'What's That Sound?' Tips For Making Pumping At Work Less Awkward


mother feeding baby


Amanda Riojas
Amanda Riojas
After months of waiting, I was excited to finally be moving into a new office at work! As a pumping mom, I was so grateful that the building manager let me pick my own space: I chose the largest office, with big windows, a great view, and a locking door. (Privacy! Yay!) Walking into the new space for the first time, I turned on the lights and looked at my brand-new office...with an interior-facing window.
Ohmygod. I’m pumping at work. I work in an office full of men. And, I have an interior-facing window. Ohmygod.
Okay, initially it was extremely awkward, but over the last year, I’ve learned that a little ingenuity (and some extremely large Post-it notes) can create a mama sanctuary where you can become a pumping pro.
The transformation into working mom begins at home. By the time maternity leave is over and you're preparing for breast pumping at work, you’ll be well-acquainted with stretchy tank tops and unsupportive bras with little snaps—but they don’t always look the most professional. Prepare yourself for returning to office culture by grabbing nursing-friendly pieces that are both functional and fashionable.
My nursing top of choice was the clip down tank from Motherhood Maternity and Jessica Simpson. They tend to run a little small in the bust (big downside when dealing with engorgement), but—even when buying a size up—the shelf bra is supportive and the lace detail makes it perfect for layering underneath a sweater or button-down shirt.
It’s also easy to spot a nursing mom at the office by her gear: a large bulky bag with lots of zippers and lots of pockets, in addition to her purse! (Ever looked at a woman lugging around two huge bags and wondered, “Why does she need two purses???” Well, maybe she’s a pumping mom…#themoreyouknow).
The good news is that there are gorgeous pumping bags from a variety of designers and retailers, so you’re sure to find something that matches your style and budget.
Medela offers a variety of bag styles, from backpack to tote or sling, to accommodate their broad line of pumps, including the widely-used Pump In Style Advanced. But, what if you’re missing the smell of leather? At the other end of the spectrum, Coach offers two styles of diaper bag that could easily double as a pumping bag for a smaller pump.
Now, what to do about the actual pump? Through the Affordable Care Act, many women are able to get a high quality dual-nozzle pump that is completely covered by insurance, but at the peak of breastfeeding—pumping a few dozen ounces of milk per day—it’s a great idea to have two pumps: one electric, one manual pump.
When I was at home, I didn’t pump (because my insatiable little eater was there to give me a hand), but I still found myself bringing the pump home everyday, just in case. Having a hand pump allowed me to leave the bulky electric pump at work and still have a pump on-hand in case I needed to relieve the pressure.
I would love to tell you that I was able to find a magic electric pump that doesn’t sound like two Transformers having a thumb war. Sorry, no such luck. (And, if you do find it, kindly email me immediately. Kthxbi.) But, thanks in part to the creativity of Kickstarter entrepreneurs, hands-free pumps and pumps designed to be worn under clothing are becoming a thing! Products like the Freemie cups allow for discreet, under-the-shirt pumping in the office, while the (under development) Mighty Mom utility case is designed to muffle the sound of the air pump.
Let’s finish developing the feel of your mama sanctuary away from home: it’s hard to pull on that pumping bra, strap on the tubes and nozzles, flip the switch, and not think that your coworkers are all outside your office, listening and gossiping about the weird mechanical sound.
In that case, I recommend using your phone to take some video of your little one chowing down; when you’re in the office, you can put your headphones on and put on the soothing audio of baby’s suckling to drown out the world (and encourage your letdown!).
Relaxing music also works well—turn off the lights, close the blinds, and do what you need to create a private atmosphere that will allow you to focus on the pumping.
Of course, it’s worth mentioning that not all pumping mamas have offices—not all of us have secure doors to close or designated spaces for privacy, and it’s harder for some of us to make pumping a part of the schedule.
Good luck, Mama—stay hydrated, grab that fenugreek tea, and remember: you can do this.
For more discussion on the difficulties of workplace pumping and being a nursing mom in the office, see another Fairygodboss article, “Breastfeeding Moms Want More Support at Work.”
Dr. Amanda G. Riojas is a Scientific Computing Researcher living in Austin, TX. She is also the Advice Section Editor for the Scientista Foundation Advice Blog, Liaison to the Corporation Associates Committee of the American Chemical Society, and Chair of the ACS Central TX Local Section Women Chemists Committee. Amanda basically spends all of her time trying to tell everyone that women are awesome—because she has a daughter now and wants her to know that girls can do anything.


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