My Comfort Measures For Pumping

Mother setting up to pumpErin K, Illinois

After a really stressful time pumping at work in 2020-2021, I was super anxious about pumping for my next baby in 2023. As my return-to-work date approached and doom and gloom filled my mind, I began to think about the things that made pumping stressful and then determined which of these things I had control over.

I decided that the most important variable was my state of mind. I knew that my stress level played a role in how much milk I was able to produce since stress affects the release of oxytocin which is necessary for milk ejection (aka letdown). I began making a list of things that relaxed me and then highlighting the elements that I could apply to the pump-at-work situation (unfortunately, I was unable to bring my newborn to work with me which eliminated the highest-ranking item on my relaxation list: snuggling with my new baby).

What I came up with was a literal “bag of tricks.” Much like my doula bag that I utilized in my previous profession, my lovingly named “comfort measures for off-site lactation” bag contained a handful of my own personal sanity savers. There were some staples in my bag: an herbal flower essence to help relieve stress and anxiety, a small framed free-standing photograph of my little one, nipple ointment, water, healthy snacks, pre-downloaded relaxation podcasts, and musical playlists on my phone (plus earbuds). I also added special comfort items depending on the day: a thermos of hot tea, a book about mothering, and my personal favorite — under-eye hydrogel masks and a mini jade roller (pro tip: keep it in your cooler bag for a spa-like pumping experience).

On top of all of these things I focused on my breathing. I would set up my little station with whatever props I desired (or were practical depending on the designated pumping location). I would strap on my pump, and I would take at least three closed-eyed “belly breaths” (breathe in…two….three…four…feeling your belly expand…and out…two…three….four….).

I won’t pretend that pumping became a joyful part of my day, but I can absolutely say that this practice helped me relax into pumping at work this time around. It has helped me roll with the punches, so to speak, and there are always “punches.”

I no longer look to these breaks with the anxiety that I once felt, and I have noticed that the more I can relax, the easier the milk flows. That is the whole point, isn’t it?


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