by Lisa Boettcher
In any profession, getting out of the office for a day to attend a conference or workshop can actually be enjoyable. Think: getting away from your desk, learning new things, having interesting conversations, finding new motivation for your role, and even being fed lunch and snacks! Getting out of the office for a day to attend a workshop or conference as a working, pumping mother, though, can be a different story. This day out of the office requires a little additional planning and prepping -- and a whole lot of flexibility.
I’ve had my fair share of these day-long experiences, and so I am here to share that as working, pumping mother, I completely understand that days out of the office bring a new set of challenges. but, I also know it’s nothing that can’t be worked around.
I recently attended a workshop that was about an hour away from where I live. The timeframe was 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., so I quickly recognized that this timeframe would alter some of my typically office day pumping plans. I looked at the agenda that the facilitator sent out ahead of time and saw that there were scheduled breaks. I consider that a win! the location of the workshop was at a large hotel, so I didn’t feel the need to call ahead to ensure there was a room available. I just simply let the convener of the event know that i would need Mother’s Room accommodations. I planned ahead in order to nurse my baby before I left for my commute and decided on a 10:30 AM pumping time (during the scheduled workshop break) and then pump again at the conclusion of the workshop, right around 3:00 PM prior to commuting back. When I arrived, I checked in with the front desk attendant who was able to find me adequate space. I kept my pumping supplies with me during the day, slipped out during break and returned to the Mother’s Room once more before I departed for the day.
That may seem like a quick overview and may make the experience over simplified. In all actuality, there are a lot of components to leaving your typical routine while you’re a pumping mother, and several considerations to make and items to pack. because of that, I’ve decided to create a checklist for mamas to reference when they’re prepping for their own conference days.
CONFERENCE DAY PUMPING CHECKLIST
1. Scope out the time frame and agenda.
First things first. When does the conference start and end? Are there breaks scheduled in the agenda that you could flex your pumping sessions around in order to minimize missing out on content and conversations?
2. Plan your pumping times. Be flexible.
Keep in mind that pumping on these days is a lot easier if you stay flexible. If you typically pump every morning at 9:30 AM but there is a scheduled break at 10:00 AM, it may actually be less stressful if you flex your time around. I used to be so strict with times to make sure I was keeping up with my baby’s demand, but I’ve realized flexing a bit here and there hasn’t negatively impacted me or my supply at all. Also, I don’t like to get up and leave in the middle of a session, and I really don’t like coming back feeling lost because I missed out on the last 25 minutes of the teaching. Do what is best for you and your schedule, but be mindful of the day-long plan to fit your pumping sessions in as well.
3. Contact the facilitator or conference location.
In my most recent workshop experience, I did not reach out to the facility directly because I’ve traveled to enough of these to know that large hotels are always able to find some kind of private space to use as a Mother’s Room. I felt comfortable enough just letting the organizer of the workshop know that I was attending as a pumping mother and would need some private accommodations. I have had some not-so-great experiences though that may have been spared had I contacted the facility ahead of time, so I highly recommend this step. Do what feels best for you in terms of planning, but I urge that it’s never a bad thing to be over cautious or over prepared. Letting the facility know ahead of time gives them time and resources to set up your space prior to a day-of rush around, especially if you need to pump right away upon your arrival.
4. Pack smart.
Pack the night before so you can think through the list of things you need and minimize a hectic departure or forgetfulness the morning-of. My personality is typically that of a worrier and an over-preparer, so I usually pack more than I would ever need. I just have always had the worst nightmare of engorged leaking breasts at the end of a conference day because my pump breaks down or the components or tubing fail me. I’ve come to realize after many conference travel days, that it’s not quite necessary to pack as excessively as I have, nor have I ever had that nightmare come true… So, I’ve cut back on packing a little, but a few things (in addition to all pumping and storage supplies I need) that I like to have with in case of emergency are: batteries, milk storage bags, quick clean wipes, a washcloth and a nursing cover. Batteries are self explanatory. Milk storage bags are helpful if you need to transfer milk and store in a smaller cooler, if you lost a bottle lid, etc. You get the picture. A washcloth to quickly clean myself up or any leaks, or heaven-forbid spills, that may occur. And a nursing cover for additional privacy in case you’re in a shared Mother’s Room space, or have an unlocked door on your accommodations, or just for your own peace of personal mind.
5. Keep your supplies clean.
I like to bring a small dish soap with me or cleaning cloths so that I can quickly and efficiently clean my supplies after a pumping session. A quick note here is that breast milk is able to remain at room temperature for up to 5 hours, so if you really are in a bind, I see that rule of thumb as a loophole for your pumping supplies. You should be able to re-use your pumping supplies once, as long as your sessions are less than 5 hours apart.
6. Keep your milk cold.
Bring a small cooler and enough icepacks to keep your milk cold during the day. Sometimes I opt to get a bag of fresh ice, especially if I’m at a hotel location, to put in my milk cooler before my commute home for the day.
7. Return home safely and happily.
Conclude your conference day knowing you were a rockstar mama for planning ahead and fulfilling such a great duty and responsibility for your little one. And, make sure to remember to unpack and refrigerate your milk once you arrive home. I may or may not have forgotten that once or twice. What can I say, I was excited to get home!
Enjoy yourself at your conference or workshop, mama! You’ve got this.
What have your conference or workshop experiences been as a pumping mother? Did I miss any steps that you do to prepare?
Photos courtesy of RJ Imagery.
Lisa Boettcher is a Wisconsinite, residing in a small suburb outside of Milwaukee with her husband Mark, daughters Maven (04.04.14) and Sylvie (10.28.15) and blonde Goldendoodle pup, Nova. She’s madly in love with her family and is passionate about living a happy, healthy life. She writes over at In Wild Hearts for women who juggle the demands and desires of every day life and want to make the absolute most of it by sharing real, genuine content inspired by her world.