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To Tre: Breastfeeding wasn’t a taboo topic in my household or my family growing up. I’m pretty sure my mother breastfed us. TeeTee breastfed your big cousins. And while maybe everyone didn’t do it, I never heard anyone talk down about it. With my healthcare background, I was ALL about the health benefits of breastfeeding. Plus it’s free-ish and formula is very NOT free. I had also heard people talk about the emotional bond you create when breastfeeding. I have to admit—it took me about 6 months to feel that! At first, breastfeeding was messy, exhausting, and just…a lot. But it was nothing compared to going back to work and pumping so that you could continue to have breastmilk until you turned one. Pumping is SO hard, but it can be done. So that’s why I wanted to share my experience and some helpful pointers with other breastfeeding moms on the verge of becoming pumping at work moms.
Pumping at work might not sound like a big deal. It 100% IS.
And it’s really hard to understand exactly why until you have to do it yourself. As a new mom, you’re the same person you once were, but you’re also a completely new person. And you’re still trying to figure it all out.
You’re still trying to figure out how to be a mom, and now you’re going to have to figure out how to be a mom while working.
There’s the worry about not being on top of your game at work like you used to be (because: mom brain!), plus the concern about getting caught up on all the work you missed, PLUS the inconvenience and stress of pumping, AND the constant worry that you won’t be able to pump enough milk…
It’s a lot for anyone.
So new mom, if you’re even thinking about pumping when you return to work, give yourself a pat on the back because you deserve it. This won’t be easy, but it’s most definitely possible, and after you finish this post, you’ll have all the pumping at work tips you need to make it work!
6 Tips for Pumping at Work
1. Discuss your needs before going back to work.
Plan to chat with your HR department and your boss about a month before you go back to work. Give yourself ample time to work out any issues or concerns.
The two big topics you’ll want to discuss are time and space.
Your manager(s), supervisor(s), boss(es), and whoever else has authority over you at work need to know that you will need fixed, scheduled increments of time everyday to express milk while you’re at work.
They’ll also need to know that you need a lockable, private space to express milk.
2. Know the laws about pumping at work.
The federal law that gives you the right to time and space to express milk at work is called Break Time for Nursing Mothers.
Here’s the exact language from the US Department of Labor:
It requires employers to provide “reasonable break time for an employee to express breast 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.”
For the most part, companies with more than 50 employees are required to follow this law. You’ll want to check your state laws as well.
Make sure you advocate for yourself and your baby, and don’t be afraid to refer to these legal requirements either! The law is on your side.
3. Create a pumping schedule [and stick to it].
Look, there are going to be some days when the last thing you wanna do is whip out that pump again. There’ll be days when there’s a really important meeting or a fun lunch outing you want to attend.
Whenever possible, resist the urge to skip or move your pumping times.
Here’s why: when you go back to work, it’s perfectly normal—almost expected, even—for your milk supply to drop due to stress and competing responsibilities. For some women, the drop in milk supply is drastic.
You’ll need to maintain a strict schedule to keep your supply up as much as possible. My rule of thumb was to pump every 3 hours while at work—basically, anytime my son would’ve been nursing normally.
4. Make a sign requesting privacy.
Make a sign in Powerpoint or Canva or Word. Or heck, grab a pen and paper and freestyle it.
Whatever you do, create a sign you can put on the outside of your office door—or wherever you’re pumping—to alert people outside that the room is occupied and that you require privacy.
It really helps avoid awkward situations.
5. Be unrelenting about your time, if possible.
Whatever schedule you choose, make sure you set firm times with your manager and coworkers. If your job uses a sharable calendar, make sure to add standing, recurring “meetings” during your pumping times so that everyone knows you are unavailable.
Be firm and unmoving with these times.
Trust me. If you move them around a few times here or there, people will expect you to do it more often. Next thing you know, you’re down to 1 or 2 pumping sessions a day, producing less milk, stressing out because you’re producing less milk, which then makes you produce even. less. milk!
A vicious cycle. I had drops in my milk supply 3 or 4 times while pumping during my son’s first year of life. Below I’ll mention the products I used to get my supply back up, so keep reading.
6. Always Keep backup supplies on deck.
Okay, so shit happens. And when you’re a mom, more shit happens.
You may forget your supplies, lose your supplies, drop your supplies in a toilet (don’t ask). In any case, you’ll want to always keep backup supplies at work if you can.
In the next section, I’ll be sharing all the supplies that made up my Pumping at Work Kit!
You’ll Need These Supplies for your Pumping at Work Kit
An excellent, quiet pump
Emphasis on quiet! With my son, I used the Lanisoh Signature Pro pump. It got the job done, but it was loud as all get-out.
PRO Tip: Invest in a quiet pump so you’re not alerting the whole office when you’re pumping.
With my daughter, I used the Spectra S1Plus pump and love it SOOOO much more. My favorite feature is the battery-only option which could definitely come in handy at work, depending on your outlet situation.
A hands-free pumping bra (or hands-free pump)
Instead, I bought a good, old-fashioned hands-free pumping bra.
This is a MUST if you want to do anything with your hands while pumping like eat, scroll on your phone, type on your computer, etc.
This one’s my fave because it’s adjustable, so it should work for any size!
An adapter to pump directly into milk bags
When you’re pumping at work, you’ll probably want to save as much time as possible.
One way to save time is to pump directly into milk bags so you don’t have to transfer the milk from the pumping bottles to the bags after you’re done.
And of course, you’ll need lots and lots of milk bags.
(But hey, I actually found it quicker to pump directly into the bottles I wanted to send to daycare the next day.)
Speaking of bags, these sanitizing bags come in handy for quick pump part and bottle sterilizing.
Replacement pump parts
Regardless of which pump you choose, there’ll be some pump parts that you should replace every now and then. Plus, it’s helpful to have extras in case a part comes up missing while you’re at work.
You can find plenty of extra parts on Amazon. (Or at Target if you need an excuse to go there!)
Another safeguard against missing pump parts—or even a whole missing pump!—is a manual pump.
Trust me, on the day you accidentally leave your pump at home, you will grab your manual pump and thank me!
Leakage will happen throughout the day, especially when you first go back to work. So you’ll want plenty of breast pads to soak up any leaking milk.
I preferred these reusable, organic bamboo pads, but the disposable breast pads work well too.
Minifridge or cooler and ice packs
If you have access to a minifridge at work, or if you’re able to bring one, I highly recommend it.
When I had my daughter, I bought this little fridge from a friend. She’d been using it for her makeup, and I thought, hey I can use this to store milk when I pump in the middle of the night!
You don’t have to do this step, but I think it’d save you some trouble to buy some milk boosters or lactation supplements before you actually need them.
Other things you’ll need:
Water and snacks – You’ll need to stay hydrated throughout the day to have solid pumping sessions. And you already know how hungry you can get while nursing. Pumping’s no different. Keep those snacks on deck!
Videos of your baby crying – PRO Tip: Watching a video of your baby crying as you begin pumping can help stimulate your letdown so that you get more milk.
Try to watch these videos or look at pictures of your baby while pumping. Doing other things, especially work-related things, could actually reduce your output.
Breastfeeding support – If there’s a support group for nursing moms at your job or if you have coworkers who are also pumping, that support can REALLY come in handy.
If you don’t have that in-person support, consider finding a Facebook group you can join. It’ll be really important for you to have an outlet where you can ask questions, vent, cry, celebrate, etc. about your new journey!
Wipes in case you make a mess – This one’s self-explanatory 😬