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I had my pumping bag packed and ready to go on my first day back to work after the birth of my daughter and totally thought I was prepared. But I was definitely a rookie! Here are some common mistakes made by new moms (guilty as charged) to avoid when you start your pumping journey at work.
1. Not wearing the right clothes
Pumping in the comfort of your own home is WAY different than pumping on the job where you are limited by both time and wardrobe. I made the mistake of wearing some of my old work attire when I first got back and it just didn’t work for pumping. AKA, don’t even THINK about wearing a dress!
Depending on your job this will be a little different for everyone, but what worked great for me was to purchase a hands-free bra that like this that also functioned as a normal bra I could wear the whole day. This allowed me to easily lift up my top and pump without having to do a bra switcheroo or hold in place.
2. Not having a proper way to transport milk
I had access to a refrigerator to store my bags of pumped milk in during the day, so I knew I didn’t need to worry about using a cooler and freezer packs just to drive home. I just didn’t consider how I WOULD get the milk home.
I quickly realized after my bags leaked all over the grocery bag I carried them home in on my first day that I needed a way to at least carry them upright and protected. Pro tip: If you are using milk storage bags make sure to get double zip ones and triple check that seal!
I ended up purchasing a Medela cooler, but anything that is sturdy and protects your milk from getting squished would work great.
3. Using milk storage bags when they are not needed
While necessary to freeze milk in storage bags while on maternity leave to build up a supply to send to daycare when I returned to work, it wasn’t necessary to continue using them for long.
It took me a while to figure out that I could simply pump into bottles and send them for my daughter’s consumption the next day at daycare without ever having to freeze it. But when I did, I saved so much time, money, and was able to provide fresher milk without having to freeze it!
Consider if this is an option for you and don’t assume you need to spend hundreds on milk storage bags.
4. Not putting a sign on the door
I was fortunate enough to have the option of using my own office to pump in at work. But I wrongly assumed locking the door would make it apparent to fellow colleagues that I was not, ahem, open for business at the moment.
The I.T. guys had keys to all offices and had a request to fix something in my office so after one very awkward encounter in which I was pumping and one of my male coworkers tried coming in to fix something (I had to scream to send him away) I learned I needed to post a sign on the door when pumping. It’s a nice courtesy to coworkers and can also prevent awkward encounters from happening to you. I like the simplicity of these!
If you have a specially designated private room in your workplace already….even better!
5. Not changing the membranes often
With my Pump In Style Medela pump, you are required to change the membranes often to keep the suction strong. Unfortunately, I didn’t know what the membranes were or what they did for a long time. I didn’t change them for months! When I did I immediately noticed an increase in my milk collection again. Oops!
Make sure you are familiar with YOUR pump and pack extra spare parts in your bag as necessary to avoid losing this costly mistake.
P.S. I would have known this and better so much better prepared had I taken this affordable, online back-to-work pumping class during my maternity leave.
6. Not drinking enough water
I can’t emphasize this enough. Drinking water is key to staying hydrated and keeping that milk flowing. I started to find myself getting so busy throughout the day that breaks and self-care were a challenge.
Personally, investing in a 64 oz water bottle is what finally got me to stay hydrated while at the office. I could fill it with fresh water once in the morning and by reaching my goal of finishing it by the end of the afternoon I was certain that I had consumed an appropriate amount of water at work. Everyone called it my “Mommy water” bottle and got a kick out of it. I loved it. Whatever it takes, do what you need to to stay hydrated!
7. Not leaving enough milk at daycare
I got a call in the middle of the day from Hazel’s daycare her second week there that they had run out of milk. Fortunately, rather than have them give her formula samples my amazing boss let me leave that afternoon early to go get her and breastfeed her.
The incident boiled down to two things: low supply of frozen milk, and lack of communication with daycare.
If I would have been more intentional about pumping on maternity leave, I could have saved a lot more in advance to send with her the first two weeks. I was always stressed about making enough and didn’t realize early on that the extra pumping would only HELP with this. Yes, it’s a lot of work. But I had to play catch up once I went back to work which was even more difficult.
Secondly, how much milk she took at daycare varied so much from day to day that even though they planned to communicate with me when they were low, she ran out of milk within one day of being super hungry! I needed to communicate better with them as well as send a bigger stash so that this didn’t happen.
If you are pumping, way to go, Mama! It’s never fun but pumping is such a gift to your baby. I hope you can avoid these mistakes and be a pro from day one!
I am always looking for tips, products, and hacks to improve the pumping experience so comment below with your favorite ideas!