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Going back to work after having a baby comes with many challenges. Pumping is one that can be cumbersome and awkward. More and more women are choosing to work or continue to work after having children and want to provide breast milk for their child. Some places of work may be very friendly to working moms, but others are slow to provide the comforts and resources that can make your breastfeeding journey easier. You need someone who can give you real tips for pumping at work to make the transition smoother.
I thought working in a medical field that totes “breast is best” and a workforce consisting primarily of women would be prepared to offer the necessary comforts to encourage mothers to balance pumping and working. Although my manager and other staff were encouraging, I found it often difficult to find the time to pump and a comfortable location to do so. I know it can be challenging, but don’t be discouraged. If this ER nurse can do it so can you!
- What you need to know to be successful
- How to Prepare
- Actionable tips for an experienced working breastfeeding mom
Table of Contents
How Do You Survive Pumping at Work?
Many women after having a baby choose to continue to breastfeed their child for a multitude of reasons. We won’t get into that now, because that is a hefty topic of its own. Going back to the rigorous work schedule and now trying to carve in the time to pump every 2-3 hours may be a daunting task. I want to help you feel like this is something you can tackle if it is your preferred choice.
Every work environment is a little different, but with some customization on your part we can help you to be an expert at balancing work and pumping in no time.
Why is Pumping at Work So Challenging?
I’ve been there and done that with two babies. Being a nurse it was hard to balance my job duties and patient needs along with the pumping needs for my child. I would often go 6-7 hour in-between pumping depending on the conditions of my patients.
A lot of that was because I didn’t know my personal rights, and I didn’t feel empowered enough to speak up for myself. This led to me quickly losing my supply and having to supplement with formula.
I don’t regret any of my decisions, but I wish I would have been armed with more knowledge. I know if I did it again I would do things differently.
You may also have a demanding job that fulfills you in many ways. Stepping away from your career or switching to formula are not your only options.
Pumping at Work Best Tips to Alleviate the Stress
First, take a deep breath. Get some much needed oxygen to your brain. Whether work is fulfilling or not we are going back and we want the logistics of how we are going to successfully navigate pumping at work to be the least of our worries. So let’s get into some solid actionable tips for success.
Know Your Rights
It is essential that you know what your rights are in the workplace so that you can advocate for yourself. If you don’t advocate for yourself no one will. It doesn’t mean you have to create a confrontation, but if you know your rights you can confidently request the things you are entitled to have. Below is the laws from the Fair Labor Standard Act Subsection 7.
- Federal law requires that employers provide reasonable break time to express milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk.
- Employers are also required to provide a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.
- States may have protections for working mothers that will be provided as an addition to the federal laws. So look into your states particular laws.
**There are some employees that are exempt to the above laws so please look into your federal and state laws to ensure you are covered.
Find Your Space
- Be open and honest with your employer about your needs. Work with them to suggest some locations and alterations that can be made to allow for a space that meets your needs.
- Make sure it has a flat surface that you can set your pump on and transfer milk into storage bags. Trying to do this without one can lead to some major fashion disasters. (like milk all down your pant leg)
- Ensure there are outlets to plug in your pump or look into using a cordless pump if that is not an option.
- A lock on the door or a sign that can be placed on the door to avoid unwanted intrusions.
- antibacterial wipes to clean off surfaces.
- A sink to wash hands and clean parts if possible.
- I like to have a manual pump in case something goes wrong with my pump or I forget a part.
- Extra breast pads, parts, storage bags, nipple cream, and anything else you typically need.
- Another pair of clothes in case there are any spills. (I say it because it’s happened.)
- snacks and water (pumping is exhausting, you need the fuel).
- I have a general rule for myself to drink 8 oz of water and eat a snack each time I pump.
I have been at work and realized just as I’m about to pump that I was missing a small membrane that has basically rendered my pump useless. I was able to luckily borrow a hospital pump, but most of you don’t have a maternity unit a few floors up. I suggest always having at least a small handheld pump just in case. I also recommend having extra pieces to your pump and any other essentials you can’t pump without.
Store your Liquid Gold
- I often used something simple like a canvas lunch box and placed it in the communal work fridge. It’s inconspicuous but does the job.
- Consider buying a small mini fridge for under your desk for storage for under $30.
- Have a cooler or insulated cooler pack with frozen ice packs if you work out of an office.
- Use reusable storage bags or disposable storage bags to avoid any unnecessary spills.
Have A Schedule
- This will allow you to keep up with your child at home so you don’t run out of milk.
- Pump every 2-3 hours or however often your baby is feeding at home.
- This can be a flexible schedule as there will be work commitments you can’t get around.
- If you miss a pumping session make it a priority to pump as soon as possible and start your 2-3 hour schedule from there.
- Some moms also choose to pump on their commute to and from work with a hands free pumping device to avoid taking more time away from their regular work day.
- Every time you pump make sure you empty your breasts. This will allow your body to keep up with the needs of your child and lengthen your time between pumping sessions.
- This can also help you to avoid developing mastitis.
Stay Hydrated and Fed
- Keep a large water bottle at your desk and while you are pumping. Breast milk is mostly water so it is essential to keep up that supply.
- Make sure you have easy to access and quick snacks at the ready. You will burn about 200-500 calories pumping everyday. I recommend granola bars, nuts, fruit, yogurt, or cut up vegetables.
- This isn’t just so you can provide milk for your baby. You probably aren’t sleeping much so keeping that mental sharpness at work is going to require you to be well hydrated and well nourished.
Have a Trial Day
- Attempt to get your return to work day as a half day or the middle of the week. This will give you time to trial it out before attempting a full week back.
- Start introducing a bottle once a day a few weeks prior to your return to work so your child can get comfortable with a bottle (Its often easier to have someone else give your child the bottle).
- Spend longer periods of time away from your child. Like running to the grocery store or getting your nails done.
- If your trial doesn’t go well. Re-evaluate. Work with your employer, childcare, and spouse to come up with a plan that works for you.
There is nothing worse than waking up and rushing to get everything together before you head out the door. This is when you are most likely to miss that all important item. Set aside some time and a reminder on your phone to take 15-20 minutes to get organized and prepare everything you will need for the next day. This will decrease your stress and help things to go more smoothly.
Make a checklist of what you need and go through that checklist every night as you pack your bag. It may seems silly, but with the amount of sleep you are probably getting you are bound to forget something.
The most important thing is to figure out what works for you. Everyone has different needs and we are all working in different environments. What works for me may not work for you. Remember you are your own best advocate. I hope this leaves you empowered and knowledgeable to transition into pumping at work with ease.
Please leave a comment with your questions, concerns, or success stories!
Jess is a registered nurse with over 6+ years of critical care experience for patients young and old and is the mother of two small children. After having her own children she felt inspired to provide mothers with real actionable guidance and education to make informed decisions throughout their pregnancy and postpartum experience.