Pumping In Public: To Do Or Not To Do? (& Tips)

Last Updated On: 

January 3, 2018

Exclusively pumping mothers don’t always find themselves with the luxury of being able to pump from the comfort and privacy of their own homes. Often times, they need to do it in public.

breast pump and bottle of milk

If you thought you’re the only one out there who ever thinks about pumping outside the house, think again. The following is a list of some of the most common places busy mothers pump their breast milk in, simply because their busy schedule and life circumstances deem they have to do so.

  • In the car during a drive to work, road trip, etc ..
  • In the park
  • In the hospital while checking on someone, taking someone you know there to get treated, etc ..
  • In the airport while waiting for your flight, waiting for someone’s plane to arrive or even in the plane while on your seat.

Is It Okay For Me To Pump In Public?

This concern is exactly the same as the one mothers have when they want to directly breastfeed their babies in public, and the answer is the same.

From a moral and ethical standpoint, pumping breast milk in public is completely fine. You’re doing nothing wrong, you’re not causing harm to any body and you’re only doing what you have to do as a mother to make sure your baby gets the nutrition they need to properly grow.

From a legal standpoint, however, it’s unfortunate that we don’t yet have a universal answer for that in this day and age.

Because breastfeeding in public is much more common than breast pumping in public, laws have been instated in almost all of the USA’s states that protect the right of mothers to breastfeed while out and about.

However, there’s no specific rules that explicitly state it’s legal to pump breast milk in public.

So, depending on which state you currently reside in, you should do your research on its laws to find out what the stand on public pumping is. The last situation you’ll ever want to put yourself in is one where you’re unknowingly breaking the law.

Also, how you feel about doing it is a completely different story. Many mothers have absolutely no problem with pumping in public at all, nor do they mind seeing other moms do so.

On the other hand, some mothers don’t feel comfortable at all while pumping with strangers around, just like they wouldn’t feel comfortable breastfeeding their babies in public.

These moms may live in areas where they would get shamed and made to feel very uncomfortable. Could you imagine how it feels to get everyone looking your way, getting every possible stare and getting frowned at for actually going out of your way to secure your baby’s needs?

Other mothers don’t mind the shaming aspect because they couldn’t care less about how people judge them, but don’t appreciate the idea of exposing their breasts in public for everyone to see during pumping sessions.

And to be honest, these mothers do have a point to feel this way, especially because pumping in public is not done as commonly as breastfeeding in public is. This also means that you’re going to get more angry stares and frowns from people when pumping in public than you would generally get from breastfeeding in public.

When you have a crying baby between your hands that’s hungry and will only stop when they’re fed, people will understand your need to do so in public more than they will understand your need to pump in public.

When all they see is you and your pump with no baby around, many more people are going to question your motives for doing this in public.

You and I know why you’re doing this in public, because you’re sticking to your schedule of doing this once every few hours so that your milk supply stays up and running, but many people don’t know about all these details and are very quick to judge based only on what they see.

So, the feeling of being targeted because you’re doing something so uncommon can make you very uncomfortable.

Why Should I Start To Get Used To Pumping Outside The House?


Seriously, once you start getting used to pumping outside the house, you’ll experience first hand how much easier your job as a nursing mother has become, especially if you exclusively pump and don’t include any milk formula in your baby’s feeding regimen.

If your home is the only place you’re able to pump in, you’re going to start feeling way too tied up sooner rather than later, and it will get to you eventually. This usually doesn’t end well, as it results in the nursing mother giving up breast pumping altogether.

Keep in mind that exclusively pumping moms need to do so once every few hours, so you can see how easy it is for you to get burned out from all of this is you can only pump at home.

Will Anything Bad Happen If I Just Wait Until I Get Home?

Waiting until you get back home to pump in the comfort of your own house is not always the best of ideas, depending on how your pumping schedule is looking like.

When trying to get your milk supply to increase (or maintain it if it’s already going good), one of the worst things you could do is mess with your pumping schedule.

Consistency plays a huge role in determining whether your milk supply increases or decreases, so exclusively pumping mothers should have a session once every few hours to keep their supply up.

So, let’s say that it’s 2:30 PM and your next pumping session is at 3:00 (according to schedule), if you delay it till around 3:30 until you’re back home then it’s not likely to be a big deal (as long as it’s a once in a while thing and not a regular occurrence).

However, it’s a huge problem if you miss frequent pumping sessions whenever you’re not home. This lack of consistency will only confuse your body and lead to the decrease of overall milk production.

What Does Public Pumping Mean?

Before we get into all the other details you need to know, let’s first cover the differences between public pumping and private pumping, and a few differences between public pumping itself.

Public pumping is defined as the act of doing so outside one’s own private space. Your private space could mean the privacy of your own bedroom, your own house, your own locked office space, a closed restroom stall (if you ever choose to do that), etc ..

The important thing is that no strangers are around you when you’re doing this, or else what you’re doing (private pumping) will be referred to as public pumping.

Now, you could technically be pumping in public while doing so in a semi-private area. What does that mean, exactly? A semi-private area is anywhere you can have some privacy alone in an enclosed space, but other people can still be around and very close to you.

A couple of examples of semi-private areas you could find yourself pumping breast milk in are public rest rooms and inside your car.

When pumping in an enclosed space that no one else but you can have access to and there’s no one else around you, that’s a completely private space.

What Tips Do You Have For Me To Make Pumping In Public Easier?

If you’ve set your mind on pumping in public so you can stay committed to your schedule and not mess it up, the following tips will make your life much easier.

1) Picking The Right Place

The first (and probably most important) thing you should do is pick the right location, no matter where you are at the time.

When out in public, the less people around you during the time you’re pumping, the better – and vice versa.

So, there’s quite a difference between pumping in you car that’s parked in a somewhat secluded area of a supermarket parking lot in, and you pumping inside the supermarket with many more people coming and going around you.

Now of course, this is just an example and obviously doing this is going to be easier in some scenarios and places than others, but always use your best judgement wherever you are at the time.

At this day and age, more and more places you visit are accommodating to the needs of nursing mothers and have secluded areas you can use all to yourself for your pumping needs. Many of these places refer to these rooms as nursing rooms, so don’t worry about sounding like you’re from another planet when you talk to an employee or manager there and ask them.

All you need to do to find out is ask them, really – you’ve got absolutely nothing to lose.

2) Picking The Right Type Of Breast Pump

The type of breast pump you take with you when planning to express that liquid gold of yours outside also matters.

For example, manual breast pumps are known to make much less noise than electric breast pumps, so you might want to take a manual one with you in case you want to “keep it on the low”.

Sometimes the noise that an electric breast pump makes will attract attention to you and raise suspicions of people around you, even if you’re using a nursing cover at the time.

Manual breast pumps are also much more lightweight and compact, making them easier to carry around than electric breast pumps, and that’s another issue to consider when pumping outside the house.

If you can’t use a manual breast pump because of hang fatigue or because you’re just sick and tired of how poorly it performs for you when you use is, then be sure to get an electric breast pump that can be operated on batteries.

When finding a spot to pump in public, you likely won’t have a socket next to you where you can hook your electric pump in and have it work that way.

So, make sure you have a unit that operates on batteries, and take new batteries with you just in case the ones you have in there are about to run out. You definitely don’t want your pump to stop working mid session just because the batteries ran out and you don’t have adequate replacements with you to put in on the spot.

Finally, if you’re planning on pumping in your car, a pump with a car adapter will come in very handy.

3) Picking The Right Clothes

Dressing appropriately should also be a very important item on your to-do list before heading out the house.

By appropriately, we don’t mean that you should dress discreetly, that’s totally up to you to decide and is none of our business.

We mean you should put on clothes that will make it as easy for you to pump in public as possible, and with the least hassle.

The top that you wear is specifically important here – what you put on the lower part of your body, not so much.

Any top you wear when planning to pump with outside the house should make it as easy as possible for you to get access to your breasts (specifically your nipples).

So, keep your tight clothes for another day and occasion, and opt for loose clothing which you can “get in and out of” with as little hassle as possible.

4) Use Of Nursing Accessories

If you make use of a nursing cover when breastfeeding your baby in public, there’s no reason you can’t also put your nursing cover to use when pumping in public!

It may be a tiny bit more of a hassle for you to pump while wearing one of these, but putting a proper nursing cover to use when pumping outside will leave most people around you clueless as to what exactly it is you’re doing.

If you get a nursing cover that matches your outfit, the majority of passersby won’t even suspect you’re doing anything for them to look at you in the first place.

5) Have Everything Prepared Beforehand

Make sure that you have all your breast pump parts and accessories put together in your breast pump tote in an organized way.

If you can also pre-assemble the unit by connecting all the parts together, hook the machine directly to your bottles (or however else you plan to collect the milk, such as milk storage bags for example) and put it in your carrying bag beforehand, that would be best.

The less time you have to spend on organizing things when in public and the more you can focus on getting to the actual pumping part, the better and easier your job will be.

Ideally, you also put on your pumping bra before you exit the house, or else you may struggle to find somewhere secluded to change in and put it on.

6) Do Away With The Stress

Depending on your character and whether or not you’ve previously done this before, you may feel more stressed out than usual when trying to pump in public.

It’s all normal, you’re only human and doing this in front of strangers isn’t the most comfortable of activities, really.

And when you’re trying to pump, stress is a killer for your milk supply.

So, do whatever it is you have to do for you to ease the tension, relax and get your milk supply back up.

For some mothers, it’s listening to relaxing music through their earphones, while other mothers like to take a photo of their baby with them and imagine that they’re right there with them.

Whatever works for you is fine.

7) Be Ready To Clean Outside The House

If you’re pumping outside the house for just one session before you head back home, you can go ahead and skip this part because you’ll get your breast pump cleaned when you arrive home and before your next pumping session.

However, if you’re pumping outside the house for two or more consecutive sessions before heading back home, then be prepared to clean your breast pump in between every session.

In this case, taking some breast pump wipes with you will be very helpful for you to clean your pump in between sessions while you’re still out of the house and can’t get to your regular cleaning routine.

There’s no need to go extreme and spend money on spare pump parts to use until you come back home and get the others cleaned, that’s just a waste of money.

8) Preserve Till You Get Home

Wherever you pump your breast milk in, be that adequate bottles or milk storage bags, keep the milk preserved there until you make it home and don’t try to transfer the milk from one means of storage to another.

You may think you’re in complete control of the situation, but when you’re not doing this from the comfort of your own house, you risk spilling and wasting some of your precious liquid gold.

Also, and depending on where you’re completing the transfer process, there may be an increased risk of contamination that may put all your pumping efforts to waste in just a fraction of a second.

You also need to have something with you to store your breast milk in until you get home, since you obviously don’t have access to a fridge. Nothing too complicated is needed, a cooler with some ice packs will be more than fine.

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