Hey there, mama! Can I just say how incredible you are? Balancing the demands of motherhood while rocking it at work takes superhero-level strength, and you’ve got it in spades. But I know that along with all the joy and fulfillment of being a new mom, there can also be some challenges along the way. And one of those challenges? Pumping at work.
Ah, pumping – that wonderful and somewhat awkward dance we do to ensure our little ones are fed while we’re away. Whether you’re a first-time mom navigating this new territory or a seasoned pro looking for some solidarity, I want you to know that I’ve been there, too. So let’s grab a virtual cup of coffee and chat, because I’ve got your back.
Picture this: It’s your first day back at the office after maternity leave. You’re armed with your trusty breast pump, a collection of bottles, and the determination to make this whole pumping thing work. As you settle into your desk, you can’t help but wonder if anyone else has ever experienced this bizarre blend of motherhood and professional life.
Well, friend, let me tell you – you are most definitely not alone. The struggles, triumphs, and sometimes downright hilarious moments that come with pumping at work are shared by countless other moms who have walked this path before you. And while it may seem like an isolating experience at times, trust me when I say that there’s an army of pumping mamas out there, silently cheering you on.
In this blog post, we’re going to dive headfirst into the world of pumping at work. We’ll explore everything from finding a comfortable pumping routine amidst the chaos of your workday to navigating the logistical challenges and maybe even sneaking in a few moments of self-care along the way. Because let’s face it – pumping is a journey, and we could all use a little guidance and support on this wild ride.
So, grab your favorite nursing bra, settle into a cozy corner, and get ready to embark on a conversation that’s equal parts informative and comforting. Together, we’ll tackle the nitty-gritty details, share some personal anecdotes, and remind ourselves that we’re all doing the best we can. Because, my friend, you are doing an amazing job, and I can’t wait to explore this pumping at work adventure with you. Let’s get started!
1. Establish Your Milk Supply
Alright, mama, let’s talk about a crucial step in this pumping at work journey: establishing your milk supply before heading back to the office. Trust me when I say that preparing in advance will save you a world of stress later on. So, how do you go about it?
First things first, start pumping and storing some extra milk a few weeks before your return date. We will chat more about this in a sec, but this will not only help you build up a stash but also signal to your body that it needs to produce more milk. Aim to pump once or twice a day, ideally in the morning when your milk supply is typically higher. And don’t worry if you don’t get much at first; it’s all about stimulating your breasts and getting your body into the pumping groove.
Another tip that worked wonders for me is adding in an extra pumping session after your baby’s first morning feed. This takes advantage of your body’s natural response to produce more milk during the morning hours. Plus, it can help you stock up on that liquid gold while your baby is still snoozing away.
Remember, consistency is key. Try to stick to a regular pumping schedule to maintain your milk supply. If you’re unsure about the timing, consider pumping around the same time your baby would normally nurse. Your body will respond best pumping at work when it recognizes a familiar routine.
Oh, and let’s not forget about staying hydrated and nourished. Drink plenty of water, munch on healthy snacks, and nourish your body with foods that support milk production. Think oats, leafy greens, and lean proteins – all the good stuff that will keep your milk flowing and your energy levels up.
Lastly, be patient and kind to yourself. Establishing a milk supply takes time, and every mama’s journey is unique. Some may have an abundant supply from the get-go, while others might need a little more encouragement. Trust in your body’s ability to provide for your little one and reach out for support if you need it. Remember, you’re doing amazing, and your dedication to providing breast milk for your baby is a beautiful gift.
Read Next: How to Increase Your Milk Supply
2. Build Up a Milk Stash
Building up a milk stash before returning to work can help to ease some of the stress and anxiety around pumping at work. Aim to pump a little extra milk each day in the weeks leading up to your return. This will give you a backup supply of milk in case you are unable to pump at work as much as you planned. I hope it is not the case for you, but the stress and differences in schedule heading back to work it isn’t uncommon to have a drop in supply. This may or may not be temporary, so it is good to be prepared just in case.
It’s also a good idea to freeze your milk in small portions, so that you can thaw and use only what you need each day. I personally like to freeze my milk in 4 ounce increments in breastmilk storage bags (use a bottle to measure out the amount). I found that this made it very easy for my husband to handle night feeds while I was away (my baby rarely took more than 4 ounces each feed during the night, usually only 2-3) and for myself when I was preparing bottles for other family to watch him. Figure out a system that works best for you and your baby.
Read Next: Pumping Basic for New Moms
3. Communicate With Your Employer
It is important to communicate with your employer about your plans to pump at work prior to returning if possible. According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers are required to provide accommodations for you to pump while at work. These accommodations include:
- a private space to pump that is not a bathroom,
- free from interruptions from coworkers or the public, and
- reasonably timed pumping breaks.
You can read more about the specifics of the law on the US Department of Labor’s website. Education is key! Make sure you are clear on your rights as a breastfeeding woman so you can advocate for yourself and the well being of your baby. Hopefully there won’t be any issues, but just incase it is important to understand the law so you can reach out to Human Resources if necessary.
If they have not had pumping employees in the past they may need time to prepare these accommodations for you, so chat with them before to your return date if you can. Also, if they have not breastfed a baby themselves they may not understand what that entails. Be clear and specific about your needs, and don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself and your baby.
4. Invest in a High-Quality Breast Pump
Investing in a high-quality breast pump is essential for successful pumping at work. A good pump can make all the difference in terms of comfort, efficiency, and milk output. Look for a pump that is easy to use, portable, and has adjustable suction settings. And make sure to check with your insurance before delivery to see if you can get one for free! There are lots of options that are more compact or come with travel bags to help make transport back and forth from work so much easier.
If you are able to, consider investing in a second pump that can be left at your job for ease of travel. As a nurse, I had access to hospital grade pumps for employees to use when on my breaks (perks of working in a hospital!). I found it so much easier to just leave a set of pump parts at work in my locker rather than trying to remember to bring my whole pump to work with me each time. Just remember to make sure you have all the parts you need as well as supplies to clean them with such as quality dish soap and a bottle brush.
It’s also important to choose a pump that fits your lifestyle and pumping needs. Some moms prefer a double electric pump for maximum output, while others prefer a more discreet manual pump. Depending on your job, you could also opt for a handsfree wireless pump to provide more movement. Just remember, even if you have a handsfree option you are still entitled to reasonable pump breaks as explained above.
5. Purchase the Necessary Pumping Supplies
We’ve already touched on your breast pump, but there are several other items you will need to have to prepare for pumping at work.
- Breast milk storage bottles: your pump will likely come with collection bottles but that is only good for one session of pumping. You will need storage bottles for your milk to collect everything prior to taking it back home. Instead of separate bottles, I actually used pint mason jars to store my milk in the fridge (in my cooler bag of course). I had two, one for cold milk and one for the fresh pumped milk to avoid mixing the temperatures. Once the fresh milk cooled down I would just combine them. Then I could just clean the jars in the dishwasher between shifts. This is just another option of ways your can store your milk with items you probably already have at home. I know it’s a little strange but it worked for me!
- Breast Milk storage bags: instead of bottles you could also just pour your pumped milk directly into storage bags to take home. This can save you time if you plan on taking your milk straight to the freezer at the end of the day
- A cooler bag: You will want this for at least transport back home, if not during the day with ice packs (if a fridge is not available for you). You can buy one specifically marketed as for breastmilk, but I just used an older cooler lunch bag and it worked great.
- Extra pump supplies: You never know when a part of your pump may stop working, which could derail an entire day of pumping. Make sure you have an extra set of flanges, duckbills, and tubing for your specific pump. There are also plenty of generic options online that work with several different models. I also would bring my wireless pump with my just in case the wall pump wasn’t working.
- Nipple cream: just like you baby breastfeeding, pumps can be rough on your nipples. Make sure to have nipple cream handy to help reduce any discomfort caused by friction.
6. Take Care of Your Pump and Accessories
Taking care of your pump and accessories is important for maintaining milk supply and for preventing contamination. Make sure to clean your pump and accessories thoroughly after each use and follow the any special instructions for care that your pump comes with. It’s also a good idea to have spare parts on hand, such as extra valves and membranes, in case something breaks or needs to be replaced. Along with my pump parts, I always kept a bottle brush and a small bottle of dish soap handy in my locker to make cleaning my pump parts at work easy.
A quick trick to help prevent you from needing to clean your pump parts several times a day; in between pumping at work sessions place your parts in a Ziploc bag and put them in the fridge. This reduces the growth of bacteria and allows you to clean your pump parts once at the end of your day rather than each time you take a break. Just simply rinse them off and you are good to go!
7. Practice Pumping Before Returning to Work
It may seem silly but before returning to work, it’s a good idea to practice pumping at home so you are comfortable with the process and your supplies. This is especially important if you only plan on pumping at work, and primarily nursing when at home. Your body will respond differently to a pump then it does to your baby nursing. In the simplest of terms, your baby is much more efficient and better at removing milk from your breasts than even the most high tech pump.
Hopefully you have been doing a few pump sessions here and there to start building a supply, but if not get started now! You will want to learn what settings work for you and approximately how long it will take to empty your breasts to avoid this learning curve right when you are back at work.
8. Dress for Pumping Success
Alright, let’s talk about dressing for pumping success before you head back to the workplace. We all know that finding the perfect outfit can make us feel like we can conquer the world, and that includes conquering our pumping at work sessions too! So, let’s say goodbye to those days of struggling with awkward button-down shirts and hello to a wardrobe that works in harmony with your pumping routine.
Comfort is key! Look for clothing options that are breathable, stretchy, and forgiving on those days when you’re feeling a little bloated or tender. Trust me, your breasts will thank you for it! Loose-fitting tops, flowy blouses, or even wrap-style dresses are fantastic choices that allow easy access for pumping without sacrificing style.
Now, let’s talk about the bra situation. Investing in a good-quality nursing bra is an absolute game-changer. I absolutely swear by these, but look for one that provides ample support, is easy to unclip or pull aside, and gives you the flexibility to slip in those pump flanges without feeling like you’re wrestling an octopus. And here’s a pro tip: consider getting a hands-free pumping bra. This little piece of heaven will allow you to multitask like a boss while you pump away, whether it’s catching up on emails, scrolling through social media, or simply savoring a moment of quiet.
When it comes to bottoms, opt for skirts or pants with a comfortable elastic waistband or adjustable drawstrings. Trust me, you’ll want that extra breathing room as your body adjusts to the ebb and flow of your milk supply. And hey, if you’re feeling adventurous, why not throw in a pop of color or a fun pattern to boost your mood and confidence? You deserve to feel fabulous!
Oh, and let’s not forget about footwear. As much as we adore those stilettos, let’s be real – running around the office in uncomfortable shoes is a recipe for disaster. Opt for supportive flats, low heels, or even stylish sneakers that will keep your feet happy throughout the day. After all, you’ve got enough on your plate without dealing with sore feet!
9. Find a Quiet, Private Pumping Space
Finding a quiet, private pumping space is essential for successful pumping at work. This can be a challenge in some workplaces, but it’s important to advocate for yourself and find a space that works for you. Ideally, you want a space that is private, comfortable, and equipped with an electrical outlet. It’s also helpful to have a place to store your pump and accessories, as well as a sink for washing your hands and pump parts. Remember, it is required that your employer provide a place for you to pump that is not a bathroom so make sure to set something up ahead of time to keep your first day back on the job as smooth as possible.
10. Take Pumping Breaks Regularly
Taking pump breaks are not just necessary, they are essential! Trust me, I get it – your to-do list is a mile long, and the last thing you want is to disrupt your workflow. But here’s the thing: Your body and your baby need those regular pumping sessions to maintain your milk supply and ensure your little one gets all the nourishment they need.
Aim to pump every 2-3 hours during the workday, or as often as your baby would normally nurse. Maintaining as close to a schedule as nursing your baby at home is super important to keeping your milk supply up. This may mean scheduling pumping breaks into your workday and communicating with your employer about your needs. Remember, taking care of yourself and your baby is a top priority.
So, throw out any guilt or worries about inconveniencing your colleagues. Taking pump breaks is not just a “nice-to-have,” it’s an essential part of being a working mom.
Now, I know finding the time and space for pumping at work can be a logistical puzzle. Talk to your employer about your needs and see if they can provide you with a designated pumping area or a flexible schedule that accommodates your pumping breaks. Remember, this isn’t just about you; it’s about creating a supportive environment for all nursing moms in the workplace.
And when it comes to actually taking those pump breaks, embrace them as a chance to take a breather and recharge. Step away from your desk, find a cozy spot, and indulge in some much-needed self-care. Use that time to catch up on your favorite show, read a book, or simply close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Trust me, mama, you deserve this break, and you’ll return to your tasks with renewed energy and focus.
11. Be Patient With Yourself
Returning to work after maternity leave is a rollercoaster of emotions, and adding pumping at work into the mix can make it even more challenging. But here’s the thing: it’s okay to cut yourself some slack. Seriously, take a deep breath and repeat after me: “I am doing the best I can.” As a new mom, there’s so much pressure to juggle it all flawlessly, but let’s be real – we’re only human. Some days, pumping sessions might not go as planned, and that’s okay. Give yourself permission to be patient with yourself. You’re learning, adapting, and figuring things out along the way. Remember, it’s a process, and it takes time to find your groove. So, my dear friend, take it one pump at a time, celebrate your victories (no matter how small), and be kind to yourself when things don’t go according to plan. You’ve got this, and I’m right here cheering you on every step of the way.
I want you to know that you’re not alone in this journey of returning to work and pumping. It’s a beautiful, messy, and complicated adventure that so many of us have gone through. But with a little patience, self-compassion, and some creative problem-solving, you can absolutely make this work. Remember, you’re an incredible mom who’s doing an amazing job. And while it may not always feel like it, your efforts to provide for your little one through pumping at work are invaluable. So keep pumping, keep hustling, and know that you’ve got a whole community of mamas rooting for you.