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Written by Leslie Danford

Here’s pumping at work 101: I am a working mom dedicated to both breastfeeding and children’s nutrition.  After having three babies in three years, breastfeeding each for nine months, working longs hours, and taking only a standard maternity leave, I consider myself an expert.  Now that my kids are older. I’ve started my own children’s nutrition company – Vitaminis, where children’s nutrition remains my passion.  

Good nutrition starts at day one with breastfeeding.  Subsequently, it is critically important to help your kids perform their best at school, in sports, and for life in general.  I’m happy to share some of my tips and tricks to help working mamas navigate those logistically tricky early days of breastfeeding and pumping while working.  Although inconvenient, and certainly a challenge, breastfeeding and pumping while working is imminently doable.

My advice: 

  1. Take it one day at a time.
  2. Don’t be embarrassed.  Instead, be proud!  It’s a commendable and real sacrifice you’re making.
  3. Ask for what you need.

You’ve got this! Pumping at work 101 is:

  • At the office:
    • If your work doesn’t provide great accommodations, ask!  Most employers want to help, but don’t understand what’s needed.  Ask for a clean, private space with a door lock and ideally, a small refrigerator and storage space.
    • Create and use a shared calendar to coordinate with other nursing moms.  Book out your times at the desired frequency and protect your schedule!  Decline or reschedule meetings that interfere with your pumping.
    • Remember, you can work while pumping as long as you aren’t on video.  Phone calls can work if you have a quieter pump, or you can remain on mute most of the time.
    • Refrigerate pump parts or keep them in a cooler to save time and avoid a daily wash/sanitization between pumps.
    • Bond with your fellow pumping mamas.  You need a tribe to roll your eyes with and laugh at those embarrassing stories or ridiculous coworker comments you will certainly get.
  • Air travel:
    • Research in advance where to find the mothers’ rooms or family bathrooms at airports, so you know where to go.  This will help you avoid less-than-sanitary bathroom stall pumping sessions.
    • Bring plenty of sanitary wipes to clean all surfaces where you will be pumping.
    • Alert flight attendants to what you are doing so they won’t disturb you in the bathroom.  In my experience they will go above and beyond to help you in any way.
    • Take advantage of coat hooks in the bathroom to hang your pump.  Generally, take advantage of anything that can save space.
    • If flying first class or business with your own pod, don’t be shy about pumping under a blanket or nursing cover.  The airplane noise is more than enough to cover the sound, and you’ll be much more comfortable.  I’ve successfully done this many times without detection!
    • Proactively alert TSA to the breastmilk in your carry-on bags.  They will make exceptions to the 3-ounce rule for breastmilk, but do look at it and occasionally test it.  Flagging this proactively will save you time vs. waiting for them to discover it in the x-ray.
  • On the road:
    • Rent your own car when able so you can pump in the parking lot or even while driving.  Use a nursing cover for privacy.  I once even went through a drive through while pumping, some serious multi-tasking!
    • When traveling 1 week or more, utilize hotel freezers for long term milk storage – most will accommodate, and some may even give you a mini fridge and/or freezer in your room if not already provided.  Milk should stay frozen on your flight home if properly insulated, so you won’t have to waste any of your precious efforts.