How the heck are we supposed to work at the office all day and still nourish our young. Medela, oh sweet Medela, how you make it easy for us working mamas to continue offering nam-nam to our babies.
When I had the first baby, I was the third to deliver in a cluster of two other expecting moms. When I returned to work, they already had the pump routine down pat. On my first day back, they came by my cube at 10:30am. "C'mon, let's go," they said. Off we snuck, each of us with a Pump-in-Style over our shoulder. While I was still on maternity leave, they had secured an unused office to mark as our nursing territory. We three shared a key, and the office was otherwised locked. This is where we three pumped, pumped, and pumped gallons of milk over the course of the next several months. We were like the pumping mafia. We could exchange knowing looks summoning one another to our calls of duty; we shared a bond. In the war room, facing each other as we pumped, we'd share stories of sleepless nights, "Ferberizing" our babies, introducing solids, grandparental antics, stroller and sling reviews. Those few months of hard-core pumping was affirming. To have mamas in similar states as me (the oft engorged state) made it a little easier.
The second time around, when I returned to work, I was lucky to have my own office. When pump time came along, I'd just close the door. I could continue working (or web-surfing), and I was pretty relaxed in my own space. When I switched jobs, I was stuck back in a cube farm. I had two options when it came to pumping: 1) trek up 3 flights of stairs to the quiet room or 2) pump in the bathroom. By this time, I had no shame. Pumping in the ladies room was more convenient and it was fine by me. It was probably weird for the other ladies to walk into the restroom to see me pumping in the corner, watching myself in the mirror. **eeewwwww**
At my husband's office, his next-door cube-mate simply put up a shower curtain for her privacy, and that was enough. She could then continue working and pump away.
Here are some things that worked for me through my two stints of pumping. I know these things seem so commonplace, and maybe you've heard it all before, but here goes:
1 - Get comfortable. During my first pumping stint, I felt so comfortable pumping with my two other mama friends. When I would pump alone, I remember feeling a little nervous and lonely. I was paranoid that my milk supply was affected by the nervousness. Being comfortable and relaxed helps the milk come down. So, find a place that will work for you, and make sure it's secure so you don't need to worry about uncomfortable intrusions. Every workplace should have a quiet room. Also seek out small conference rooms that lock, lit storage rooms that also lock, clean bathrooms or ladies' lounges, locker areas.
2 - Schedule your pump times. If you work in a busy meeting-intensive environment, you can schedule your pump times into your Outlook calendar (as a private appointment). For me, it deterred people from trying to suck me into meetings at that time. As much as possible, try to stick to your pump times. I have left meetings where the end was nowhere in sight and when I already felt myself leaking in my bra. Pumping works best spread out during the day, and done during a time to replace a normal feeding. When I was on the twice-a-day pump schedule, I would pump at 10:30am then again around 2:30pm. I would feed before I went to work, around 6:30am, then again when I got home from work, around 5pm. That seemed to be spread out enough, and it seemed like a good routine when I would be engorged enough to pump at my designated times.
3 - Relax and think of your cute baby! The Medela pumps have the photo slot for a reason. Staring at a picture of your baby does nothing but send good vibes to your nam-nams and entices them to let-down. If you're trying to increase supply, go ahead and pump away for a good 10-20 minutes after let-down. You can stimulate more production after a few days when your body readjusts. And, don't worry. By trying to pump, you're doing the best thing possible for your baby. I constantly have nursing paranoia: I'm not producing enough; I'm such a bad mama. I have to actively take long, deep breaths to relax and remember that, doggonit, I am good enough.
4 - Go for the long haul if you're upping production. I have had moments when I dump out a mere ounce on each boob after let down. And what a let down that is! We're made to produce when there's demand, right? I love the heavy-duty industrial pump (the Pump-in-Style) for helping get production up. For me, after I let down, I'd continue to pump for another 10 or 20 minutes! Yes - after let-down! I think that's the trick. It was a little sad to watch my poor little nam-nams get nothing but air sucked out of them. But, in due time, I was finding that my inital dump would result in more than just one ounce per side. On occasion during this marathon pumping sessions, I would have two let-downs. Weird.