So you’ve just had a baby, but you’re one awesome mama going back to work to take on the corporate world. Kudos to you! If you’re going to continue breastfeeding then you need to know how to pump at work.
Pumping at work is definitely something that can be done and managed, but you have to know what you’re doing. Not every working environment is pumping friendly, but the most important thing is to know that you are doing what is best for your baby and anyone that doesn’t like it can just shut it. Do not ever feel embarrassed or worried about your pumping at work. Your baby is more important than other people’s opinions.
So with that in mind, check out these great tips to help make your pumping at work experience a breeze.
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Know Your Rights
First off, the United States Department of Labor says that employers must provide a location for you to pump that is NOT a bathroom, must be shielded from view, and free from intrusions by coworkers or the public for all businesses that employ 50 people or more.
They also have to allow you enough time to pump and as often as you need it. If you need to pump every 2-3 hours, then do it. If it takes you 45 minutes to empty, then they have to let you take that time. They do not have to pay you for the breaks, but they do have to provide them. They also have to allow this for up to a year.
Do not ever feel backed into a corner when it comes to how much you should or should not pump at work. You are doing the best for your baby. Your employer should be able to respect that.
It is best to talk to your employer before returning to work to let them know not only that you will need to pump, but also how many times and for how long that you will be expecting to. You don’t want to just show up on your first day back and spring it on them that you need to pump 6 times a day. Give your employer the opportunity to prepare a space as well as have someone to cover you when it’s time for your pumping breaks.
I was in communication with human resources a few weeks before I was set to come back to make sure that they knew I would need a space to pump. Thankfully they were already set up with an area, but not everyone will be.
Make sure that they know what you will need and how often so that they can make arrangements. If you have a private office, then pumping at your desk would be extremely easy. Print out a sign to put on the door and make sure that it stays locked. If anyone knocks during your pumping session, just tell them to come back later. You can choose to continue working while you pump, or you can enjoy a much needed break. Your choice.
Supplies for Pumping at Work
Having the right supplies will make pumping at work a million times easier. Trust me, preparation is key.
Get a Second Pump
If you really want to make pumping at work as easy as humanly possible, then get a second pump. If you have your own office that you can pump in, then you can leave your pump and supplies there and just travel back and forth with the milk. If you don’t, then you can still just leave the pump in your pump bag to save yourself the hassle of moving it back and forth every day.
Though you can definitely make it work with just one pump (I did), having two would make the process so much easier.
The Spectra S1 is a hospital grade pump that has a rechargeable battery pack. It is also said to be a little easier on the nipples if you have any extra sensitivities. The Medela Freestyle isn’t a hospital grade, but it still has good suction. It also has a rechargeable battery, but I think the real winner is the fact that it is so much smaller. Much easier portability.
Whether you leave the portable one at work for ease of transport, or at home so that you can multitask, having the option to not be attached to the wall at all times would make your life so much easier.
Get a Good Pump Bag
Having a pumping bag big enough to hold all of your supplies, yet small enough to not be obtrusive is definitely important. I got a shoulder bag that came with my Medela pump that works perfectly for me, but there are SO many others out there on the market. I have heard AMAZING things about the Sarah Wells Bags. I really wish I would have known about them earlier in my pumping journey.
Get a bag that you will be comfortable carrying around, especially if you plan on breastfeeding for a while. I would also use it as your purse rather than having to carry two bags, so make sure that it has all of the compartments that you would normally need.
I never carry a purse these days. I bought a phone case that can carry my ID and my debit card and that’s pretty much it. Anything else either goes in the diaper bag or the pump bag, so get a bag you like.
Pack Extra Supplies
Have an extra set of all of your supplies ready in your pumping bag. That way all you have to do in the morning is grab your pump and go. This will make your mornings SO. MUCH. EASIER.
It’s a good idea to always have some extra supplies on hand anyway. You never know when your membranes will stop working or your dog will chew up your tubing. It really is better to be safe than sorry.
Buy a Manual Pump
I always keep a manual pump either in my car or in my pump bag for those “oh shit” moments when you realize too late that you left (insert important pump part here) at home. I have the Medela Harmony and I love it. It works great not only for helping me empty, but also for getting out clogs should they ever show up. Trust me, you don’t want those.
If you have any issues with leaking during your letdowns, I would suggest getting a Haakaa silicone breast pump to use with your manual.
You just apply it to the side you aren’t pumping and the gentle suction helps to catch any milk that leaks. I have to use one every time I single pump or otherwise I’ll just end up with a soaked bra. Not cool. A Haakaa is also great to use if you’re nursing as well if you have any leaking issues there too.
When to Pump at Work
Stick to Your Pumping Schedule
Don’t wait until your boobs are full and uncomfortable to go pump. Try to stick to your schedule as much as possible.
This will not only making things easier on you, but you will also keep up your milk supply.
It’s okay to fluctuate in your schedule a little bit, but if you typically pump every 2-3 hours, don’t start stretching it to 5 or 6 hours once you go back to work. You will be uncomfortable and your supply could suffer.
Figure out where in your day would be the easiest to squeeze in a pumping session. Lunch time is definitely the most obvious choice, but try for a morning and an afternoon session as well. A short pump is better than no pump.
Pump While Driving
A great way to get in your pumps, is to pump in the car. I have the Medela Pump in Style Advance, so I just picked up a car adapter for it and have never looked back. It is so much more convenient to be able to pump in the car on the way to and from work rather than having to wait until I got there.
I love my Freemies for this or for pumping at work in general. I don’t think they’re quite as “discrete” as they claim to be since I always look like I have Dolly Parton boobs when I’m wearing them, but it’s so great being able to be completely covered and not have to deal with bottles hanging out of my shirt.
Just make sure that you’re wearing a tight bra when using the Freemies. Compression is key to get a good seal and getting the most milk possible.
Storing Breast Milk at Work
If there is a refrigerator in your office, then you can consider putting your milk in there. If there are too many employees using it or if you just don’t trust to leave it there, then consider bringing a small cooler with you.
I really like the Medela cooler for this. It’s small, doesn’t take up a ton of space, and can hold four of the 5 ounce medela bottles in it.
Another great option is a slightly larger cooler that you can not only fit your milk bottles in, but that you can also keep your pump parts in between sessions. If you can keep your pump parts cold between pumping sessions, then you don’t have to worry about washing them every time. Just take them home and wash them at the end of the day.
This is what I did at work at it was so amazingly helpful.
Other Tips for Pumping at Work
Dress For Success
They say to dress for the job you want. Well in this case you need to dress for the job you have. You are a breastfeeding mama and you need to dress like one. That means you need to have easy access to the milk makers.
I’m sure you have some cute dresses that you would love to show off at work, but you don’t want to have to completely undress just to pump. I would suggest loose blouses and button downs for this.
I would always wear a tank top underneath as well. That way when I lifted my shirt my whole stomach wasn’t exposed. They make some great nursing tanks for this, but I found that a tank, especially a spaghetti strap, with a stretchy strap generally worked just fine.
My baby was a winter baby, so layering was key for me. I personally lived in a tank top and a cardigan for the entire winter when I had him. It was so easy to just pull down the top of the tank to pump without actually having to take off any clothing. So freaking easy! And I stayed warmer that way too. Win-win!
It is common for breastfeeding mothers to notice a drop in supply when you first go back to work. You can help to counteract this by keeping up your water and your calories, and by also sticking to your pumping schedule as much as humanly possible.
If you’re having trouble relaxing at work while pumping, look at pictures of your baby or listen to a recording of him crying. That can really help to signal to your body that it’s time to let the milk go.
My supply dropped a couple of ounces when I went back to work, but after I got back into the swing of things it bounced right back. Just don’t freak out if that happens. Stick with what you’re doing and it will come back.
If you have another great idea for successfully pumping at work I would love to hear about it. Leave a comment below.
Until next time!