Pumping at Work

For those of you either considering or planning to pump if/when you go back to work, here’s a run down of what my day is like. So far I’m happy to report that it is very manageable. It is still a bit weird, but absolutely worth it to provide the small one with an ample supply of breast milk:

Wake Up Time
Regardless of whether or not the small one decided to have a middle of the night snack, we get up at 7 AMish (by ish I mean sometimes I don’t get out of bed until 7:15 if he snacked at 5 AM and isn’t serving as my human alarm clock). I then feed the boy on one side, burp and change him, and feed on the other side if he’ll take it (often the girls are often so full in the morning that one side is sufficient and the small one gives me this “you’ve got to be kidding me” look when I offer seconds), and hand the babe over to my husband.

At this point I go and pump, partly to make sure I’m good and drained and that there is plenty of milk in the fridge and partly so I don’t show up to work with lopsided boobs. After the pumping, I pack up my pump (including four clean bottles and a freezer pack, but not the shields as I keep a set at work and a set at home so that they get a chance to dry) and get ready for work (aka shower).

At Work
Since my supply has been ample to say the least, and because I pump after the 7 AM feeding to make sure the girls are totally empty, I only pump twice at work, even though I’m missing three feedings (10 AM, 1 PM and 4 PM).  If I run into a shortage or things start drying up I can easily add in a third pump session, but right now this is working out fine (and as you’ll see, the whole pumping ordeal is time consuming so it’s nice to only do it twice).  I tend to pump at 11 AM and 3 PM, give or take a half hour in either direction depending on my calendar that day.

Now for the actual pumping…  I don’t have my own office, so I use a telephone station on my floor of the building.  It has a chair, an outlet and a door that closes, which is really all you need (a table helps, but can be done without).  Since the door has a window, I printed up a big Do Not Disturb sign which I tape over it for privacy (and because the door doesn’t have a lock).  It takes me about a minute to get set up – reassemble the breast shields, plug in the pump, hook up the tubing and screw the bottles onto the shields.  Sitting in the chair with my back facing the door (just in case), it only takes me about 6 minutes to pump myself dry to be sure I’ve gotten to all the hind milk (I actually watch myself to see when there are no longer any streams of milking shooting out from my nipples – TMI, I know, but that’s why they make the shields transparent).  Breakdown takes about another minute and involves the awkward dance of trying to turn off the pump while holding the breast shields in place and not spilling out any precious milk (both for the small one’s sake and my clothing).  Once the machine is off, I unplug the tubes from the shields and turn the pump back on high in order to clear any condensation from the tubing.  I then unscrew the bottles from the shields and marry the contents if the total is less than 6 oz (otherwise I leave the milk be in the two separate bottles).  I place the dirty shields (and dirty empty bottle if I married the milk) in a two quart tupperware container I keep at the office as my dish tub, turn off the pump, remove the tubing and repack everything (tubing, pump, plug) back in the bag.  Total time: about 8 minutes.

I drop the bag off at my desk and grab my soap, cleaner brush and microwavable sanitizing bag (only for the 3 PM pumping).  Now I head to the kitchenette.  First the milk goes into my cooler in the fridge.  Then I fill my tupperware (aka wash tub) with hot water and add some dish soap (yes, I am so OCD that I bring my own dish soap – what can I say, the Seventh Generation unscented works great).  I swoosh the contents around a bit and then rinse off the breast shields, disassemble them and place them in the microwavable sterilizing bag if it’s the afternoon pumping session.  The bag then gets some water added to it and is placed in the microwave for 3 minutes.  I use the bottle cleaning brush if I have a dirty one to clean, but I don’t sanitize the bottle as I feel like the brush does a good enough job (unlike the shields that have parts where you couldn’t possibly get to with a brush).  I rinse out my tupperware, shake out the water and line it with a paper towel.  Once the microwave bag is finished, I poor out the water, remove the various parts and place them in the now-lined tupperwareto dry.  For the morning pumping session, I don’t bother to sterilize the shields, I just clean them as described above (although once a week I will sterilize the tubing during the morning pump session clean up).  Then it’s back to my desk with the tupperware o’breast shields, soap and brush in hand.  Overall clean up time ranges from 5 minutes to 9 minutes depending on whether or not I have to sanitize anything.

I realize that the above paragraph is probably the most detailed description of what is basically washing dishes that anyone has ever written, but the details are intentional, first because I am trying to paint a picture here for the nervous would-be pumper and second, because you have to understand that I am doing all of the above at a public kitchenette in front of any coworker who decides they need water/coffee/anything from the snack machine or fridge the whole time I’m trying to wash up something that was just sucking on my breasts.  It’s a bit awkward.  Okay, it’s extremely awkward, much more so than pumping in a room that anyone could accidentally wander into.  Maybe not more so than walking down the hallway from my desk to the kitchenette holding milk that was obviously in my boobs mere moments before, but awkward none the less.  Don’t even bring up the weird looks I get from anyone waiting to use the microwave. 

Heading Home
I grab my cooler bag out of the fridge, sling my pump over my shoulder and walk home.  The milk gets deposited in the fridge, the cooler pack in the freezer, and I go play with the small one until he feeds again at 7 PM and goes to bed.

Before I go to bed, around 10 or 10:30 PM, I pump again.  This is mostly to drain the girls so that I don’t wake up engorged, but this is also the pumping session that has allowed me to fill up my freezer before heading back to work, so my husband has plenty of emergency back up milk.  If there is more than 20 oz of fresh milk in the fridge from the day’s pumping, I’ll pump directly into a Pump and Save bag instead of a bottle (anticipating that it will end up in the freezer the following evening).  I bring the milk down to the fridge, place any  unused Pump and Save bags from the previous night in the freezer and head to bed.

Mondays and Fridays
Because you don’t go to work every day, the game plan differs slightly for Mondays and Fridays.  Fresh breast milk is fine in the fridge for 2 to 4 days according to Medela, so I start stocking up for Mondays with the Saturday before-bed pumping (as Monday morning is only 36 hour away).  The Saturday night, Sunday night and Monday morning pump sessions have been enough to get my husband through Monday without having to tap into the frozen milk so far, but this is when I would most expect us to need it.  As for Fridays, since I breastfeed directly over the weekend, I just pump directly into Pump and Save bags at work all day as this all ends up in the freezer.


So yeah, it’s a lot of coordination and it adds up to almost 40 minutes a day at work when I’m in creamery mode, but it is working.  So far.


3 Responses to “Pumping at Work”

  1. Tmae Says:

    Thank you so much for posting this. I stumbled across your blog (I don’t remember how at all, possibly the C’Ville Blogs site) about a week after I found out I was pregnant, and have plenty of time to think about all the stuff that will change, but one of the things that’s been bouncing around in my head is pumping at work.

    I also don’t have an office, and had imagined that I would need to sequester myself somewhere for 20 minutes a few times a day, and hope to hell that the company (small tech company) didn’t make it uncomfortable for me. Now that I have a better understanding of how it might go, it doesn’t seem radically impossible.

  2. Carmen Says:

    Quite detailed posting. Thanks so much! I hope I’ll have as much milk as you seem to be producing. I do work 12-hour shifts, so I’m wondering if I’ll need 3 sessions during that time. We’ll see how it goes. This also confirms I do need to invest in the microwave-sterilizing contraption. Thanks again! 3 more weeks…

  3. Nervous_Would_pumper Says:

    Thank you so much for the detailed post. As I am preparing to go back to work I searched for information on how to plan pumping and storing milk to feed my little one. I found your post. It is rightly detailed to give me an idea of how it might be and what might be needed. Thanks again.

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