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How to pump milk at a conference


I’m getting my head wrapped around SXSW Interactive 2015 by adding sessions to my schedule. I haven’t seen the yoga classes added yet (although, it looks like it may be replaced by some other fitness class?), but I’m definitely trying to get out of my comfort zone and plan to attend sessions about new-to-me topics.

Last year, I was very VERY pregnant. Comically pregnant. It kept me tied to the Convention Center because it was too hard to get my rotund body into a shuttle to the other venue locations.

This year, I’m nursing a baby. He’s eating mostly solids by now, and I’m finally seeing the light at the end of the pumping tunnel. I’m getting to ready to wean from the pump leading up to SXSW, so I don’t have to lug any of that gear around. BUT, I know there will be other mamas with newer babies waiting at home needing milk. This post is for y’all.

During SXSW Eco last fall, I was still on a schedule of pumping every 3 hours. Bear Shark was 5.5 months old then. Here’s what I brought with me:

  • Borrowed laptop backpack from my husband
  • Laptop and charger (I had some work stuff to catch up on. Otherwise, I would’ve brought a tablet instead.)
  • Packit Cooler bag
  • Ameda Pump with charged batteries, flanges, tubes – no carrying case
  • Lansinoh storage bags
  • Pen
  • One 8 oz bottle with screw cap
  • Nursing cover, breast pads
  • Large prefold diaper
  • Medela Hands-free pumping bra
  • Gallon and quart size ziplock bags

It was a bit of a tight squeeze in addition to regular conference type gear, but I managed to keep it all together in the backpack without anything spilling or getting destroyed. Detached from the tubing, my pump neatly slides vertically along one side of the main compartment of the bag. Then, I can line up the folded Packit Cooler and flanges (kept clean in a gallon size bag).

At the Austin Convention Center, there’s a designated Mother’s Room on the 3rd floor. It’s kept unlocked, but they ask that you knock before entering as a courtesy to any mothers already in the room. There were black partition curtains right at the entrance, for privacy, especially when the door opens.

Once through the partition curtains, it’s a small open space with a couple of couches. If you’re there with other pumping/nursing moms, then you’re all facing each other. I always lay some kind of towel or cloth on my lap in case I spill anything. A prefold diaper works great or a large burp cloth.

Get all of your pump parts put together. Throw the nursing cover over, then mess with whatever you have to under your shirt to get the hands-free bra and flanges attached. After you’re done, transfer all the milk into the bottle or put them into 2-3 oz increments into the storage bags. I prefer smaller amounts in case something catastrophic happens to one of the bags, and I use the pen to mark the date and quantity of each bag. Place the expressed milk and the flanges (in the gallon size bag) into the cooler. I like to put the milk storage bags into a quart size bag so they’re not getting jostled around all willy nilly. Clean up, break down, and then you’re off to the next session.

Since a lot of the sessions are held at hotel venues downtown, you may find yourself away from the Convention Center in your time of need. Some of the fancy hotels have a lounge within the restrooms. You can always tuck yourself away in one of those spaces. I’ve also pumped in an airport bathroom when no other option was available, so sometimes you have to just DO WHAT YOU GOTTA DO, amiright?

If you’re visiting from out of town, be sure to request a mini fridge from your hotel so you have a place to keep everything cold overnight. Pumping at a conference isn’t ideal, especially when you’re traipsing around town with all of your stuff. But it’s definitely doable.

Come to the Working Moms Meet Up on Friday the 13th (spooooky), and we can trade more war stories of motherhood. Join the conversation on Twitter with hashtag #SXWorkMoms.

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  1. Freemies are the way to go! No undressing, less parts to wash. I’m at a conference now (leaving today!) and they make it so much easier.

    • Terri says

      i’ve seen those but always wondered how well they worked! they look so bulky though. does it make it look like you stuck two tennis balls into your shirt?

      • I wrote a lengthier review here: http://www.lauraziesel.com/2014/08/new-in-pumping-freemie.html But my bottom line is: They aren’t as miraculous as some claim, but they do help dramatically to make pumping less miserable for me. Mine have made it so that at 10 months pp I’m not dying to stop pumping, like I was at this point with baby #1. It’s just not quite as painful, especially for travel. If I have to pump in my seat on an airplane, it’s much more manageable, etc. And the suggestions I had for them have just been implemented, so they’re even better than when I reviewed them.

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