saw the droplets in the bottle.

I hated pumping. And I hated the guy who sold me my Medela Hands-Free who said I can just hook myself up and do things around the house if I wanted -- not even realize I was pumping. What could he possibly know, right? That very first time with the pump made me think it was going to be the very last time with the pump. (Very similar to the first time I had sex, too.)

Every tweaking nipple sucking second sucked, along with the fact that it was going to last for 20 of the longest minutes of my life. (Ahem, pumping, not sex.) But then I got over myself. I stopped complaining and learned to love it. Not love it enough to continue pumping until my kids are 12 years old just for ha has, but I loved that I was doing something very right for my twins (both sets). (Breast cancer rates are lower for moms who nurse.) And I loved that my hands were free to do other things while pumping. That guy was right.

There was once a time I was freaked out to go past level 5, but I rock a 7 now, sometimes level 8, and there are even times where I go over my allotted 20 minutes of pumping because I am just consumed with work and the dull hum of the pump and tweaked nipples are barely noticeable anymore.

The fear of pumping can be built up in our heads -- just like the fear of breastfeeding can be or the fear of anything really. The more you fear it and stress about it, the worse and more crippling it is. It's sabotage. 

I realize I am lucky -- I mean, I have twins -- me! But I also have a job that gave me a special room with a computer in it to pump in. Because I work online, I'm not missing much out of my day. And I schedule all meetings around my pumping times. Some people don't have this kind of freedom, sadly. But sometimes we don't speak up and propose ways to make things work. With breastfeeding and pumping, there is one thing I can say that could apply to just about anyone -- the longer you do it, the easier it is. The beginning is the hardest part. If you are dreading pumping at work, follow these tips -- they worked for me.

  • Make pumping a part of your day just like brushing your teeth or eating lunch. Once it's set in your schedule, just follow through.
  • Never alter your pumping schedule. I've done this in the early days of pumping and it just made me stressed out and not produce as much milk. Tell your bosses and co-workers the times you cannot be there for a meeting because of your other meeting.
  • Don't think of pumping as a chore. That's like setting yourself up to fail. It's food for your baby, so think of it as your time to prepare baby food.
  • Do something to pass the time. If you don't have a designated room with a computer to surf (or work) when pumping, have a notebook to jot down things for work, your favorite magazine, a book, crossword puzzle -- and those 20 minutes will fly by. If your pump isn't hands free, get creative.
  • Don't be ashamed about pumping or telling those you work with that you have to be excused from a meeting because you have to pump. If anyone thinks it's weird that's their problem, and don't make their problem your baby's problem, too.

If you are thinking about pumping when you go back to work, I really wish you the best. I know how nervous I was about it, but I survived, my twins are thriving, and I am still going strong. I can honestly say that making it to a year and beyond is going to be no problem. And there was once a time I didn't think I could do it at all. You can do it, too.

Are you going to pump at work? Do you? Have any other tips or advice to add?


Image via Michele Zipp

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