Pumping At Work: What You Really Need To Know

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After reading this post about women pumping at work and the issues we face, I knew I needed to write an ultimate guide for pumping at work.

The sad thing is, every pumping woman has a similar story to tell.  I often feel that working moms get left behind in the support area especially from their employers. Personally I was incredibly vocal when I was pumping at work. I wouldn’t stand for anything less that what was legally required by my employer.

When my son was 11 weeks old, I returned to my job and successfully pumped at work for over a year. I was away from my son roughly 10 hours a day Monday through Friday.

Pumping isn’t easy.

With our second due this November, I’ll once again pump at work as much as I am allowed and need to for my child.
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Know Your Rights

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, when you return to work as a breastfeeding and pumping woman there are certain things your employer is required to provide for you. You can read more about that here.

A brief synopsis:

  • Employers are required to provide REASONABLE break time as frequently as needed by the nursing mother for up to one year following the birth of the woman’s child.
  • The private space provided must NOT be a bathroom.
  • The provided private space must be free from intrusion by coworkers or the public.
  • The private space does not need to be a permanent space, but must be suitable for expressing milk and must be made available when the nursing mother needs it.
  • Employers are not required to pay a nursing mother for her break time unless already providing compensated breaks.

For further protections, check out what your specific state says about moms who need time to pump here.

Please speak up if your employer shows you the outlet in the bathroom. You have rights. 

What To Bring In Your Pumping Bag

I had a separate bag for all of my pumping gear that I left at work for the week in my locked drawer. It wasn’t too heavy but just easier to keep at work. Here are the necessary things you’ll need in your daily pumping bag.

  • Pump
  • Pumping nozzles and bottles
  • Pumping bra
  • Extra membranes
  • Storage bags, bottles, or lids for your bottles
  • Small cooler with ice pack – good if fridge not provided and for travel.
  • Paper towels
  • Cleaning wipes if no sink is available for rinsing and washing parts

Some extras include snacks, water, and maybe a book to read to help you relax! There are also these great steam bags to quickly sanitize your bottles in between pumping sessions!

9 Tips For Pumping At Work

Practice! Make sure you practice pumping at home first so you’re comfortable upon your return to work. I felt like an old pro in a new surrounding. Learn your pump. Everyone reacts differently to the pump. Do not put your pump dial up all the way! Please don’t! Fiddle with it at home for a setting that works for you and gets great output! I was a smidgen past halfway on my pump.

Massage. You may need to massage your breasts to get letdown and to start the flow of milk. You’ll know with practice at home!

Distractions. If you feel like you need to bring work into the room with you, go ahead. While pumping at work, I chose to catch up on social media, check in with my husband, friends, or caregiver, and just not stress myself out about the 20 minutes or so that I was away from my desk. Catch up on some things at home. Make those phone calls you didn’t want to make at your desk!

Make it comfortable. Pumping is no one’s cup of tea. If you like it, great! Try to get as comfortable as possible. I used to bring a small space heater into the room because it got cold! Do whatever you need to make the time away from work not feel like an even bigger chore than work itself.

Snacks and water. I always took the time to pump to have a quick snack and make sure I was drinking enough water. Make the most of your time and refill your cup!

Set up the night before. Personally, I packed my bag on Sunday for all of my necessities and brought it into work Monday morning so I wasn’t lugging that bag back and forth. If you have to take your pumping bag home at night, make sure before you head to sleep it’s ready to go with everything you need and may need for the next day.  The last thing you want is to NOT have anything to store your milk in. Pack your snacks! Make sure you’re ready to go before you sleep!

Consistency. I stress consistency so much! If you have an Outlook calendar, set blocks on your calendar that you will be unavailable. Set the reminder to ding five minutes before so you can wrap up what you’re doing and head into your pumping area. Set up an alarm on your phone if you already know time gets away from you! You’ll want to pump as close to the same time every day for the best results. Make sure you allot time for setting up and cleaning up as well.

Pump first thing in the morning if you’re not feeding before you leave. So crucial. I was always most full and got 75% of the day’s milk from my first pump in the morning.  If you’re not able to squeeze in either at home, go ahead and do it as soon as you get to work. I was always able to head right to the pumping room as soon as I got to work with my oatmeal and coffee.

Relax. Pumping at work isn’t easy.  Don’t focus on the numbers. If your supply suddenly drops, add five minutes onto each pumping session, be consistent, and know that you’re doing everything you can to feed your baby.

For additional tips check out the following posts:

I don’t sugarcoat how difficult pumping at work or at home is. It can be a mind game. My inbox is always open if you need support or would like any advice on breastfeeding, pumping, or just need to have a chat. You’re doing awesome, mama!

Did you pump at work? Was it a good, bad, or miserable experience? 

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2 thoughts on “Pumping At Work: What You Really Need To Know”

  1. Thanks for posting this! Pumping is not easy! It’s a beautiful commitment to your thriving baby and I wouldn’t have it any other way. As a mother of 4, who has pumped in all sorts of supply closets, server rooms, bathrooms, it can get so frustrating! I work for a fortune 10 company and we don’t have a mothers room?!?! It’s terrible. But at the end of the day when I’m home and holding my precious angel, it’s all worth it. 🙂

    1. Wow! They should have something! Something in my company (Fortune 250) that the management speaks about often is becoming “world class.” You know what’s world class? Helping new parents return to work…and maybe an actual parental/maternity leave policy!

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