La Lechería: The Mechanics of Pumping

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from my good friend who lives in China.  She was asking for some advice on dealing with some of the challenges of caring for a young baby as her baby is less than two-months-old.  Apparently most of the Chinese parenting books are written from the perspective that having a baby is the most joyous thing on earth and there is no reason to go into solving the difficulities of being a parent of a new baby because life with a new baby is all ice cream and sprinkles.

My friend Becca and I emailed back and forth with her to help her through some of the troubles she was experiencing.  Once he was sleeping better, one thing that came up was pumping as a way to increase milk production.  In my responses back and forth to her, I realized I am kind of an expert on pumping.  There are very things in this world I will claim to be an expert on, but folks, I can produce and pump milk with the best of them.

Anyway, after a couple of emails explaining the nitty gritty details of pumping I responded to  my friend that I would write a blog on the subject.  So here we are.

Pumping and I have a love-hate relationship.  I love it because it enables me to pursue my passions away from my baby without giving up breastfeeding.  I hate it because I am hooked up to a milk extraction device like a cow for almost an hour a day.  The fact of the matter is that as long as I am continuing to breastfeed in a manner where I am producing as much milk as Eloise is drinking, pumping is a necessity.

I hope that this very detailed account of my daily milk management activities will help other nursing or soon-to-be nursing mothers who will need to pump either because they are going back to work or just because they want to keep their milk supply up.

The day in the life of the lactating, working mom starts with a very necessary calendar appointment which blocks out time in my day to pump.  Up until Eloise was six-months-old, I pumped at both 10:30am and 2pm but lately I have been trying to just pump once, at lunch.  I often have to adjust the time to accommodate meetings, lunch dates, etc. The key is to have something in Outlook so you have time reserved to do it.

By the way, “Lecheria” means milk factory in Spanish.

When the calendar reminder pops up, I gather my pumping equipment and milk bag and walk to the Mother’s Room.

I am very fortunate that my company has TWO Mother’s rooms, one of which is brand new.

Here is my gear.

The pump, a Medela Pump In Style, with all of the pieces pulled out ready to be assembled.

Assembled and ready to pump.

Attached to the fembot, hands-free elastic band.

And…here we go.

I usually play Words With Friends, read Twitter or email while I am pumping.

Once I am finished, it is time to dissemble the pump and rinse the pieces with water so the milk doesn’t get caked on there.

The milk is already in bags which just need to be closed and placed in the ice bag.

Milk in the freezer bag.

This is probably a good time to note that when I pump at work, I pump directly into bags, but when I pump in the morning and evening from home, I pump directly into a bottle which attaches directly to the shield.  I don’t do this at work because it creates more pieces to clean.

I go back to my job and forget about milk until I have picked the kiddos up from work and am back home.  Once at home, the first thing I do is put Eloise’s leftover milk from the day into the fridge (the Nalgene bottle, not the milk bottle.)  This is milk that I defrosted in the morning and needs to be consumed in the next 24 hours or so.   I know I will save it for the first bottle Eloise will drink the next day.


Next, I pull out the bags of milk I pumped at work as well as the milk pumped in the morning that Eloise did not consume at daycare (in the bottle.)

I put the milk in the bottle into a bag and get ready to freeze.  Our freezer is stuffed to the gills so I have to be very strategic about how I store the milk.  That big Ziplock bag is refilled with frozen milk from a couple of weeks ago that has been freezing in the door of the freezer and hasn’t been able to fit in our main milk storage area.

Bags awaiting a Ziplock bag.

I like to reuse the Ziplock bags since they are not even getting dirty.

Our crowded freezer.

Bags of milk from August/September.

Bags awaiting room in a Ziplock bag.

After the nightly reshuffling of bags moving forward, there is finally room in the door for the new bags.  The reason this whole system is in place is because frozen breast milk only stays good for around three months in our freezer so I need to make sure Eloise is always drinking the oldest milk so that it does not go bad.

Once all of the milk has found its place in the freezer, it is time to clean all of the milk extraction and consumption tools.

I start with washing them in hot, soapy water.

Next I add them to our Avent microwave sterilizer and add seven ounces of water used to make steam.

Place in the microwave for three minutes.

Horray, clean and sterilized.

Fast-forward to the next morning when I am preparing Eloise’s milk for the day.  I have already pumped the excess milk I had after feeding her in the morning.  Now it is time to defrost the frozen milk to be used for the day.  We use a very high-tech beer mug filled with hot water and place the bag inside.

After a few minutes, the milk is thawed.


Put the old milk (in the fridge) from yesterday into the first bottle to be drunk.

Add Vitamin D drops at the request of the doctor.


Place thawed milk into the Nalgene to be used to refill the bottle later in the day.

I place a piece of masking tape on the bottle with the fresh milk pumped that morning to remind the daycare ladies to use it last since it can still be frozen since it is still fresh.  The reason I bring some fresh and some previously frozen milk is that logic tells me that the fresh milk will have immunity I have recently built up to the bugs going around town at the moment.  I want her to receive those immunities and so I mix it up with fresh and frozen milk.

As a sidenote, I heard the way my body knows which immunities to make in the breast milk is because of the contact her mouth has with the nipple.  It exposes my body to the bugs and my body starts making immunities, yet, I don’t get the bug because it is not entering my blood stream.  I am not sure if this is true, but it makes sense to me.

Eloise’s liquid diet with a side of carrots.

Ready to go to daycare.

It is A LOT of work, but she is worth it!



Cathy Song November 17, 2011 at 4:05 am

I love this one!
And your pumping system is so wonderful.

Rootie November 17, 2011 at 9:52 pm

Something nobody tells dads, so I had to learn the hard way — breast milk is sacred — do not allow or cause it to be spoiled, spilled, or wasted. This isn’t like milk from the grocery store “oh well, we’ll get some more”. There is a certain respect appropriate…

alecia November 18, 2011 at 8:38 am

ABSOLUTELY! I feel like Andy is walking on egg shells when dealing with breast milk because he knows how a spilled milliounce could upset me. I think he looks forward to when I am finished breastfeeding at this point so he can be more involved in the feeding and doesn’t have to deal with sacred breast milk. :)

Katie November 18, 2011 at 9:13 am

Thank you for posting this! I’m planning to pump when I go back to work, and I have no idea how to make this happen. This was really helpful. :)

alecia November 20, 2011 at 11:15 pm

Oh yay! I am glad I could help. Good luck! Feel free to send any questions you have as they come up.

Nana Jane November 21, 2011 at 9:47 am

Great article, Alecia. You’ve given both Belen and Eloise such a good head start as babies because of your commitment to breastfeeding. You’re such a good Mom….

Julie from ImNotaSupermom November 28, 2011 at 7:21 pm

Great post. Yes, it is a lot of work and yes it is so worth it. My son is older now, but I too, pumped at work and at home to keep supply up. I used the same pump and highly recommend it.
I envy your mother’s room though. My work wasn’t as accomodating and they weren’t required to provide me with anything more.
I had to use a very small, private bathroom in the middle of a truck repair shop, right on the shop floor!
I worked at a freight truck repair facility with all men. I had to walk by them all with my pump and they all knew not to page me during that time for any reason other than if the building was on fire!
They all knew what I was doing and I never quite got over that embarrassed feeling, but I did it anyway for the sake of my baby. And not one of them ever made any remark, so I was fortunate they were a great group of guys.

It just goes to show that if I can do it for a year in that type of environment, then anyone can and no one has any excuse not to pump at their work!

alecia November 28, 2011 at 9:41 pm

Wow! That is amazing! I cannot imagine pumping in that environment but I know what you mean, we do what we have to do! It is incredible what we are able to endure for the sake of our babies! Thanks for the comment!

Anne January 2, 2012 at 3:16 pm

This is a wonderful post- and good job! I am on my third breastfed baby and have worked- and pumped- with all three. It is hard to explain to others what a commitment pumping is- and even harder, once they get the time and effort involved, to explain why it is worth it!

alecia January 5, 2012 at 11:21 pm

Good for you. It is A LOT of work that I do feel is worth it. I have been struggling this week because I have now had a clogged duct (or something messed up) for two weeks now so I have been questioning myself if it is worth it to continue. Despite spending 4 hours a day trying to unclog the duct, I still haven’t felt like I wanted to give up, even though it has been frustrating.

To be honest, it is surprising to me how rare it is for women to work and breastfeed this long, however, I do understand from the perspective that you need to remain very committed for it to work.

Comments on this entry are closed.

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: