Heading back to work can be a sad and frustrating time in your life, and you have to learn how to survive breast pumping at work. Pumping at work can be a scary experience, and millions of women have walked your shoes.
After I had my first child, I headed back to work and college, which meant I had to become accustomed to pumping in other places. The thought of taking my pump to work and college and finding a place to pump made me nervous. What if I bothered someone? What if I leaked or spilled a bottle all over myself?
I needed a survival guide to make it through this part of my life. Even though I lacked a guide, I knew that I had to make it through and keep breastfeeding my baby.
Here is what you need to know about how to survive breast pumping at work.
Before you head back to work, the first thing you need to do is find out your state’s laws about pumping at work. If your boss or any of your coworkers give you a hard time, it’s your right to pump.
It might feel uncomfortable, at first, to discuss your pumping options with your boss, but remember it’s natural and protected by law. Unfortunately, just because it’s your right doesn’t mean it’s always to convince your boss to give you a proper location other than a bathroom. Some bosses and companies don’t value the role of breastfeeding, so we have to stay strong and know our rights.
Moms need to know their right as described under the federal law Break Time for Nursing Mothers(source). Here are the details.
1. Who It Covers
The one problem with this federal law is that it doesn’t cover everyone. It includes hourly employees who are already under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The federal law can be a bit confusing. If you’re covered by FLSA and are not exempt from section 7, which sets the overtime pay requirements, you are entitled to breaks to express breast milk. However, even if your employer is not required under FLSA to provide breaks for pumping, they might be obligated for these breaks under state laws.
So, even though some breastfeeding mothers might not be protected under federal law, they are likely covered under state law.
2. What It Does for Breastfeeding Mothers
Health professionals agree that breast milk is the superior choice, so this federal law helps working mothers continue to breastfeed. Employers must give their employees a break so that they can pump or breastfeed during work hours. The law also states that women must be given a place to pump privately.
3. Rules and Conditions
The law dictates that employers must provide a private room for pumping that is not a bathroom. No one should be able to see you if you’re pumping or breastfeeding.
4. Length of Time You Can Pump
This part of the law is open for interpretation. It states that mothers are to be given a reasonable amount of time for pumping, but this time doesn’t have to be paid. It’s best for mothers not to abuse this time. For example, use your lunch break to pump.
5. How This Law is Enforced
If you’re protected under the FSLA, you can report problems to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. There is a toll-free number that you can call. State courts and agencies can enforce the law if you’re protected under state law.
A Checklist of the Items You Need to Pump at Work
So, what do you need to pump at work? Here is an essential checklist.
How to Prepare for Pumping at Work: A Timeline
It’s best to start preparing to head back to work at least a month in advance. That can be disheartening because you want to treasure the time that you have with your baby. However, proper planning does make the transition back less frustrating for you.
Nothing is more frustrating and scary than not pumping enough milk at work. What if you don’t pump enough milk for the next day? That’s why it’s best to start ahead of time.
One Month Before Working
A month before you head back to work, there are a few things that you should do to prepare for the big day. Here are some ideas.
One Week Before Working
Now, your first day back to work is only a week away, so here is are some things you should do to prepare.
First Week Back at Work
The day you have anticipated, and possibly dreading, has arrived. It can be an emotional week. I remember vividly crying as I dropped off my child and heading off to a work shift that I didn’t want to go. I sulked and cried hard in the car, but I understood I had to make it through. So I did.
Create a Schedule for Pumping at Work
You might have a schedule at home, but creating a schedule for pumping at work is a different problem. You often have to learn as you go. It does take some practice because you have to learn how to juggle everything.
Before you can create a schedule for pumping at work, think about the answer to these questions.
How Much Milk Will My Baby Need While I’m Gone?
First, you need to figure out how much milk you need while you’re gone each day. That’s going to depend on how long you’re apart from your baby each day. You also want a bit of a buffer zone just in case your work schedule runs over, or you get caught in traffic!
Most people recommend that you put 1-1.5 ounces of breast milk per hour for your baby. So, if your baby takes a bottle every 2 hours, you might give a bottle that is between 2-3 ounces.
It’s best if you try to aim to pump a bit more. For example, if your baby typically drinks 12 ounces while you’re gone, it’s a good idea to aim for 15 ounces or more to create a buffer zone.
How Frequently Should I Pump at Work?
Determining how frequently you should pump at work determines your pumping schedule. It’s recommended that you pump every 2-3 hours or try to mimic your baby’s nursing schedule at work.
That can be difficult. Pumping every three hours should be sufficient at work, but make sure you don’t go longer than every four hours.
What is the Best Way to Store Pumped Milk?
The ideal way to store expressed milk is in a refrigerator, but not everyone has access to one. Your coworkers might feel uncomfortable with breast milk next to their coffee creamer. Storing in a fridge doesn’t work for everyone.
The next best option is to store your breast milk in an insulated bag or cooler with an ice pack. Then, put the bags or bottles in the fridge or freezer whenever you get home.
Examples of Pumping Schedules at Work
Let’s take a look at what you need to do before work, after work, and how you might spread out your pumping throughout the workday.
What You Need to Do Before You Go to Work
Take a look at some things you should do before you go to work. You’ll see why you need to start getting ready well in advance for work.
What to Do After Work
Now, the workday is finally done, and it’s time to go home. Some women like to breastfeed their baby as soon as they pick them up from work. Babies often want to feed as quickly as they see their mothers, especially if you have a long commute home.
A Sample Pumping Schedule
|6:30 AM||Breastfeed baby at home before leaving for work|
|8:30 AM||Breastfeed baby at childcare or give your baby one last feeding before you leave for work if your childcare comes to your home.|
|11:30 AM||Pump during your lunch hour in a private room.|
|2:30 PM||Pump during a break|
|5:30 PM||Pump one last time at work or hold off until you feed your baby at childcare|
10 Tips to Make Pumping at Work Easier
It’s best to expect some struggles as you adapt to working, pumping, and breastfeeding. It can be quite a challenge, and some tears are normal. I cried several times throughout my first weeks of pumping and work. I like to know how to get things done correctly; my perfectionist personality isn’t always easy to handle.
Here are some tips to make pumping at work easier.
1. Pick the Right Pump
Your breast pump can either make your pumping experience enjoyable or your most significant problem each day. Taking time to pick the right breast pump the first time.
Most women find that a double electric breast pump is the best choice for pumping at work because they have to pump frequently and efficiently. When you pick a breast pump, here are some factors to consider since you’ll be at work.
2. Stick to a Schedule
Pumping on time is the best thing you can do. You’ll set up a pumping schedule that closely mimics your baby’s eating schedule or every three hours. Try not to extend past four hours at a time. If you go past four hours, you risk engorgement, leaking, and clogged ducts.
Sticking to a schedule also ensures that your milk supply stays where it is. You don’t want to risk drying up, and that can happen if you frequently skip pumping breaks.
3. Stay Sterile as Possible
It’s best to keep everything as sterile as possible. That means you need to wash your hands. After you pump each time, run hot, soapy water through your pump parts every time after you pump. That way, you don’t need a thorough cleaning at your next pumping session.
If you don’t have time to sterilize your pump between pumping, you can store your pump parts in the refrigerator at work. Put them in a plastic Ziplock bag. Just take off the parks of your closed system put and put them in the fridge. So easy!
4. Bring a Cooler
A portable breast milk cooler is your friend, letting you transport milk home without it going bad. Wasting all of that milk would be disheartening, and it would, over time, cause you to need formula.
Since you’re going to use that breast milk soon or freeze it after you get home, start chilling the milk immediately. All you need is a portable cooler and ice packs to keep everything cool. Some breast pumps include cooler bags with their pump!
5. Find Ways to Multitask
Depending on your job, you might be able to use your pumping time as a way to multitask. You can use a hands-free pump or a pumping bra. That allows you to eat lunch or a snack while breastfeeding. Don’t forget how important it is to stay hydrated and eat the right amount of calories each day.
Many moms find ways to multitask while pumping. You can review paperwork, answer a few emails, or make an important phone call (if your pump is quiet).
6. Be Organized
Organization is key to surviving parenthood, so it’s just as crucial if you want to survive breast pumping at work. Ideally, you’ll have a single bag that’s for your breastfeeding supplies. It will hold all of the tools you need during the day to stay on track. This bag will keep your pump, accessories, and cooler.
7. Find a Comfortable Place to Pump
Have you ever tried to pump in a place that you aren’t comfortable? It’s like your breasts know you aren’t relaxed and ready, so they close up like Fort Knox. Breasts are smarter than you might think.
The law states that you need a private place to pump, but don’t expect luxury. If you don’t think the accommodations are comfortable enough for you, be open and honest with your boss.
8. Learn How to Stimulate a Letdown
You won’t be able to pump much without stimulating a letdown. What works for you might not work for someone else, so it’s best to keep trying different methods.
For some women, looking at a picture of their baby can be helpful. Some women record a quick clip of their baby crying to help stimulate their letdown. It helps if your pump has a letdown feature that changes the stimulation method.
9. Try to Reduce Stress
I know stress and motherhood seem to go hand in hand. Going back to work can feel so difficult, and you need to try to reduce stress as much as possible. Stress can hinder your breast milk supply. How you reduce stress is individual. What works for me might not be as stress-relieving for you, but here are some ideas.
10. Breastfeed Often at Home
When you’re home with your baby, breastfeed as often as your baby likes. That helps you avoid using the freezer milk or the milk that you pumped during work. Also, frequently nursing at home helps to keep your milk supply up to where you want it to be.
How to Handle Strange Situations While Pumping at Work?
My workplace wasn’t precisely pumping friendly, and you might have the same situation. There is a good chance that you’ll come in contact with some strange cases that you have to navigate. Here are some of those situations and how to handle them.
Leaking is just part of the breastfeeding world. It seems as if your breast have a total mind of their own, letting down whenever they want. That’s frustrating and embarrassing.
Try to be as prepared as possible. Wear breast pads in your bra to absorb leaks. Toss in an extra work shirt into your breastfeeding tote bag in case of emergencies.
2. Rude Coworkers
People don’t always understand pumping and breastfeeding, so that can lead to awkward situations. You might feel uncomfortable at times, especially if you become the end of their lame okes.
Tell your coworkers how you feel! However, if it still is a problem for you, talk to your HR department or your boss. There is no reason why you should have to deal with rude, hurtful coworkers.
3. Privacy Concerns
You need to relax a bit, and it’s best if you have privacy while pumping. If there are other pumping moms in your workplace, you can try a sign-up sheet for the room, so you don’t end up with several moms in the same place.
4. Loud Pump
I highly suggest that you look for a quiet pump, but that doesn’t always happen the way you think. I thought my pump was quiet, but it sounded so loud to me when I sat at work pumping. Everyone knows what you’re doing, and it’s impossible to muffle the sound enough.
If you ended up with a loud pump, keep the door shut in your pumping area. You can try to cover the pump with a blanket to help quiet the noise.
Pumping at work can be scary at first. You feel like you’re navigating something brand new, and you worry about how everyone will react around you. Plus, you’re worried about your baby and missing your little one. It can be a stressful time for moms. If you find yourself trying to survive breast pumping at work, be sure to remember our tips!