Some of these things are unavoidable, and unfortunately, all have happened to me. In the process of pumping at work for my three kids (over 38 months of hauling my pump to work every day!), I learned how to minimize the chance that something embarrassing or stressful would occur. Here are my top tips for avoiding pumping disasters.
Keep an extra set of everything at work
Every day you have to pack your pump bag. You need your pump parts, clean bottles to pump into, caps for the bottles, and (for some pumps) the adapter for plugging the pump in.
It's inevitable that you will forget at least one of these at some point. You're probably sleep deprived and pack your bag on autopilot while you try to take care of your baby and do a million other things.
The most stressful situation I had was during a busy day at work when I sat down to pump at 9 am, assembled my pump parts - and realized that I had left my breast shields at home. I didn't have time to go all the way home, I couldn't make it through the day without pumping, and I am terrible at hand expression.
I ended up buying a manual pump at the drugstore down the street for $40 just for the breast shields. (They didn't have just pump parts for sale, just the manual pump.) I made it through the day, but this was less than ideal because it was expensive, I basically spent $40 for one flange, and it was a different brand than my electric pump and didn't fit very well.
To avoid situations like this, I have learned to leave an extra of everything that I need at work. A duplicate set of pump parts, flanges, extra valves, two bottles to pump into and freezer bags to transport milk home in case I forgot the caps or enough bottles. Additionally, I have an extra power source for the pump that I keep at work all of the time. Leaving an extra set of everything at work will make it a lot less likely you'll find yourself in a stressful situation.
Put a blanket on your lap while you pump
Spilling breast milk that you worked hard to pump is awful. (Crying over spilled milk is totally fine when it's breast milk that was spilled!) What can add insult to injury is having to go back to your desk with breast milk all over your pants after a spill. Additionally, when I unhook myself from the pump, a lot of times some extra drops will come out when I disconnect the bottles from the pump parts.
To mitigate the risk of this, put an extra baby blanket in your pump bag and then put it on your lap while you pump. It will catch any stray drops that come out of the pump and make any larger spills less disastrous.
Use a ritual when you lock the door to the pumping room
Sometimes it's far too easy to forget to lock the pumping room door — every pumping and working mother has a million things going on in her head at any given time. At the same time, being walked in on by a co-worker when you're pumping is the worst. It's embarrassing for everyone involved.
One thing that worked for me is to create a ritual related to locking the door when I go into the lactation room. Basically, what I do is go in the room, immediately lock the door, and then take my shoes off and leave them in front of the door.
Taking off my shoes is completely unnecessary, but it creates a habit and if I don't do it - all of the steps in the normal order - something feels off, my brain clicks in from whatever else I was thinking about, and I remember to lock the door.
Being prepared in these ways will make it less likely that you'll have something stressful and embarrassing happen to you when you're pumping. Of course, as I said above, some pumping disasters that happen at work are unavoidable - in these cases, the best preparation is a good sense of humor and not taking yourself too seriously.
Amanda Glenn has three kids (6, 4, and 15 months) and has spent so much time hooking herself up to a breast pump that she started a blog about it.
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