A Survival Guide for Pumping At Work

October 26, 2020


Is your maternity leave coming to an end? Sure, it can seem daunting. But going back to work doesn’t mean that your connection to your baby will suffer. With the right tools and strategies in your arsenal, you can make pumping in the workplace successful.

The Best Breast Pump for Working Moms?

Sadly, there’s no easy, concrete answer to this question that so many moms ask – because a lot depends on your very personal situation and preferences.

What we can say for sure is this: The best pump for home may not be the best pump for work. Some women are blessed to have an insurance plan that covers two pumps, so they can choose one for each location. Others have a pump that still works from the last kiddo. Most of us, however, will end up packing up our pump each morning when we leave for work.

Whatever your situation, when selecting a breast pump that you’ll be using in the workplace, keep the following breast pump types and features in mind:

Wearable Breast Pumps

Hands-free, wearable breast pumps can be worn in your nursing bra and completely concealed under clothing. Some wearable pumps are like two mini-pumps that require no tubes or wires and fit completely in your bra. Other options clip to your waistband or bag and use minimal tubing.

Both types of wearable pumps are discrete and allow more freedom of movement, which in some workplaces, means more productivity.

Battery vs. Plug-in

Depending on where your breast pumping station will be set up at work, you’ll need to determine if a breast pump that utilizes batteries (either rechargeable or standard AA) or a wall plug-in works best. Some breast pump systems include extra-long wall plug-in cords, which may be to your benefit if the wall plug-in is not close to a comfortable spot.

Portable Breast Pumps

Although you may think of ALL breast pump systems as being portable, some are much more user friendly than others. You’ll want to consider the weight of the pumping system, how easily it can be set up and taken apart after EACH pumping session, what kind of power source it uses, and if you can you charge it/use it in your car, etc.

Additionally, while some pumps come with a carrying bag – great for enhanced portability - others may require you to purchase a breast pump bag separately.

Speed and Suction

A breast pump system with adjustable speed and suction can work to your benefit, as your pumping needs may fluctuate throughout your nursing journey and as your little one gets older. Spending as little time as possible attached to your pump calls for a system that works both effectively and efficiently.

Sound

Some women don’t care who knows that they’re pumping! Others do. If you’re a woman who does, keep the sound level of the pump in mind (depending on where your pumping station or designated pumping area may be). Some pumps have almost zero sound, while others are very audible.

pumping at work
Check out the set-up of your office’s Lactation Room or designated pumping area before you start pumping at work.
Photo credit: ADA Sign Depot

Prepare for Pumping at Work (and Home!)

It’s very important to not only prepare yourself for your baby’s arrival and maternity leave, but to also discuss with your workplace what kind of expectations and requirements you will need as a nursing mother once you return.

At Home:

  • Once your breast pump and accessories arrive at your home, take the time to learn how the pump works, how to clean it, and what type of nursing or pumping bras will work best with your pump.
  • Purchase nursing and pumping friendly clothing. This includes bigger bras, nursing pads, hands free nursing bras, clip on/off nursing bras, nursing tank tops, and clothes that are comfortable and easily removed or lifted.
  • Devise a labeling or tracking system for bottled and stored breast milk at work. This involves keeping track of which side you pumped on, how long you pumped, and dating milk to be stored.
  • Learn the rules and guidelines for breast milk storage, refrigeration, freezing, thawing, carrying around in an insulated cooler, etc.
  • Purchase cold packs and an insulated cooler for when you need to store milk while pumping away from home or keep bottled milk cool while out and about.
  • Purchase/download any apps or handheld devices to help you track pumping schedules (reminders and alarms), time pumping, etc.

At Work:

  • Discuss where the designated breast pumping area will be. If one has not been created yet, present your expectations and lawful requirements.
  • Develop a general plan for pumping that exclusively fits YOUR work schedule. Generally, in an 8 hour work day, nursing mothers will need to pump three times for 15 minutes. Add on an extra 10 or 15 minutes for retrieving your pump, setting up and cleaning it, as well as output documentation and labeling.
  • Discuss refrigeration and breast milk storage options.
  • If you plan to use a temporary space as a mother’s room, consider making a sign to label the door as “occupied.”
maternity leave return
Returning from maternity leave is hard. Ask for help from your loved ones.
Photo credit: nappy on Pexels

Going Back to Work after Maternity Leave

While you and baby have bonded and become oh-so-in-tune with a feeding schedule and hunger cues, it is important to prepare both yourself and baby for the big day that you will go back to work.

If you have been exclusively or primarily feeding from the breast, this means that your child will need to learn how to bottle feed, and you will need to deal with the learning curve of using a breast pump frequently. Some tips:

  • About two or three weeks before heading back to work, start substituting feedings with your pumped breast milk and increase these substitutions as you get closer to your work start date. This will help baby get used to the bottle.
  • While your partner or another caregiver is feeding baby with a bottle, take the opportunity to pump. This teaches him or her to accept feedings from someone other than you.
  • Maintain breastfeeding sessions that will stay consistent after your transition back to work.
  • During this time, you’ll need to start stockpiling breast milk in your freezer. Some moms turn to power pumping to help them build a supply. Each day, try collect around 25 to 30 ounces.
  • Don’t worry! Consistently large volumes of breast milk come to some mothers much more easily than others. If you find yourself struggling, reach out to a lactation consultant or primary care doctor for advice.

For many moms, going back to work after spending weeks or months with a new baby will be very hard. While it’s difficult to help you with the emotions that surround this transition, we hope that getting you thinking about many of the necessary preparations will reduce some anxiety. If you’re still in need of a breast pump and would like to find out if you can obtain one through insurance, it's quick and easy to fill out our qualification form. Good luck!



Cover photo credit: Keren Levand on Unsplash

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