Pumping Breastmilk at the Workplace: How to Prepare
Mothers who return to work after maternity leave struggle with lots of different feelings. It’s not an easy process emotionally or mentally to return to work. For those moms who intend to keep breastfeeding and providing breastmilk for their babies, returning to the workplace also brings on logistical challenges.
Working moms who plan to use a breast pump at work should let their employer know their intention to schedule pumping sessions during the workday. This will allow everyone to be on the same page in terms of expectations and possible accommodations.
Questions to Ask
Here are some things to consider if pumping is part of your return-to-work plan:
- Is there a private, clean, and quiet place to pump? Mothers need not only a private place, but someplace that will allow them to relax. Your body tends to let down much easier if you are in a peaceful environment. If you don’t have your own office, see if there is a conference room or empty office that you can use. Work with your employer to identify a dedicated place or several back-up spaces to use for pumping while at work.
- Where can you store your breastmilk? Once you have pumped, is there somewhere you can store your breastmilk at work? If you have pumped into bags or bottles, where can you safely keep them? Is there a refrigerator you can use? Are you comfortable using a shared refrigerator to store your breastmilk? A good tip from moms who pump at work is to bring your own little soft-sided cooler with ice packs and store the milk in there.
- When can you pump? Feed your baby directly before you leave the house and plan to pump every 3-4 hours at work. Each woman is different but pumping can take from 15 minutes to well over 30 minutes per session. Depending on the kind of work you do, can you schedule your pumping sessions into your workday? Block out your intended pumping times on your calendar so that you do not schedule anything else at those times if possible. A regular pumping schedule helps with keeping up your supply of breastmilk. Also consider investing in hands-free pumping bras. You can then continue to work on a computer or take calls while pumping at the same time. (You might have to explain the background noise of the pump though!)
Supplies to Gather
Once you have the logistics figured out, make sure you have all the supplies you need for pumping at work.
- Choose the right breast pump. The most important thing you’ll need if you’re planning to pump while at work is a good electric breast pump. The Motherhood Center rents out highly rated and efficient hospital grade breast pumps to take the guesswork out of choosing a good pump. There are all kinds of pumps on the market, but in addition to making sure you purchase a powerful electric pump, you’ll want one that is portable as well. Some even come with tote bags made just for the working mom.
- Stock up on breast pump accessories. For hands-free pumping you’ll want to make sure you stock up on bras designed for your breast pump. You can attach your pump shields to the bras so that your hands are free.
You’ll also want to make sure you carry extra shields or a clean bag to store the shields you wash at work. Another alternative to washing the shields is to sanitize them using steaming bags like the Medela Quick Clean Micro-Steam bags that can be microwaved with your pump accessories inside.
Don’t forget to bring your breastmilk storage bottles or storage bags. You might want to leave a stash at work just in case.
- Plan your wardrobe. Since the baby weight might not have come off yet, your work clothes might be just a little snug when you first return to work. Use this opportunity to acquire some new, pump-friendly tops. For example, button-up blouses that open in the front would make it easier to slip on your hands-free bra and attach your pump. Practice pumping at home in your work clothes to lessen any anxiety about it. Also, you may want to leave an extra shirt at work just in case. We’re not suppose to cry over spilt milk but sometimes it happens. At least you’ll have a clean shirt to wear if it does!
It takes some adjustment to return to work after maternity leave, especially if you plan to pump, but women don’t need to be intimidated. Have a plan in place and gather your supplies. Women who have good support tend to be able to adapt eventually. If you need any help with this, please contact us at the Motherhood Center. We will be more than happy to walk you through all the things you’ll need in order to make your plan to pump at work a success!