As a full-time working mom that wanted to feed her baby breastmilk, I knew from the get-go that I would have to pump at work. It isn’t the most fun thing ever, but the feeling I get knowing that I am providing nourishment and numerous health benefits to my son can not be matched.
When I first thought about it, I admit that I thought as long as I had a good pump I was good to go.
Boy, was I wrong!
Yes, it is true that all you really need is a good pump and some bottles to pump into, but I have found that there are other things that make the pumping and feeding experience much easier and more enjoyable.
A good quality double electric pump
There wasn’t anyone I could personally talk to about which pump was best to buy, so I bought the same pump used by someone on one of the blogs I read. I have been extremely happy with it and feel completely confident recommending it here. It’s the Medela Pump-in-Style Advanced On the Go Tote. It’s a large bag that contains the motor and room for all your other pumping supplies and also comes with an insulated bag with an ice pack and some additional bottles. It can be plugged into an outlet or used with batteries. It’s a double pump, so you can pump both breasts at once, or just one side if baby is feeding from the other. This saves so much time and I am able to take shorter breaks from work – I make sure to pump at least 15 minutes each session. Medela also makes pumps with different bags for different prices. Other brands of pumps include Ameda, Phillips, and The First Years.
Hands-Free Breastpump Bra
This thing looked so rediculous online and Brett says I look rediculous in it (kinda like a Fembot from Austin Powers), but I do not care one bit because it is so wonderful. It allows the bottles to stay in place and your hands are then free to move about and you’re not restricted to having to hold onto the bottles for 15 minutes. I can eat, drink or read…heck, one time I even got ready in the morning while pumping! If you get a double electric pump, then a hands-free bra definitely completes the pairing. Not having one is like not getting HD cable service when you have an HD television…you can make do without it, but they are meant to work together and are so much better together.
My pump came with a few bottles, but I felt it was completely necessary to buy a few more to rotate. Think about it, you need at least two sets of bottles…one set to pump into and one set that your baby is eating from that day. The more you have, the less times you have to wash bottles and to be sure you have enough to match your supply.
Milk freezer storage bags
If you are trying to build a stash PRIOR to returning to work, then freezer storage bags are the way to go. Some people use bottles to put in the freezer, but I felt more comfortable putting these in the freezer and not using up what little bottles I had. Now that I’m back at work, I am basically pumping one day what the baby gets fed the next day, so there is a constant rotation. At the end of the week, any left over that isn’t needed for Monday gets put into a storage bag and placed into a deep freezer for whenever it may be needed – like the time I left a full day’s worth of milk in the fridge at work that he would have needed to eat the next day. We would have been screwed if we didn’t have backup in the freezer.
You need something like this to transport the milk home from work. However, this is also entirely dependent on your work situation. Breastmilk can be left at room temperature for 4-6 hours, in an insulated cooler bag for 24 hours and in the fridge for 3-8 days (see chart at the bottom of this post). So if you have a fridge at work and then live 15 minutes from work, then you probably don’t need this. But if you don’t have a fridge at work and the milk stays out, than this is the only way the milk will stay good. My pump came with one, so make sure you check that out before you buy another one.
A Kindle, iPad, Smartphone, laptop or book
Ok, I confess that these are not requirements for everyone, but to me they were! I pumped 3 times a day for at least 15 minutes. That’s 45 minutes a day of sitting in a room with nothing else to do. My main source of entertainment was my iPhone, where I could go on Facebook, Pinterest, and other random internet sites and look at photos of the baby. I would also read on the Kindle. But you may find a book (how old-fashioned of you!), iPad or laptop better suits you. I would have loved to use my laptop, but I don’t have Wi-fi at work that’s not security protected. If you are able to pump at your work desk, then by all means, go ahead and keep working if that’s your sort of thang (somebody give you a raise!).
This recommendation came from the men of the house, Brett and Trent. For the first 2 months after I returned to work and Trent was at home with Brett, they used the bottle in a cup of hot water method to warm up the bottles. After a few minutes, Trent would start to get pretty impatient, rightfully so (“Give me some food, fool!”). We recently got a bottle warmer from Nuby (stay tuned for the review!) and it has made life so much easier for them during the day (I still breastfeed when I’m home). Trent’s bottles now go from fridge to his mouth within 2 minutes before he gets impatient, which makes everyone happy. Happy baby = Happy everyone else.
This is used to wipe pump parts or any spillage. Milk stains clothes, so having a cloth handy helps prevent any from getting on your clothes and you can quickly clean it up if it does.
Some other “nice to have” items:
There will be times when you’ll have to take your shirt off or pull your dress top down. I found it nice to have a cardigan that I could place over myself in order to not get cold and to feel more comfortable and not so exposed.
Pumping is definitely not as effective as a baby, so many women see a drop in their supply from pumping. Other things can happen too, like mastitis and a clogged duct, to make your supply drop. Fenugreek is supposed to help increase your milk supply, and I definitely notice a difference when I’m taking it versus not taking it.
Extra pump parts
Washing pump parts can get pretty tiresome. I contemplated buying extra parts for that reason, but decided to just stick them in the bag that I put in the fridge at work between pump sessions. If it stays cold, any milk leftover on the parts stays good. I just didn’t want to wash the parts 3 times a day when I felt like I was already gone from my desk long enough throughout the day.
Steam Clean Bags
It’s good to sanitize your pump parts every so often and these handy bags help with that. Just pour some water in the bottom, throw all the parts in there and then stick it in the microwave. Most bags can be reused several times.
A backup pump
I leave my pump at work during the week, but only because I know I have a backup pump at home if I don’t go to work on a given day. I’m just lazy and don’t want to carry te pump in and out of work every day.
Some resources I find helpful:
I took this chart and put it on the fridge as a reference in those early days. We pretty much know it by heart now, but knowing this information is vital so you can make sure you don’t give expired milk to the baby or don’t let any go to waste.
This site provides advice and articles for nursing and pumping mothers.