In an ideal world, a new mother would have the choice to stay home with her baby for a full year of rest (ha!), bonding, and breastfeeding. But in our world, where breastfeeding rates and dual-earning households are both on the rise, more and more new mothers are re-entering the workforce before they are ready to close the door on breastfeeding.
What this means, in short, is a hell of a lot of women at work, attached to machines to pump breast milk for their babies. These women are hidden away in offices, storage closets, cars, toilet stalls, airplanes, and conference rooms. Sometimes, to the envy of the rest of us, they are even doing their business in actual employer-provided lactation rooms.
Pumping breast milk is a part-time job on top of the full-time job, not to mention that other little thing about going home and raising a baby. So it's no wonder that working, breastfeeding women are vertiable magicians when it comes to hacking their jobs, their breast pumps, and their surroundings to make it all work.
If you're going back to work after baby, these ten tricks - brought to you by the hundreds of working mothers I've interviewed - will save you time, money, and sanity. (If we've missed any, please add your own tricks and hacks in the comments!)
10. If you forget a pump bottle, steam-sterilize a coffee cup to catch the milk in. Wash and rinse, then add 1 oz. of water. Cover with a saucer or plate, and microwave for 2 minutes.
9. If you hang a "do not disturb" sign on the door of your lactation room, make sure it's at eye level for men, too. They might not notice a sign hung down by at their chest-level.
8. If your regular "lactation room" is a closet or other room with no lock, hang a curtain on a tension rod inside the door to create an extra barrier between you and any intruders. It'll buy you 5 seconds to frantically shout "occupied!"
7. If you forget breast pads, cut a pantyliner in half and stick it inside your bra cups. It even has adhesive!
6. If you see water inside your pump tubes, run the pump, with tubes attached (but without the pump parts attached), for 5 minutes after each pumping session. This will dry the tubes out and prevent mildew from growing.
5. If you forget ice packs when flying with breast milk, ask a flight attendant or airport bartender to fill some of your breast milk storage bags - or, in a real pinch, an airsick bag - with ice.
4. If you don't have time to wash your pump parts between pumping sessions, throw them in a large zip-top plastic bag and put the bag in the fridge until next time. It's sanitary, I swear.
3. Freeze bags of milk flat on their sides, with no more than 6 oz. per bag. They will freeze into flat little bricks that will be easy to stack in your freezer (or in a shoebox inside your freezer).
2. If pumping while sitting on a public toilet (yep, that happens), put a sticky note over the automatic flush sensor to stop it from flushing on your bum. If you can't stand the idea of sitting on the toilet, stand up! Hang your pump bag from the coat hook on the inside of the stall door.
1. If you spill breast milk on your keyboard, tell the IT department it was coffee. No one has to know.
Thanks to all of you smart mamas who shared your design tips and hacks with me.
A version of this piece was originally posted at http://italkaboutboobs.wordpress.com/2014/03/23/10-best-hacks-for-the-working-breastfeeding-mom/