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Making It Work

Expressing Milk at Work, 2

From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 11 No. 1, January-February 1994, pp. 27-8

We provide articles from our publications from previous years for reference for our Leaders and members. Readers are cautioned to remember that research and medical information change over time.

"Making It Work" is a regular feature of the magazine NEW BEGINNINGS, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of NEW BEGINNINGS to help mothers who wish to combine breastfeeding and working. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's lifestyle. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.


I am expressing milk at work twice a day. I have to use conference rooms to do this as there is no facility, and the women's room does not have electrical outlets. Often when I am carrying my breast pump (in its case) someone asks me what I am carrying. What can I say? I would not mind telling some people the truth, but I don't want to cause anyone, including myself, embarrassment.


I experienced a similar situation where I worked several years ago. What I eventually did was develop a way of carrying my equipment so that no one knew my business.

When my daughter was ten weeks old I returned to work full time. I was using a small battery-operated pump for several months and carrying my blue ice in a thermal bag. I felt somewhat self-conscious about carrying my bag back and forth to a private restroom. What I eventually tried to do was hand express milk into the plastic liner bags used with bottles. To keep the bag open while expressing the milk, I slipped the plastic liner bag over the top of a bottle ring that holds the nipple to the bottle. I took twist ties and bottle liners (double bag your milk) in my jacket pocket along with the ring. When I got back to my desk I put the bag of milk into a makeup bag that contained a small size blue ice and placed all of this into my "large" handbag. This kept the milk cold until I got home.

Another suggestion would be to carry all of your equipment in a "large" handbag. People will never ask you why you are carrying your handbag! Whatever you do, don't give up. Read as many books on this subject that you can get your hands on. Your child will be healthier through your efforts.

Madelin Lee, Haddonfield
New Jersey, USA


I also express milk at work, once a day during lunch. I carry a large sports bag with my pump, a small cooler, disposable nurser bags, a blanket, and other supplies.

Whenever someone casually asks: "Are you going to work out?" or some other question, I say "yes" and laugh regardless of what they say since that reply doesn't require an additional explanation.

When I've been asked straight out "What's that?" I might answer "My supplies," or "my bag of tricks."

I prefer to tell people individually that I am pumping milk for my baby since I receive encouragement and the word does spread and fewer questions are asked.

Everyone that I've told has been very supportive. One co-worker said his wife breastfed their four kids and he thought it was a wonderful thing to do.

When a conference room isn't available and I have to use a restroom I enjoy the company of the women coming in and out. When they say, "Oh, how inconvenient!" I always reply, "But breastfeeding is not inconvenient at 3:00 AM and at 6:00 AM and 11:00 PM when I'm tired or when we're out shopping or visiting!"

Good luck to you. I'm sure you miss the company of friends during lunch as I do. But I know I'll miss Katie's and my breastfeeding relationship even more when it's over.

Jane Stephenson
Brighton, Michigan, USA


I live in the suburbs but work in downtown Chicago. I take a train to and from my office, carrying my pump not only from room to room within my firm's quarters when seeking available private pumping space, but also on the train, and walking down the city streets. Unsolicited comments I received from strangers, who had no idea what I was carrying, included "That's a great lunch box!" "What kind of laptop computer do you have in there?" or some would think that I was an artist, carrying my art supplies to/from work or school. Others even thought it was a fishing tackle box! Usually, I would just smile and go on my way quietly; however, if a young woman ever questioned me, I would discreetly let her know that I was carrying an electric breast pump to collect milk for my baby.

As for how to respond to co-workers who question, just use your judgment. I think any woman would certainly be interested to know what it is, considering most women are or will become mothers one day and may be glad to know the options available to them. As for male co-workers, many are fathers and are not shocked by pumping breast milk and I've even had some confide in me about their own wives' or sisters' breastfeeding experiences after the subject was opened up. Many people are amazed at the fact that a mother can feed her baby breast milk exclusively and still work outside the home and I believe that this is an important message to convey to the world. If a co-worker you don't feel comfortable confiding in asks, or if you're on a crowded elevator and someone asks you what you're carrying (which happened to me several times), suffice it to say "it's lunch (or dinner)," and you won't be lying since it literally provides lunch or dinner for your baby.

I was so pleased that, with the help of an excellent electric pump, I was able to continue breastfeeding my children until they weaned themselves. By helping to inform and educate others about the opportunities to pump breast milk, more babies may be breastfed for longer periods of time. In fact, I see quite a few women in downtown Chicago carrying around those familiar blue cases with carrying straps and I smile every time I see one!

Janet Barrow Ford
Elk Grove Village, Illinois, USA

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