Pumping Mamas: Heading Back to School

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Busy mother or mom pumping breastmilk by Automatic breast pump machine wirh Nursing fabric cover while typing on laptop pc computer on table. Motherhood in corporate office.

Maybe you’re returning to school after a break to have a baby. Or maybe you’re actually embarking on higher education for the first time. Either way, if you’re currently breastfeeding your LO, then there are some extra things you may need to take into consideration to lay the groundwork for a smooth experience. Sidenote: This post was written from the viewpoint of moms who attend classes in person. However, if you attend courses from home, you may still find some of this useful for times when you and LO may be separated at meal times.

  • Select a breast pump (obviously!)
    • Not all pumps are created equal. While this is not intended to be a comparison post, I encourage you to do your research on which ones are most raved about by moms and provide you the best value. Personally I used the Medela Pump in Style Advanced which allows for double pumping and comes fitted inside a tote bag. Bonus: It also comes with an insulated cooler and an ice pack. I chose it because double pumping shortens total time spent pumping and at the end of the day you can just toss everything in the tote and go. But again there are definitely other options, such a Spectra and Freemies, so do your homework.
  • Finding a pumping space
    • Society is still slowly adapting to the needs of pumping moms. Even if your school/workplace has a designated space, it might not be what you have in mind (aesthetics, distance, features, etc.). You may even find that an unoccupied office does the job better. Also consider sharing your thoughts on potential improvements for the space with the office responsible for student accomodations.
  • Milk storage
    • Where will you store milk during the day? Your options depend on how long will you be away from home with your expressed milk. Check out the La Leche League website for detailed guidance on how to store your milk and how long you can wait to put it in the fridge.
    • If you are planning to use a public fridge, I consider a storage bag to be a must have. This reduces the odds of your milk being misplaced or handled by random people. An insulated bag that can hold your milk bottles and ice pack (for transit) is ideal. Also, the sad reality is that people can be weird about knowing that there is human milk near their food. I find this to be a super immature reaction but just know that it could come up. Having your milk in an opaque bag/lunchbox/cooler of some sort may help people forget about it. You should still label your bag so that people do not take it out of the fridge or discard it.
  • Pump part storage and sanitization
    • I like to refrigerate my parts in between pumping sessions. This is not strictly required. It just depends on how much time would elapse between pumping sessions. Remember, it’s OK for milk to be at room temperature for 4 hours (La Leche League).
    • Just make sure you have a resealable bag to keep them in.
    • There are also wipes on the market that have been designed for sanitizing pump parts in between proper cleanings.
    • Think about where can you store extra supplies. If you don’t have an office, maybe HR, a supportive faculty member, etc. can store some things. Other schools may have lockers for rent. It is worth it to have extra pump parts, a hand pump, tubing, etc. somewhere nearby. Not to mention carrying your school supplies and pumping supplies back and forth is no small feat.
  • Timing
    • Overall: Time your postpartum return to the classroom (and other facets of life) realistically. There are laws to protect students from being discriminated against at school. You may be eligible for a leave of absence as well as certain academic accommodations depending on your institution and the specifics of your situation. There’s no shame in taking care of yourself. I tried to rush back and ended up rushing to withdraw when I realized I was not yet ready!
    • School days: Make a rough schedule of when you will need to leave class, meetings, or whatever to pump. Research your rights and inform relevant people, such as instructors, of your needs ahead of time.
  • Motivation
    • Quickly transitioning from your daily activities to pumping can be stressful at times. You might feel rushed or have a lot on your mind. A stressed mindset can impact your milk output.
    • One way to combat this is packing a few things that relax you such a picture of your LO, a calming playlist, or maybe even an essential oil such as lavender.
  • A nursing ally
    • This is somewhat optional, but it’s always nice to have someone to support you and who is comfortable enough to put away your milk if you forget it on your desk 🙂

I hope this list gave you a few ideas on things to plan for as you return to school! Let me know in the comments if there is anything else that you consider must haves for pumping ScholarMoms.

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