So you’re ready to return to work and you want to keep your breastfeeding relationship going. That’s awesome! It is absolutely possible and pumping breastmilk at work is easy to do when you have the right set up and the right tools at hand.
If you’re new to this, or if you just want to learn how you can pump breastmilk at work efficiently and confidently, then we have you covered.
1 – Ensure You Have Privacy
One of the biggest barriers to women feeling confident pumping breastmilk at work is privacy. Not all workplaces offer somewhere for you to pump, or they don’t understand what you need. Be sure to communicate your needs to your workplace before returning to work.
You may also want to consider if the space you have to pump in has a lockable door, and if not, are you able to place a sign up saying the room is in use?
One of the things I found difficult to deal with at first was the sound of the pump. I was convinced everyone would be able to hear the pumping noise and was very self-conscious of it. Realistically, it wouldn’t have been easy to hear, but I did make sure I muffled the sound of the pump with a jacket or a cushion when I could.
2 – Remember Your Own Comfort
Pumping at work is so much easier when you’re efficient and when you are comfortable, and the two go hand in hand. You’re not going to be able to relax enough to get a good let down and pump session if you’re not comfortable.
Sitting in a chair with your feet firmly on the floor can help you position yourself properly, and having a pillow to support your back can help too.
Other things to keep in mind are the clothes you wear – be sure they’re also comfortable but with easy access for you to be able to pump.
3 – Be Prepared
Being prepared goes a long way to being able to be efficient and confident when pumping breastmilk at work. Having everything in one place, like an insulated bag, can help you keep it all together, grab what you need, and go.
Treat your pumping session like you would a breastfeeding session with a newborn. Keep snacks and a water bottle close by, and you can even keep a little blanket or something that smells like your baby to hold to help with letdown.
I always looked at videos of my baby breastfeeding to help stimulate a letdown and it worked every time!
4 – Know Your Storage Guidelines
Do you know how long you can store breastmilk out of the fridge for? Check your storage guidelines and know what you need to do.
I kept my pump parts, bottles and breastmilk storage bags all in one small insulated bag and would keep it all in the fridge. I would pump 2 – 3 times in one shift (I worked 10 hour shifts) and keeping it all in the fridge between pumping sessions means I didn’t have to spend time washing all the parts between.
The insulated bag also helped keep the milk cool for the drive home and the milk would all go straight into the fridge/freezer when I got home and I would wash all the parts ready for the next day.
5 – Know Your Rights
Do you know your rights when it comes to pumping breaks, lactation breaks and returning to work after maternity leave? Each country, state and workplace has different policies and standards, so be sure to know yours.
If you arent’ sure what your workplace policy is, ask! My workplace policy changed significantly between my two children. While I had to advocate a lot more when I returned to work after my first child, there was a lot more in place and a lot more understanding when I returned to work after my second baby.
Also, check to see if your workplace is flexible with their arrangements. For example, instead of only having the option to pump breastmilk at work, I also had the option to leave my place of work to go home and feed my daughter, or for my husband to bring my daughter to me and I could feed her at work.
You never know unless you ask!
6 – Be Kind To Yourself
Remember, pumping is not like breastfeeding. The amount of milk you pump is not indicative of the amount of milk you are producing, so if you’re not pumping as much as you thought you would, that’s okay.
You might need to just add an extra pumping session, or pump a little longer to make the most of your second and third letdowns.
It’s okay for things to not be perfect right away. A change like this can cause all kinds of fluctuations in your milk supply, time away from your baby, stress, a different schedule, they all play a part and it’s okay for it to take some time for you to adjust. You’re doing great Mama.
7 – Learn How YOU Pump Best
Just like everything, pumping breastmilk is a skill, and what works best for me might not work best for you. Get to know how you pump best.
Is it better for you to double pump, or pump one side at a time? Is it better for you to pump and hand express at the same time or to pump hands free? Is it better for you to look at pictures of your baby or scroll Instagram (either is fine, I do both).
Get to know you, get to know your pump and it’s settings, and understand that this is a skill that comes with practice. The more you do it, the more confident you’ll be.
Returning to work after having baby can be exciting and a little stressful, but once you get these things down pat, you’ll be able to pump breastmilk at work for your babe efficiently and confidently!