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9 Tips for Pumping Breast Milk at Work


Moms returning to work who want to keep breastfeeding quickly become close frenemies—er, friends—with their breast pumps. Pumping on the job takes time, self-sacrifice, and occasionally courage, but it can be done.

Here are some tips for making it a fantastic success.

1. Talk To Your Boss Early

a woman talking to her boss

Don't wait until you return from maternity leave toting a breast pump to let your manager know that you'll need breaks to express. For your pumping plans to succeed, you're going to need the support of your superior, who can rearrange meetings, break times, and schedules; find an appropriate space; and advocate with higher ups for any other support you may need. These tips can help you talk to your boss about what can be a delicate subject.

2. Secure a Space

a close up of a breast pump

It can be intimidating to ask your manager where you can pump, but know that you have rights: Federal law requires employers to provide a space for new moms to pump for a full 12 months postpartum. This space needs to be adequate for pumping, not a bathroom, and shielded from view and the potential intrusions of co-workers.

Some employers provide ample support for their nursing moms and set up a lactation room complete with refrigerator and comfy chairs; others might only offer a cramped supply closet with an electrical outlet. If your work offers the latter, consider investing in a car adapter for your pump; you might feel more comfortable heading out to your vehicle to express milk. It's not ideal, but you'll want to be in the most comfortable spot possible.

3. Get a Double Pump

a double breast pump

Time is of the essence, so invest in a hospital-grade double pump to get the job done as quickly as possible. Many hospitals rent pumps, and most health insurance plans are now required to cover the cost or rental of breast pumps for new moms. Check with your insurance to see what brands and models they cover.

4. Gather Your Supplies

a picture frame showing a picture of a young family

Besides a pump and bottles, there are a number of items that can make pumping and milk storage more convenient. A hands-free pumping bra will free up your fingers to type and surf, allowing you to do some multi-tasking. A cooler provides a nice private spot to store those bottles of liquid gold. Antiseptic wipes and antibiotic hand gel are helpful for moms pumping in a space without running water. And a photo of your baby can help with the initial let-down.

5. Block Off Time

a woman working at a bakery

Whenever possible, schedule time on your calendar to pump. If you work in an office, block off the time on your company calendar to let others know you're not available for meetings or commitments then. For moms working in non-office situations, clearly communicate your necessary breaks to your fellow employees in a diplomatic, friendly way. Let them know you need to be off the floor for 20-30 minutes at these specified times, and open up a dialogue to assure that both your needs and those of your employer will be covered at that time.

6. Secure Storage

two jars filled with breast milk

Make sure you have a safe spot to store your expressed milk. Stash labeled bottles of milk in a small bag or cooler (also labeled) in the office refrigerator. If you're not comfortable with that, buy a bottle cooler bag to store in your pump bag.

7. Know Your Rights

a close up of an article on the affordable health act

If you work for a company with more than 50 employees, you are legally guaranteed both time and a space to pump for up to one year after your baby's birth. Your employer doesn't have to pay you for that time, but they do need to provide you with a spot other than a bathroom where you can express milk.

Should you run into any issues accessing these rights, speak to your company's human resources department.

8. Be Your Own Advocate

a mom breastfeeding her baby while wearing a suit

Your baby is your number one priority, even when you're at work. But your workplace might not be as supportive as you'd like of new moms and families. At times you might have to put yourself out there or stand up for your right to go pump. It's not always going to be easy, but always remember who you're fighting for: that precious little one waiting for you at home.

9. Don't Forget It!

a lot of empty measuring jars

Unfortunately breast pumps and parts aren't self-cleaning, so you'll want to bring all of your supplies home with you after work. And then of course bring everything back with you on your next shift! Determine a way to help you remember—maybe it's setting a series of reminders to pop up on your phone—to grab the gear when you're heading out the door.

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