I have yet to meet a mom who loves pumping at work. Breastfeeding already comes with its own challenges. Trying to keep supply up away from home and our babies is hard. We’re also transitioning back to work after a difficult first few months with the baby.
Tips for pumping at work
Still, pumping at work—even if not exactly a favorite task—is possible with these simple hacks:
Contact your boss or HR before your first day back
Finding the pumping room or building a makeshift area shouldn’t fall on your shoulders. Instead, ask your boss or HR staff about what arrangements are in place to make that happen.
I emailed my HR staff one week before returning about leaving a key to the room on my desk. I also called one of my co-workers who also pumps—her run-down helped me get a better sense of what to expect.
If they’re setting up a room for you, ask for these arrangements:
- A small refrigerator
- An extension cord
- A table and comfortable chair
- A folding screen near the door
Pack the essentials
There’s nothing worse than going to work and realizing that you had forgotten to pack your pump parts. Keep a list (whether printed, on your phone or in your head) of these essential items to bring:
- Your pump. Carry your pump in a proper container so that it doesn’t break. You wouldn’t carry your laptop in a tote bag, so don’t subject your pump to a light-weight bag either. Unfortunately mine comes in a huge suitcase, but hey at least it’s well-protected.
- The pump parts. If you use Medela like I do, bring a few of the white membranes and leave them at work. I’ve had situations where they tore and my godsend of a husband had to buy new ones at Target and drop them off at work for me.
- Bottles or storage bags. Bring enough for all your pump sessions.
- Ice pack and bottle bag. Keep your milk fresh by packing an ice pack and keeping the bottles in a bottle bag.
- Hands-free pumping bra. This was one of those “How did I live without this before?” purchases. I used to rely on my nursing tops or bras to keep the pumps in place. But this hands-free bra has by far been amazing and convenient.
- A breastfeeding cover. Bring a breastfeeding cover or a large receiving blanket.
- A smart phone, book or magazine. If you don’t plan to rest during your pumping sessions, bring some form of entertainment. You can also use your iPhone to set a timer or to look at photos or videos of your baby while you pump.
One of the biggest downfalls of pumping at work is just how time-consuming it can be. With a busy schedule and people to talk to, working moms can find it difficult to squeeze in a pumping session.
- Treat your pumping sessions as work commitments. Schedule time blocks on your calendar and treat it like any other meeting.
- Pump about the same times your baby would have nursed with you so your body maintains the same schedule. And try to pump at least 20 minutes for each breast, even if milk flow stops towards the end. Pumping even if no milk comes out signals to the body to produce even more.
- Save time and use a double pump. Whether you rent or buy, get your hands on a double pump as this will half the time you spend pumping.
Tip: If you only have a single pump, maximize milk flow and time by alternating between breasts. Start with the left and continue pumping until milk slows down. Then switch to the right and do the same. (Instead of pumping 20 minutes on one breast then another 20 minutes on the other.)
Keep your supply up
Pumping moms swear by many methods on increasing and maintaining your pump supply. Eating oatmeal, drinking Mother’s Milk Tea and downing a ton of water are some of the methods I use. Consume enough calories to produce milk. An extra 500 calories a day is best (or 1,000 for twin moms like me).
I felt giddy the last day I had to lug my pump to work. It can be a hassle to include pumping into a work schedule.
Still, with discipline and preparation, pumping at work can also be a rewarding experience. You’re saving a ton of money. You’re getting regular breaks to relax. And you’re reaching your goals and giving your baby breast milk.
You’ll develop routines and habits to make pumping at work smooth and successful.
If you’re like me, you could use reminders and to-do lists. I made one you can print as a reminder of everything you need to pack for the next day. You can also list your to-dos, from simple tasks to grander plans. Download it below:
Get more tips on breastfeeding and pumping:
- The “How Do You Do It” Working Moms Guide
- 7 Breastfeeding Essentials to Keep You Motivated
- Ask the Readers: Would You Breastfeed in Public?
- 6 Ways Dads Can Support Breastfeeding Moms
- 12 Breastfeeding Secrets Every Mom Should Know
What do you do to simplify pumping at work (or elsewhere)? Let us know in the comments below!
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