How to Pump at Work (Without Embarrassing Yourself)

Secrets to Pumping at Work (Without Embarrassing Yourself)

You’re breastfeeding.

And in a few weeks you’re going to be moving your “center of operations” out of the living room and into the workplace.


Think that over for just a sec.

Your breastural region is going to be stretched twice it’s normal size by a strange contraption in an extremely awkward position.

There’s a high chance of  wardrobe malfunctions, poorly timed leaks, and coworkers who never knock.

Don’t just try to sail into this.

Those “Little Ladies” have a mind of their own.  (Speaking from experience, here…can you tell?)

They really don’t care that you have a presentation in 10 minutes…or that your 7th grade class is mostly pubescent boys….or that you’re the only woman on the 3rd shift.

You need to return to work prepared for a boobie blitzkreig.

Gather Your Emergency Milk
Disaster Prevention Kit


The first rule of disaster survival.

Clear out a drawer, friend.  It’s time to put together your Emergency Milk Disaster Prevention Kit.

Inside this drawer, locker, bag, whatever, will be everything you need to conduct your pumping sessions as quickly and inconspicuously as possible.

Remember:  “Prevention is worth an ounce of cure being able to look at your coworkers in the eye.”  So stock your nursing drawer!

How to Pump at Work (Without Embarrassing Yourself) - Setting Up Your Milk Disaster Prevention Kit for Pumping at Work -

1.  Bring a healthy stash of nursing pads (these are a favorite).  Because wadded up toilet paper is for 4th graders. :-)

2.  Invest in a heavy-duty breast pump.  This is not the place to skimp.  Borrow and sterilize or splurge for a hands-free machine like this.  If you’re going to be pumping at work, you’ll need to go big or go home (literally).  This isn’t the place for a less-expensive pumper.  Those versions are best for casual at-home use, not for “I work full time and want to keep breastfeeding” hardcore use.

3.  Keep a stash of thick burp cloths like these.  When you’ve finished, your nipples are going to be wet and needing something more gentle than sandpaper towels and disintegrating kleenex to mop up.  (Just don’t forget to bring them home to wash them!  Sour milk isn’t a nice Eau de Cologne…)

4.  Ditch the traditional breastfeeding bras and choose a comfortable hands-free pumping bra like this one.  You’re going to feel somewhat like a milk cow, but hey, what’s new?  At least you’re a comfortable milk cow…

5.  Pick up an extra nursing cover.  (I love UdderCovers – see their daily coupon.)  At some point or another you’re going to forget to lock the door and that light piece of cloth is the only thing between you and 59-year-old Joe’s next heart attack.

6.  Most breast pumps come in a standard boring “I pump my breasts at lunchtime” black duffle bag.  NO ONE is going to guess there’s a milking contraption hidden inside this gorgeous leather breast pump satchel.

7.  The standard shields are designed to to shoot straight, which means you can’t lean back or milk will spill everywhere.  These angled shields are heaven sent.  (I always had to sit completely straight up – like I was posing for some twisted Victorian painting. …le milker… It felt so awkward and killed my back!)

8.  Bring along good milk storage bags to transport the milk home easily and without the bulk of plastic bottles.

9.  Store away a neutral colored blouse (that will go with anything) in your desk.  Trust me.  Having an extra shirt that matches everything may be the best tip you read on this page.

How to Stay Classy (While Pumping at Work)

Besides your Emergency Milk Disaster Prevention Kit, here are a few more helpful suggestions to keep it classy (as your nipples are taffy-stretched).

  • Return from Cracked Nippleville before returning to work.  It’s almost impossible to wear nipple shields and not look like a Fembot, so take my nipple healing advice and do your Austin Power’s cosplay at home.
  • Look for professional shirts that can be easily adjusted to pump. You want something that has buttons up the front or can be lifted from the bottom without over-stretching.  Non-cooperative clothing can make pumping milk at work a disaster.  It could cause the pump to slip, letting you spray milk all over the report you’re presenting in 3 minutes.  (Ignore those stains, Mr. Chairman.  That’s just my breast milk.)
  • Always have a giant water bottle, a relaxing book, and a photo of your sweet little baby to look at.  They will help you set aside the stress of work and allow your body to letdown.  Also helpful, is to try escaping into the most beautiful places on earth. 

Other Tips for Pumping at Work Successfully

Besides putting together your “Emergency Milk Disaster Prevention Kit”, here are some other tips to help your pumping at work be as easy and painless as possible.

Make Sure You’re Using the Right Size

Size matters.  

After purchasing your breast pump, have a lactation consultant help you make sure the standard hardware is a good fit for your areolas.  The wrong size will lead to breastfeeding and milk production problems.

Two is Better Than One

Firstly, once you’ve settled on the perfect size, buy two sets of all tubing, shields, and cups.  This way you won’t have to sterilize during the evening Zombie time.  Just slip the used equipment into the dishwasher/sterilizer in the morning and bring the fresh set with you to work.

Zombified Secrets to Quick Pump Cleaning

Perhaps it’s just  me, but my evenings after work were like the walking dead.

Cameron and I developed a whole new language based completely on grunts.

Use these “Zombified” tips to keep your breast pump sanitized and ready for the morning commute.  (Promise! They require absolutely no brainpower!)

  • Put the used pump parts in a plastic bag and store in a cooler or in the office fridge (have mercy on your awkward male coworkers and put it in a paper bag) immediately after being used.  This keeps the milk from going bad while you’re finishing up the work day.
  • Use these quick sanitizing wipes for any spills on the desk and to quickly sanitize equipment before stashing back into your travel bag.
  • In the evening, the fastest way to deeply sanitize the tubing and other parts is to use these quick sanitizer bags in the microwave.  One bag is good for 20 uses!
  • Every weekend, soak the pieces overnight in soapy water.  This loosens up any milk that has gotten caught or dried in the little nooks and crannies.  Wash and air dry or through in the dishwasher for a mega-clean to start the week off sparkling!

Pumping at Work is Exhausting…
Clear the Evening of To-Do’s

The back-to-work adjustment for a breastfeeding mom is a toughie.

Firstly you have all the physical arrangements to work out. (Hopefully this post has helped with those!)

Then there are all the emotions of actually going back to work and leaving your baby at daycare.  It’s rough for both of you.  It’s very normal during this period for a baby to wake up at night more, wanting those extra calories and mom-cuddles.

For this reason, if you can, see if you can come back to work on a Wednesday (rather than a Monday).  This way there are only a few days of work before a weekend respite.

When the time comes, give yourself extra levels of grace and (most importantly) outsource as many chores as you can.

Get Rid of the Grocery Store Grumps

If you haven’t yet discovered the tear-jerking relief of getting your groceries delivered.  NOW’S THE TIME.  Peapod is the fav around my neighborhood, but Safeway is another good choice.

You can save $15 off your Peapod order with code PPCJ15 until April 30, 2014.

Grocery shopping at the store is for parents who have sleeping children.  Online grocery shopping takes one more heavy stone out of your backpack.  Fill up your virtual cart right there at your desk, while you’re pumping away, and get them delivered the next evening.

Skip the “What’s for Supper” Panic

Besides grocery delivery, my 2nd least favorite task is meal planning.  *shudder*  

  • I’m a picky eater, so I can’t just “wing it”.  I need a plan.  A recipe.
  • I also get bored easily.  Taco Tuesday and Spaghetti Saturday never happen at my house.

Two years ago I discovered the ladies at eMeals and been a loyal customer ever since.

In particular, I would check out their slow-cooker weekly meal plans.  Is there anything more divine than walking into the kitchen and seeing dinner is already ready?  Download a free slow-cooker sample here.

The best thing about eMeals is that it’s dirt cheap.  

It runs as low as $5 a month, and you can change meal plans at any time.

I’m pretty sure it’s saved me at least a dozen stress wrinkles.

Try it for yourself.  Choose your favorite meal plan.

Sometimes the Best Things Aren’t Easy

Deciding to continue to breastfeed when you go back to work isn’t a guarantee that you’ll be able to.

Pumping at work is a lot of extra effort, and pumping is not the same as a babe-on-breast.  You may find your supply needs a boost.

So it’s always good to enter this next phase of your breastfeeding career with a realistic view.

So what happens if you “give it the ‘ole college try” and decide to wean?  Are you still a good mom?

Absolutely.  :-)  Here’s a dirty little secret….everyone weans eventually!  Research shows that breastfeeding, even if it’s just for a short while, is GREAT for your baby.  Guilt, begone!

I’d love to hear from moms who have found the balance to breastfeeding and working outside the home.

What helped you get through those first beginning months, when you’re just getting your pumping routine established?  

 I ♥ honesty. Affiliate links may be present. (See what this means.)

The cartoon used in the title graphic was done by © sanrankune11 –


  1. Heather,


    I giggled at this post because I experienced the male co-workers not knocking on my door… even though it was locked! I had to start putting a sign that said, “Do not disturb. Conference call in session.” That way, no one knew what I was really up to and dared not enter. I loved the list of essentials. I never had any malfunctions but I could have! Way to help new moms think ahead!!

    Ann :-)

  2. Good Article. I was lucky enough to have a lactation room at work; nothing fancy, just a recliner with a small side table and electrical outlet. The problem I had and will have with going back with baby #2 is making pumping a priority without being seen as a slacker (being late to the 11:00 meeting because I’ve been in meetings since 8:00 and if I don’t pump right now there’s going to be a milk explosion in this office!!!)

    Also, a tip for anyone, skip the expensive nursing bra and cut two small holes in an old sports bra. This only works for the shields that detach from the valves, not the type thats all one piece. I used this at work all the time.

    • Nicki – that’s so nice you had a lactation room! Sounds like a haven where you can sit back in the recliner and relax for a little while. It is hard for the (typically unmarried) male gender to understand the physical requirements of breastfeeding. Perhaps they think that boobs just continue to swell and swell until we’re floating on the ceiling… lol Love that tip about the old sports bra! Brilliant!

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