5 Tips to Making Pumping Work at Work

Returning to work after having a new baby brings with it a host of challenges and emotions. One question facing many new mothers is whether, and when, to pump.  Some mothers worry about how their co-workers will view breaks to pump and others worry that there won't be a private space.  Even U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth struggles with finding time to pump and her daily schedule now includes a series of asterisks every few hours to indicate when it's time to pump for her baby daughter, Maile Pearl Bowlsbey.

Image via Jamie Davis Smith

According to Molly Petersen, Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) at Lansinoh, there are some ways to make pumping easier when returning to work.

  1. How To Handle Responding to Uncomfortable/Unsupportive Coworkers
  • First, stay calm and professional. Chances are, this is coming from someone who is unfamiliar with the benefits of breastfeeding or your rights as a mom. Meaning, it could be a “teachable moment.”
  • If you feel comfortable doing so, share that you have made the personal decision to breastfeed because you believe it’s best for your family. What’s more, explain that it’s your right to have pumping accommodations at work. Sometimes a little humor can help get your point across, but again—it’s all about whom you’re talking to, your personal style, and your comfort level.
  • If comments persist, don’t hesitate to turn to your manager or Human Resources department for help. You have the right to pump at work, free from shame and harassment.
  1. How To Go About Finding a Private Place to Pump at Work
  • You want to have this conversation with your employer long before you go out on maternity leave. That way, you’ll have a pumping place ready the day you return to work.
  • The Affordable Care Act requires most employers to provide a safe, clean, and discreet place for you to pump, plus a place to store your breastmilk. If yours doesn’t already have a dedicated lactation room, offer to help set one up. It can be an unused conference room, private office, or storage room with a locking door. At minimum, it should have an electrical outlet and a comfortable chair. Hang a sign on the door to tell others when the room is in use.
  1. How To Effectively Manage Pumping So It Won’t Impact Work (Performance)
  • Block off your calendar for 20-30 minute times that mimic your baby’s feeding schedule, and stick to them (skipping sessions will not only leave you engorged but could affect your supply in the long run). Explain to your manager and teammates that it’s important for you to keep these regular pumping sessions. This way, they will know not to schedule meetings with you when you’re pumping or cleaning up.
  • If it can work with your family’s schedule, extending your workday for 30 minutes or an hour in the morning or evening may help you get more work done, plus be a show of goodwill to your company. And if your schedule gets extra crazy now and then, know that pumping for even a few minutes at a time is better than nothing.
  1. Helpful Hacks for Breastfeeding Privacy/Cover at Work 
  • Use a room with a solid door or blinds that cover any windows.
  • Put a sign on the outside of the door to tell others when the room is in use.
  • Choose work outfits that are easy to undress, like a wrap dress, a button-down shirt, or a cardigan over a nursing tank. Bring an extra shawl or cover-up if it makes you more comfortable.
  1. Tips for Bringing Pumping Supplies To and From the Workplace 
  • Keep your pumping supply bag next to your purse or laptop bag, so you won’t forget to take it in the morning. You’ll want to include the pump and all its parts, clean pump bottles with lids, breastmilk storage bags, hand wipes, and nursing pads. I also recommend keeping an extra set of clothes at the office, in case of leaks or spills—it’s bound to happen sooner or later.
  • Put your name and contact info on your pumping bag, in case you misplace it on public transportation or during the workday.
  • While freshly expressed breastmilk will keep at room temperature for up to six hours, it’s best to store it in the fridge. When it’s time to go home, transport your breastmilk in an insulated bag.

{ MORE: The Best New Breast Pumps and Accessories This Spring }

How do you making pumping at work work for you?

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5 Tips to Making Pumping Work at Work

Jamie is a Beltway Insider who loves channeling her pre-motherhood love of traveling into spending time exploring all D.C. has to offer with her brood of two girls and two boys ages 9, 7,5, and a baby. She is a reformed lawyer turned full-time kid wrangler who enjoys photographing her everyday chaos and anything salted caramel. Since life is never dull, she loves writing about the issues and events going on in her life at any given time, including caring for a daughter with special needs and th ... More

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