Pumping is hard. Pumping at work? That is ridiculously hard. Seriously, hats off to all of you working and nursing moms. No matter how supportive your workplace is of you pumping and breastfeeding your child, every mom appreciates things to do to make pumping at work easier, because it's basically a second job.
I feel very thankful that I never had to pump outside of my own home. I have worked from home since I was pregnant, so pumping while my daughter napped or played happily on the floor was no big deal. But juggling conference calls and co-workers that share your office makes pumping a much bigger deal. Let's also not forget the stress of being a working mom on top of a pumping mom. I can't imagine wrangling kids off to day care, plus their bags and supplies, along with that work project you fell asleep trying to finish, a bag of pumping supplies, and a cooler to hold all of your breast milk in.
I'm exhausted just thinking about it.
For many pumping moms, the hard part is finding a safe, comfortable place to do it in their office. Are you pumping at your desk? Does your company have a separate room you can go to? Do you have to bring your own cooler? Do your co-workers give you a hard time about your pumping breaks? It can be a total nightmare to try to balance everything, but these nine tips can make pumping at work easier on you so you have one less thing to stress about. (Don't worry, I'm sure it will be replaced with something else to stress about.)
1. Get Yourself Organized
Organization is the key to conquering chaos, so be sure you have plenty of it as a pumping mom. Amy O'Malley, director of education and clinical services at Medela, tells me in a phone interview that a routine is essential to managing pumping at work. "Knowing what parts you need each day, knowing when you're going to clean them, if you need bottles or bags — all of it should be part of your routine. You won't forget anything if you have a process in mind," she says. According to The Bump, picking up special products, like wipes to clean your breast pump, can also save you some stress in the long run.
2. Invest In The Right Pumping Gear
I know a hand pump sounds like a cheaper alternative, but a double electric pump is so worth it. "Having a good double pump is essential," O'Malley says. "Your hands are free to work and if you're double pumping, you're receiving 18 percent more milk." She also notes that it's a good idea to keep some items nearby if they will make your pumping sessions more efficient, like a picture of your baby or a piece of their clothing to help your milk let down. If you have a hands-free pumping bra, that can be extremely beneficial, or you can borrow some hacks from KellyMom so you can work while you're pumping.
3. Talk To Your Employer Ahead Of Time
This is super important. Your dream of pumping at work will be much harder to execute if you don't talk to your employer about it. O'Malley suggests that if you ignore the subject, you can cause a lot of anxiety on your part and make it more difficult for your employer to offer you resources for pumping. If your employer isn't on board, O'Malley says it's important to know your rights and to also explain the benefits of breastfeeding to them. "You also need to talk to them about important things," she says. "Like where you're going to store your milk, if other employees will care about your milk in the fridge, if there's a place for you to pump, and what resources are available."
4. Pump At The Same Time Every Day
Depending on your work environment, it can be beneficial to set up a pumping schedule that allows you to pump at the same time every day. O'Malley suggests that by doing this, you'll be able to schedule meetings and other work responsibilities around your pumping. Also, major bonus? You can log in your pumping sessions on a calendar to block off your schedule. This way, your co-workers know that you're busy and they'll know what you're doing behind the closed door.
5. Keep Track Of Your Milk Supply
Feel like you need another pumping session? Pumping too often? O'Malley suggests that keeping a pumping log will help you track your milk supply and make your work pumping as efficient as possible. "Tracking your pumping sessions can really help moms so they can look at their total for the week to make sure they're pumping as often as they should," O'Malley says. "If you notice that you went from six 4 ounce bottles in a week to six three-ounce bottles in a week, you can figure out if you need to fit in another pumping session or if your baby isn't taking in as much milk as before."
6. Start Your Pumping Schedule Before You Go Back To Work
La Leche League International suggested pumping about a month before you return to work and O'Malley agrees. "Not only will it get your body used to pumping and the routine, but it can lessen your anxiety and make you feel more comfortable when you have an idea of how everything is going to go once you're at work," she says. Besides, you're going to need milk to leave for that first day of work anyway.
7. Work With Your Job's Resources
OK, so maybe your office doesn't have a cushy pumping room or a mini fridge just for you, but it's still your right to pump, so work with your company's resources. O'Malley suggests asking if you can use a conference room at a certain time each day or where you can store your milk, but she also notes that it's often beneficial for a workplace to have their own pump you can use. You and your employer are a team, so work together to find a solution that works for all of you. Also, be sure to check out the United States Department of Labor frequently asked questions about your rights as a breastfeeding mother in the workplace.
8. Use Signage For Your Door To Let Co-Workers Know You Are Pumping
It's common courtesy, sure, but it also opens up the conversation about pumping at work so that nobody feels uncomfortable. Everybody will know that you're pumping, they'll know not to disturb you, and you can feel more confident in your choice to breastfeed while working. Medela At Work has some great resources, including door hangers, to let your co-workers know that you're pumping.
9. Breastfeed Your Baby Before & After Work
A huge help when pumping at work? Fit in as many breastfeeding sessions before and after you head into the office as you can. O'Malley suggests breastfeeding at home before you leave and as soon as you get your baby back so you don't have to spend all day pumping. Dr. Sears also recommended nursing when your baby wakes up, one more time before you head to work, and as soon as you get home to them.