Do you feel self-conscious or judged for pumping many times at the office? Here’s why you shouldn’t feel guilty for pumping at work.
It had been a few days since going back to work after maternity leave, and it still felt like all eyes were on me.
I felt the pumping stigma. You know, the feeling that keeps you from asking for a private room to pump. The guilt when you leave your desk three to four times a day with your pump. Dashing into the pumping room hoping no one saw you enter.
I’ve even heard some new moms who’ve resorted to pumping in the bathroom or car.
Why the guilt? I worried that once people knew I was pumping, they wouldn’t take me seriously. As if I was less committed to work, or slacking off and getting extra pumping breaks.
It didn’t help that my pump came in this enormous case that was pretty difficult to hide. Someone even asked me if it was a light table. Nope, just my giant pump for all to see.
Why you shouldn’t feel guilty for pumping at work
To combat the guilt, I reminded myself of my personal and work goals. I wasn’t one to abuse the pump room and sneak in there for any other reason but to pump. I wanted to save money on formula-feeding and give my kids breastmilk. And I kept my performance up, despite pumping at work.
If you feel the same, it’s likely the feeling is all in your head. Yes, some workplaces aren’t supportive and even explicitly discouraging. But many more likely support your decisions or, in most cases, don’t even think it’s the big issue you assume they do.
Rest assured, mama—below are the reasons you shouldn’t feel guilty for pumping at work:
1. Pumping is a physical need
Remember when you had morning sickness? You may have even been one of the unlucky ones who had to make frequent visits to the restroom. Pumping relieves a physical need as well.
Let’s take it even further to a more basic need everyone can relate to: peeing. Everyone in your office goes to the restroom to pee. No one tells them how long they can stay in there, or how often they can go.
Pumping is the same. Think of what would happen to your body and your milk supply if you couldn’t pump the whole day. Then, imagine not being able to pee for the whole day. Neither would be pleasant. Think of pumping as another physical need, not a selfish perk or privilege.
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2. You’re only pumping for a few minutes
Even if you pump up to 30 minutes at a time, don’t forget that that’s just a fraction of your entire day.
The frequency and length of each session might convince you that you spend too much time away from your desk. But think how much more time you spend at your desk or doing other tasks, and you can see that it’s more than the time you spend pumping.
3. Your coworkers take breaks, too
I was one of those people who worked straight through the day. I rarely gossiped with other employees, and—though I probably shouldn’t have—I even ate at my desk.
Meanwhile, your colleagues take smoke breaks, chat with folks in the hallways, or take daily two-hour lunches.
There’s nothing wrong with these choices (well, maybe the smoking one). But think about all the ways people take breaks at work, too. You may be the only one pumping, but you’re not the only one spending time away from their desk.
4. Your coworkers aren’t doing you a favor
This pumping stigma and guilt stem from the feeling that you’re getting extra favors. That you have to skip out on certain meetings or spend less time at your desk because of pumping.
The thing is, your coworkers aren’t doing you a favor. They’re not presenting you with the gift to pump. This is a physical need that your work should accommodate, not the other way around.
And yes, you should work around others if you can. For instance, you could postpone a pumping session for 30 minutes if it means attending a key meeting. But don’t feel like anyone is doing you favors or giving you permission to pump.
5. No one even notices
The biggest reason not to feel guilty for pumping at work? No one even notices. Seriously, it’s all in your head.
You may be more conscious of pumping than your coworkers are because you’re the one pumping. More than likely, your coworkers don’t notice or give it a second thought.
And if you feel like they’re insinuating or outright making you feel guilty, discuss it with them or another appropriate resource like your boss or HR. This shouldn’t linger for all the weeks and months you plan to pump at work. Best to be clear about your needs and how you can make it work.
Best practices for pumping at work
Now that you know you shouldn’t feel guilty for pumping at work, what can you do to lessen the stigma?
- Carry yourself with pride. You’re doing a good thing here, mama! It takes resolve to continue breastfeeding once you return to work. You’re giving your breastfed baby what you feel is best for her. The more assured you look, the less likely you’ll feel like sneaking around to pump.
- Don’t feel like you have to give a reason. Give a vague reason for missing or postponing a meeting. Say, “I won’t be able to meet at 10am. How about 10:30?” If they ask why, respond with, “I have a time conflict in my schedule.”
- Be discreet. One way to feel less-conscious is to be discreet with your breast milk. Store the bottles in an insulated bag in the fridge. Keep pump parts in the fridge as well and wash them in the sink at home.
- Keep doing stellar work. At the end of the day, your work should reflect your commitment. No one can give you grief over how often you pump when you’re able to produce amazing work.
As self-conscious as you might feel lugging your breast pump to work, you don’t have to feel guilty for doing so.
You’re getting work done and meeting your breastfeeding goals for you and your baby. Your coworkers likely don’t care or even notice that you’re pumping. And even if they do, remember that they don’t owe you any favors.
Keep your goals in mind and pump guilt-free—and definitely not in the bathroom or car, either.
Get more tips:
- What Every Mom Needs to Know About Pumping at Work
- How to Spend Time with the Baby When You Work Long Hours
- Scared to Breastfeed? Try These Tips!
- The “How Do You Do It” Working Moms Guide
- When You Need a Working Mom Pep Talk
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