Returning to work after having a newborn poses several challenges for many moms. And for those breastfeeding, it can bring on another stress. As mentioned before, we all are discovering how to make this work together, and it can be done successfully. I learned quickly that my job environment played the most significant factor in my ability to pump milk while at work successfully. Pumping at work can be a challenge, but it’s essential to do it, so you don’t lose your milk supply.
Here are 6 tips for pumping at work as a breastfeeding mom:
First, know your rights.
It’s good to know the laws and what to expect before leaving on maternity leave. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to provide eligible employees with reasonable break time to pump breast milk for their nursing child for one year after the child’s birth. Employers must also provide a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which an employee may use to express breast milk.
In addition, federal law prohibits discrimination against employees who exercise their rights under this provision. You can read more about this on the U.S. Department of Labor site. Talk with your employer about your needs before returning to work after maternity leave or adoption leave ends. Ask if there’s a private space where you can pump during business hours. Many offices have lactation rooms where nursing mothers can pump privately and comfortably.
Pumping Location & Supplies
Once you have your location to pump set, learn what tools are available on-site and how they work. If there aren’t any storage containers for your breastmilk or refrigerators where it can be stored safely at work, consider bringing some with you so that you don’t have to waste time looking for them later. My first time pumping at work meant I had to carry my pump daily. Fortunately, I was at a new company with a Mother’s Room fitted with a hospital-grade pump, cupboard, water filter, and sink for my second daughter. There are companies out there that make sure moms are comfortable and understand the needs of the working mom.
Set a Schedule
Now that you have the location and supplies to pump, you need to set a schedule. You know what’s best for you and how many times a day you will need to pump. Set reminders and block out those times in your calendar for others who will be unable to schedule meetings at those times. It is easy to get caught up with work and miss a session. Reminders are essential. Pumping at the same time every day helps with your milk supply and lets everyone in the office know your schedule. Make sure to communicate your plan to your team.
Water & Snacks
While at work, drink plenty of water and have snacks on hand. I always kept a snack bar in my drawer while pumping at work. Also, dehydration can quickly cause a drop in your milk supply.
Wear Comfortable Clothes
The last thing you will want to do while pumping at the office is to have to pull a dress over your head. When you have only a set amount of time to pump, you do not want to worry about your clothes. Wear loose-fitting clothes so that you are not constricted while pumping. I found that wrap dresses made the process the easiest without feeling exposed.
Try to Relax
Finally, try your best to relax. Use this time to concentrate on pumping solely. Do not take calls, and do not answer emails while pumping. It is best to disconnect and think about your baby. Stress at work was a significant factor for me while pumping. The more stress, the less milk I was able to pump. I eventually made sure to use that time to decompress and focus solely on pumping during that time.
This is a big adjustment, and there may be days when you are overwhelmed at the office. But do not be hard on yourself! You are doing fantastic, and I know you are doing your best. Not everyone has the same experience or results when pumping at the office, which is okay. Take it day by day and find the best system that works for you.