Pumping at work can be a challenge for many breastfeeding moms. Read everything you need to know about pumping at work and breastfeeding.
I have yet to meet a mom who loves pumping at work. Breastfeeding already comes with its own challenges—trying to keep milk supply up when we’re away from home and the baby is hard. We’re also transitioning back to work after a difficult first few months with the baby. And it’s not always easy to get away from your desk to pump multiple times during a work day.
What you need to know about 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, especially that first day. Instead, ask your boss or HR staff about the arrangements in place before you go back.
I emailed my HR staff one week before returning to ask about leaving a key to the pumping room on my desk so I have access as soon as I needed it.
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 your work is 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
- A computer and phone if you prefer to work while pumping
Pack the essentials
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There’s nothing worse than going to work and realizing you’d forgotten to pack your pump parts. Keep a list of these essential items to bring:
- Your pump. Carry your pump in a proper container so 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. Mine comes in a huge suitcase so big someone thought I was carrying a light box, but hey, at least it’s well-protected. This is the one I rent.
- The pump parts. If you use Medela like I do, bring a few of these white membranes and leave them at work. Some of mine had torn and my godsend of a husband bought new ones at Target and dropped them off at work for me.
- Bottles or storage bags. Bring enough for all your pump sessions. You might even want to keep a box of storage bags at work so you have one less thing to bring. I prefer storage bags since they’re more compact to travel with.
- Ice pack and insulated bottle bag. Keep your milk fresh by packing an ice pack and storing the bottles in an insulated bag. Make sure the bag keeps the milk cold during your commute.
- 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. This is the one I use and highly recommend.
- A breastfeeding cover. Bring a breastfeeding cover or a large receiving blanket. You never know if someone might accidentally walk in, or if you have to share the room with another mom.
- A smart phone, book or magazine. If you don’t plan to rest while you’re pumping at work, bring some form of entertainment. You can also use your iPhone to set a timer or look at photos or videos of your baby while you pump.
One of the biggest downfalls of pumping at work is how time-consuming it can be. With a busy schedule and coworkers to talk to, working moms can find it difficult to squeeze in pumping sessions. Here are a few tips to make that time more efficient:
- Treat your pumping sessions as work commitments. Schedule time blocks on your calendar and treat it like any other meeting. Refer to these sessions as commitments if people ask if you’re available at this time.
- Save time and use a double pump. Whether you rent or buy, get a double pump—this will half the time you spend pumping at work. I made the mistake of using a single pump, which doubled the time I needed to pump than had I gotten a double to begin with.
Tip: If you only have a single pump, maximize milk flow and time by alternating between breasts. Instead of pumping 20 minutes on one breast then another 20 on the other, start with one and continue pumping until milk slows down. Then switch to the other and do the same.
Keep your supply up
Pumping moms swear by many methods on increasing and maintaining your pump supply.
Eating oatmeal and drinking Mother’s Milk Tea in addition to a lot 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).
And 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 more.
How often should you pump at work?
Pump as often as your baby would nurse. If your little one would be feeding three times while you’re gone, schedule in three pumping sessions while you’re apart.
And try to pump at the same times your baby would be nursing with you. You’ll have about the same amount of milk to supply for the next day. Your schedule also remains the same—come the weekend, your body will continue to produce milk and nurse at about the same times.
Time management strategies
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I felt giddy the last day I had to lug my pump to work, and no wonder—it can be a hassle to schedule in pumping at work.
Still, with discipline and preparation, pumping at work can also be a rewarding experience. You’re saving a ton of money, getting regular breaks to relax, and reaching your goals to give your baby breast milk.
With the tips above, you’ll develop routines and habits to make pumping at work smooth and successful.
Get more tips on breastfeeding and pumping:
- The “How Do You Do It” Working Moms Guide
- Why You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty for Pumping at Work
- How to Spend Time with Your Kids when You Work Long Hours
- 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 me know in the comments below!