I pumped for both my girls from the time I went back from maternity leave until their first birthdays, so for a total of about nineteen months or 380 workdays, I pumped at work. I'd estimate that's upwards of 850 pumping sessions. At 20 minutes per session, that's about 7 1/2 workweeks'-worth of time spent in the pumping room. If I hadn't learned how to be professionally productive during that time, I would have essentially stolen another maternity leave, spread out over two years!
And, if I hadn't learned how to be lactationally productive during that time, I would have been wasting everybody's time and a lot of trouble.
So here are some tips (some I learned personally, some from friends) about being all-around productive while pumping at work.
3 Tips for Being Professionally Productive
- Find a good space. If you work alone or have an office with a door on it, you're in luck. You just need to find some desk space with room for your pump in addition to your work, that is close to an outlet. If you have to use a conference room or designated pumping room, you might not have access to a computer, but if there's space to work, you can find other tasks to do while pumping (see item 2). This was the case for me, but both times I had a comfortable space with plenty of table room for my pump, supplies, and work.
- Save certain tasks for pumping time. With our dependence on computers these days, there are fewer and fewer work tasks that can be done without them. The iPad helped a little this second time around, but I still needed to plan and save tasks that didn't require my big machine for pumping time. For me, this was things like proofing hard copies of books and magazines, doing research in hard-copy books, brainstorming (I prefer pen and paper for that), or doing small tasks on the iPad. If you're about to do something in your office that doesn't require the computer, stop and set it with your pump so you can take it and do it then.
- Go hands-free. Hopefully you've at least figured out how to hold both breast shields with one arm/hand, so you have one hand free while pumping, but if you can have both hands free, you can work that much easier! One friend of mine really recommends a hands-free pumping bra, like a bandeau or bustier with holes in it that you can put on to hold up the shields for you. This second time around, I just left my nursing bra clipped, and the cups held them up for me, but depending on your bra, you might need a special thing for it.
- Ensure your privacy. Stress is a big milk-buster, so if you're nervous about someone walking in, or otherwise feeling too exposed, it's going to hurt your milk production. If you have a room with a lock on it, use it (duh), but if you don't, make a sign to hang up each time. I've seen cute doorhangers, though I felt safer with something at eye level. I made a sign that said "Privacy Please. Do Not Enter," and had it laminated so it would last. I kept it and a roll of tape in my pumping bag so I could post it every time and it wouldn't get torn up.
- Time it right. Keep track of when you pump and how much you make for the first week or so you are back at work. What patterns do you see? Generally, the more often you pump, and the longer the session, the more you will make, but work doesn't always make that easy. I at first wanted to do three sessions for Claire like I did for Kate, but the room this time was so far from my office, I reduced it to two pretty quickly, and had to pump morning and night as well at home, just to get enough for her daily needs. (Four pumping sessions to make the three bottles we sent to school.)
- Prepare during maternity leave. With Kate, I was already prepared because she didn't nurse and I started pumping for her from the very first week. By the time I went back to work, it was old hat and I had both a great milk supply and a good frozen stash built up as back up. This was one downside of Claire being such a great nurser. I only pumped a few times over maternity leave, so my body hadn't adjusted to it and was dependent on Claire's 1-2 hour schedule. And I had little to no frozen stash to fall back on. It was day-to-day for the first month or so, sending to school every bit of milk I'd pumped the day before, and my frozen stash was always pretty small. So work ahead to build up a frozen stash to take some of the pressure off those first few weeks back at work.