A Mom’s Guide to Pumping at Work

Let’s talk a different type of food today – milk for the babes.  Going back to work when my little one was 5 months old, was one of the scarier things I’ve done.  Sure it was great to nurse at home, while I was on leave, but the thought of pumping at work was incredibly daunting.  I thought everyone would be staring at me, walking into work with my pump bag.  Here this private and personal choice, was now a public thing, that just felt different without being with my baby.  Through some very supportive mom boards on Facebook, family members and friends, I was able to overcome all my worries about pumping at work and it’s become a seamless part of my day.  What I wish I had, was some online resource “how to do it” – so here you go.  Good luck to those of you about to re-enter your workplace as a Mom (or even 2nd or 3rd time Mama)!  It’s going to be okay.


The Gear

A cute tote bag

I found a cute one at jCrew Factory, that I can use long after we’re done nursing.  I chose one that has a zipper on top, but any tote bag will do.  I think a cute bag not only makes the pumping a bit more fun, but who doesn’t love an excuse to buy a new bag?!  This is similar to mine –


Factory dip-dyed bag (click picture for link)


Your pump 

Whether you have one already in a bag or are renting a hospital grade one, you can still fit it in your tote bag.


Insulated freezer bag + Freezer pack

I love my PackIt Freezer bag.  It has those gel packs built in, a zipper on top, and velcro closing.  I keep it in my desk drawer at work, instead of going to the refrigerator.  I also keep the freezer pack that came with my pump in the bag to keep things extra cold.



Pump parts

I use one set, and keep it in a gallon size resealable bag, stored in the freezer bag, between sessions.  I started out wiping the parts down with the Medela wipes, but keeping the parts cool, rather than cleaning, cut out about 10 minutes in my pump sessions.  If you have a mini fridge at your desk, you could always store in there too.


Pump bags

I like the Kiinde ones.  They leak less and because they twist on with the attachment, it cuts out about 5 minutes in my pump sessions.  They are a bit more expensive, but totally worth it.  You can also use them for homemade babyfood purees.  At first, I thought I’d use the bottles, but they took up too much space in my freezer bag, and I got frustrated with more things to clean at the end of a long workday.


Handsfree pumping bra

I have one at home, and one at my desk.


Sign to post outside office (if necessary) 

I work for a company that has some fun logos.  I found a cute image featuring some of them that says “Please do not disturb.”  I post this outside my office during every pump session.  When I go off site for meetings, the other buildings have mother’s rooms, and I don’t need to do this.  There’s already a sign that indicates “occupied.”  


Hand towel

For those unexpected spills.


Hand sanitizer

Hand cream

Nipple cream


Other tips

  • My cousin gave me a great idea to block out pump times on my calendar right when I went back to work.  This has been so great for scheduling meetings.  There have been a few times I’ve had to call in or pump later, earlier, and then I just adjust.
  • I generally pump the same times my baby gets a bottle when I’m away.
  • Have your phone handy to look at pictures and videos of your baby.  I relied on this a lot in the first few months.  Sometimes I cried, sometimes I still cry.  Mostly though, I smile looking at pictures or hearing my baby’s babbles and laughs.  Even the most mundane video can be the perfect bit of levity during a work day.  If your care provider can send you pictures throughout the day, that’s a fun treat too.
  • Lastly, my sister asked a handful of my friends to write me letters for me to open the first week I went back to work – encouragement about my transition.  Some were young moms, some were family friends, some stayed at home with their kids, others worked in the office.  Their advice and support was/is so helpful.  I read one letter a day and still keep them in my pump bag.  Even if you just have your mom and partner write you some encouraging words, put them in a sealed envelope, and open in your first few days back at work.  And remember, it will get better and it will get easier.