Work. Pump. Repeat
Updated: Feb 23, 2019
13 Tips to surviving and making the best of pumping at work
I know I talk and share a lot about breastfeeding and pumping and motherhood but that is almost my entire life at the moment. Anyone who has ever signed up to breastfeed their child can attest to how time consuming, self sacrificial and exhausting it is. Especially if you have to pump to do it. It can feel and almost is a second job.
Being a breastfeeding mom is hard. Being a working breastfeeding mom can be even harder. It can be incredibly stressful worrying about going back to work. Figuring out how to build your “back-to-work” stash, trying to put together a pump schedule during work, and make it home in time for your babes next feeding.
While breastfeeding is truly not for everyone and ultimately - fed is best. I want this blog to encourage and empower mamas near and far regardless of your decision to breastfeed vs. formula feed but this post is for the mamas who are determined to get and keep that milk flowing despite the obstacle of being a working mom or even just a mom that wants a break or to go on a date night or even a vacation!
1.) Know the law.
Breast Pumping at work is more common today than ever before so if you are a new mom feel comfortable knowing that most work places today understand or even encourage pumping at work since the new law has been passed. This law is called “Break Time for Nursing Mothers” and it provides not only a break time but also a place for mothers who are hourly wage-earning and some salaried employees (non-exempt) to express milk at their work place in safe and private area.
The best part of this law is that this place must not be a bathroom!
2. Have an extra set of everything at work for when you forget it.
There is nothing worse than the sinking feeling of getting to work and realizing that your breast shields are sitting on your drying rack at home instead of in your pump bag. Having a backup of everything you need to pump at your office gives you both peace of mind and the convenience of not having to run home when you realize something’s missing. Try keeping extras of the following at work (or in your car, if you drive to work):
Pump parts (connector, valve, etc.)Bottles and bags to pump into (with caps to store the milk)An extra charger or battery pack (depending on your pump)Anything else you use regularly to pump ( freezer bags, pads, etc)
3. Wash your pump parts between uses or have extra
The CDC recently issued new guidelines for washing pump parts and if you want to follow these guidelines, one way to handle it is to have any many sets of pump parts at work as you have pumping sessions at work. Then you can wash them all in one batch, which will be much easier than doing it after every session. I personally bought the Medela cleaning wipes and just wipe mine down and I have not had any problems. I will link the wipes on the picture below.
4. Have a strategy for “sneaking” in pumping sessions.
If you have a job that makes pumping inconvenient (like as a teacher or a waitress, it can be really difficult to stick to a schedule at work. And even if you normally are able to pump at work without issues, situations (maybe you have a job interview, or have to travel) may come up that make it difficult to pump when you need to.
One way to handle this is to come up with a strategy to “sneak” in a quick pumping session. For example, you can keep a small manual pump in your purse) and run to the restroom or pump in your car for five-ten minutes, and pump as much as you can.
5. If you drive to work, pump during your commute.
If you commute to and from work in a car, you can pump and drive at the same time. Assuming your commute is 10 minutes or longer, you can get two pumping sessions in each day without worrying about how to fit it in. Depending on your pump, you may need to buy a car adapter to pump in the car, but it is totally worth it when you think about the time you can save.
One thing to think about – if you are an exclusive pumper, chances are that you spend enough time pumping that you can pump and do other things at the same time without a second thought. However, if you find pumping distracting, you should not pump and drive at the same time. Additionally, you should never hook or un-hook yourself to the pump or check the bottles while driving, and you should have to use a hands free bra like the one below. I absolutely love mine.
6. If you don’t drive to work, buy a second pump to leave at work.
Keeping a second pump at work makes life a lot easier if you are commuting via mass transit, , carpooling, biking, or walking. If you are exclusively pumping, you need your pump everywhere you are – which means you need your pump both at home and at work. Packing it up and hauling it to work every day on top of everything else you might need (laptop bag, purse, daycare bag) is time-consuming and is just one more thing that you have to juggle as a working mom. I do commute to work but invested in a second pump just for convenience purposes.
The high price point of good breast pumps can make this challenging, but I know people that have purchased a never-used one secondhand from a friend or on swip swap. And now more than likely your insurance company will cover your breast pump as well.
7. If you have a job conducive to pumping, pump as many times as possible at work.
Some people who work in offices have jobs that make pumping fairly easy, like myself. If you are one of the lucky ones that has an available lactation room and a job that you can do on a laptop while you pump with a hands-free bra, take advantage of that to get as much pumping time in as possible while at work. That way pumping doesn’t take away time from sleeping, being with your sweet baby, or everything else that you need to do.
(If your job isn’t conducive to pumping – for example, if you’re a teacher or a bus driver – trying googling “<your job> and pumping” and see what tips you can find.
8. Stick to your schedule, but be flexible.
That sounds like contradictory advice, I know, but hear me out. Say that you pump three times during the work day, at 9am, 12pm, and 3pm, each for 20 minutes. Then you find out that your boss scheduled you to present at a meeting at noon. What do you do? Go to your meeting but then you make sure that you get 20 minutes of pumping in somewhere else that day like right before the meeting or right after. As long as you get the same amount of minutes that you normally get, you should be okay.
9. Figure out exactly how much you need
I know we all get so caught up in needing a whole freezer full but truthfully you only need enough milk to cover your babies needs for the first day back to work. Maybe 2-3 days if you want to be extra safe. You may be thinking, what? That’s not enough. Remember, you’ll be pumping every day at work. The first day back you’ll be pumping for the second day back. And the second day back you’ll be pumping for the third day back, and etc.
You’ll be sending your care provider with the milk you pumped the day before. So really there’s no need to panic if you’ve only got a few ounces of breast milk stashed away. As long as you have enough for that first day, you’re okay.
10. Try not to stress out about pumping enough.
I know this is easier said than done, but do the best you can. If you aren’t pumping enough to give your childcare provider or whoever keeps your baby, it’s fine to supplement but there are so many resources out there to increase your supply! I talk all the time about different things I take, drink, and eat to help boost my supply and truthfully- pumping or feeding more will increase it naturally in most cases. You can also try talking to your childcare provider about paced feeding if you think your baby is taking more than usual while she’s there.
11.) Know how often to pump
Going back to work before your baby is 6 months old requires pumping around every 3 hours. So for example, if you’re away from your baby for 10 hours (8 hour shift plus the commute back and forth), you should be pumping 3 times while at work.
Breastfed babies need around 1 oz per hour they’re away from mom. So if you’re gone for 10 hours, you’ll need about 10 oz (12 oz to be safe) each day for your baby.
If you’re taking a pump break 3 times a day and need 10 oz total for tomorrow feedings, you’ll need to pump around 3.5 oz per pump break. I usually get 5-6 ounces per pump sesh and it helps build the supply- even though she only eats half of that usually.
12.) Store your milk properly
Make sure you have a good sized tote that will fit your breast pump, small travel sized cooler with an ice pack, milk storage bags/bottles and any cleaning tools you’ll need because you’ll need to wash your pump supplies after each pump session.
After each pump session, make sure to transfer your expressed milk into a small bottle or bag with an airtight seal. You can pour the milk from both breasts into a single bottle together. Once you get home, transfer the three bottles from your cooler to the refrigerator or place the bags into the freezer. Then make sure to clean and dry any parts needed and put your ice pack back in the freezer so it’s ready for tomorrow.
If you have a freezer stash you’d like to rotate through in order to use older breast milk before it goes bad, swap one of the three bottle you pumped with a freezer stash bag. Just pour one of the bottles into a storage bag, date it and throw it in the freezer. Grab the oldest breast milk bag you have in your freezer and place it in the fridge overnight. Tomorrow transfer it to a bottle and send with your baby.
13.) Log it!
I use the Pump Log App - search for it in your phone store, it looks like the pic below in the logo. It is awesome. It helps me keep track of how much I have on hand and sets a reminder for me to pump the next time. It is a must for me!
Here is an example of my daily schedule for pumping/ bf'ing
Hang in there mama! You do what you need to do to get your job done, but get your pumps in around it!