I recently read a post by The Birds Papaya on Instagram and she said…
“The ask is: stretch, grow, birth, bleed, nurse, lose sleep and make it look like nothing happened at all”.Sarah Nicole Landry
This really hit home for me, as I am sure it does with most mothers. We were blessed with this incredible job as a mother that often feels like it comes with impossible standards, relentless scrutiny & we are expected to maintain our physical & mental health while maintaining a home & working a 9-5. Motherhood is a 168 hours a week job with no time off & no breaks. It is the ULTIMATE job.So when you add a career to the mix & you try to juggle the demands of your job, the kids, breastfeeding; it can get a little overwhelming. But like most facets of motherhood – it is all experimentation to see what works for you.
I started my business and not even 2 months later I learned I was pregnant with my first daughter. My business was still an infant when I added an actual infant to the mix. I knew that I wanted to breastfeed exclusively. And before she was even born, I knew that I had weddings scheduled that would require me to pump. So I did a lot of research and after a few weddings I figured out a system that really worked for me!
How do I pump & maintain milk supply while working weddings?
This is a question I have been asked about many times. People outside of the wedding industry also face this issue but I find that the wedding industry poses unique hurdles to overcome when it comes to breastfeeding. When you are shooting a wedding breaks are rare, let alone getting multiple. You often skip meals throughout the day, under hydrate and forgo your own needs until the wedding is over. While most businesses make accommodations for breastfeeding moms, the wedding industry is slightly more complicated. Everything is subject to change during a wedding and at the drop of the hat things could run behind schedule or you could have an issue finding a place to pump. If you’re like a lot of elopement photographers, you are hiking for hours on end so pumping in a secluded private area is not necessarily possible.
So the question is, how do I do it?
1: You have to start with Communication
The first step starts way before the day even happens. I inform my couples that I will at some point have to step out for 10 to 20 minutes to pump. Typically I work that time into their day of schedule so that they are well aware of when I will step out & they know I have it all under control.
I pick times that have the least amount of impact on my couples & utilize my second shooter to take charge in my absence. This communication really helps in the long run because when I tell them on the day of the wedding that I’m gonna go pump they are in no way surprised.
Example of my 12 hour Wedding Day Pumping Schedule
9:30am – Pump on my way to the wedding
10am – Arrive at the Getting Ready location
1pm – Pump in my car on my way to the wedding venue
2pm – Ceremony
4pm – Pump after Romantics Photos
7pm – Pump during dinner
10pm – Pump on the way home
I may lose some people on this but you guys asked what I do and this is the genuine answer – I more often than not pump while I drive to my shoots and I pump when I leave my shoots. I am pro-multitasking! So when I am eating, I am pumping. When I am driving, I am pumping. Do what you are comfortable with but I have found multitasking to be the best option.
3: Bring Plenty of Milk Storage
Another thing to think about is milk storage. I bring a cooler with me and I try to keep them in fridges if I can find one. You can talk to the venue kitchen staff and explain your situation and typically people are really receptive and helpful. If I can’t find a fridge it’s no biggie because I throw as many ice packs in the coolers as humanly possible to keep them cold potentially all day long. I’ve never had an issue with my milk getting too warm as long as you put enough ice packs in.
4: Hydrate & Eat
Now, what about hydrating and eating – this one is really hard. I’m not gonna lie to you. It a hard habit to get into because I had gotten so used to neglecting myself on the day of the wedding. But when I was pregnant and shooting weddings, I had no choice. I absolutely had to and I feel like that really helped me to get in the habit of hydrating often and snacking on protein-dense food often so I have a fanny pack that I keep on me at all times to help with this. I keep little snacks in that fanny pack and I’ll typically clip my water bottle to my backpack. It’s also a good idea to set silent alarms on my apple watch to remind me in case I do get swept up in the moment.
That sounds funny but it’s true. It’s all dependent on how often your baby eats. My baby eats every three hours pretty much on the dot. So if you do the math that means for a 12-hour wedding, I’m going to need to pump 3 times while the wedding is actively happening. Regardless of how long the wedding is, I always pump right before I get there and right when I leave to ensure I have a complete pump where my milk can be fully drained since the pumps during the wedding tend to be slightly rushed.
5: Technology is your friend!
Set reminders for yourself! I use my apple watch and set reminders for all my designated pumping times & that way before I even leave for the wedding I know that something will help me stay accountable and help me to remember. If you don’t have a smartwatch, you can set little reminders on your phone. I just personally like using my watch because I can set it to vibrate and show me what I need to do without making any noise and disturbing the day.
6: Set yourself up for success – Choose your equipment wisely!
I cannot stress enough the importance of choosing the right equipment. Choosing a pump is a very personal decision so I’m not gonna tell you that you have to buy the one that I have but I will tell you buying one similar is going to be a game-changer for you.
With my first daughter, I used the Medela® Pump in Style® Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump with On-the-Go Tote, and when I went to weddings it was yet another thing that I had to lug around. It was very bulky & made things challenging.
I was ready for an upgrade!!
With my second baby, I knew that I needed a pump that was both hands-free AND cordless. I wanted to be able to do everything I needed to do while on the go. I need to be able to pump from my car or while I’m backpacking in Yosemite and all of the other crazy scenarios that could happen in this industry. So I found a fantastic pump that I completely love!
I also found adapters that made it possible for me to pump straight into my favorite milk storage bags! These milk bags are fantastic because I literally don’t have to do any cleaning of bottles if I don’t want to, I can pump into these bags and with their bottle attachment set the bags transform into a bottle!! SAY WHAT?!?! But even without the bottle kit I love that I can throw the milk bags in the fridge when I get home or in the freezer and thats it. I’m telling you from experience, this stuff is so so much nicer, more compact & helps you pump more effectively compared to having a huge clunky bag that carries a pump that is useless if you don’t have an outlet to plug it into.
And that brings me to one final thing that is an absolute MUST: your pumping bra.
If you are still going through the process of taking off your normal bra & putting your pumping bra on; you need to stop right now. Kindred Bravely has a pumping and nursing bra duo that literally changed my life! This a game-changer because you can switch between breastfeeding and pumping with literally one clip. You can pump on one side and breastfeed on the other. It is also padded so I can wear this bra every single day. They’re so comfortable and so supportive. You will already be wearing your pumping bra all dang day so you don’t have to go to the bathroom to put on your pumping bra which is freaking awesome!
Although I specifically bought a cordless pump, in true enneagram 6 fashion I always plan for the worst and I made sure to have a way to charge everything from my car using this.
7: Get Comfortable with being uncomfortable
You may not have access to a private room. You may be way too far from your car. Get comfortable with pumping in random & uncomfortable places. That may sound harsh but it’s true. So prepare for the uncomfortable. Bring a cover and try to find a more private area if you are in a less than ideal situation. I often use my jean jacket as a cover since I typically already have it with me. I’ve had to pump in some odd places but you gotta do what you gotta do so just try to prepare the best that you can.
And I hope all these tips are helpful. If you have any tips or tricks that have made things easier for you, please leave it in the comments below! Good luck & remember, you’ve got this momma!
Follow along on my journey over on my Instagram
More tips on running a business while being a kick ass mom to come! Check out my blog posts dedicated to helping other mama’s out!