Mom working in an office while pregnant.

Everything You Need to Know About Pumping at Work

After delivering your baby and spending maternity leave bonding, establishing healthy sleep routines, and solidifying your breastfeeding schedule, returning to work can seem overwhelming. Not only will you be separated from your newborn, but you’ll also likely worry that they’re getting all the nutrients they need to develop in a healthy way. These complex emotions that you’re feeling can be difficult to face, but you will still be able to care for your baby while you’re away. One of the best ways to do so is to breast pump and build a healthy milk supply for your baby. To help you achieve this, here’s everything you need to know about pumping at work.

Preparing to Successfully Pump at Work

The transition from full-time mom to working mom is hard. Make this process easier by preparing to successfully pump at work using the following tips.

Know Your Rights

Before you do anything, read up on your workplace pumping rights. You have the legal right to pump at work, be provided adequate breaks to pump at work, and have a private space that is more than a bathroom stall. In an amendment of the Affordable Care Act—section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers are required to provide a reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth. The employer is also required to provide pumping mothers with a place, other than the bathroom, that’s shielded from view and free from intrusion for an employee to express breast milk. When you know your rights, you’ll feel more confident about discussing any problems or issues with your employer about pumping at work.

Talk to Your Employer

If it makes you feel more comfortable, discuss pumping at work with your employer prior to coming back into the office. Some moms prefer doing this because it gives them reassurance as to how things will work when they return. Discuss where you’ll be able to pump and if there isn’t already a designated area, go through your options. Your employer is required to provide you a private, available place to pump that is not a bathroom. You can, however, use an office file room, storage room, or a cubicle that’s been modified with a curtain to give you privacy.

Depending on your state, the enforcement of the Fair Labor Standards Act varies, but you can call the toll-free number if you are having problems with your employer at 1-866-487-9243.

Get Prepared with Portable Pumping Accessories

Professionals recommend exclusively breastfeeding for the first 4 weeks to avoid nipple confusion. Once breastfeeding is solidified, bottle feeding with expressed breast milk shouldn’t cause problems. There are plenty of great breast pumps on the market that are made for working moms. The main thing to look for is accessibility and portability.

Breast Pump

When looking for the perfect breast pump to use at work, consider noise levels, overall efficiency, portability, power, and whether or not it’s hands-free. Many working moms are more comfortable using quiet pumps that allow them to pump discreetly, but it’s not a requirement. You will, however, want to make sure that whatever breast pump you choose is efficient. Double electric breast pumps tend to be the preferred option. Portability and hands-free power allow you to pump wherever you are, so you’re not restricted when doing work.

Breast Flanges

Breast flanges are what go directly over your nipple to help connect your breast to the breast pump. The size of flanges matter both for comfort and overall efficiency, so make sure that you find the right size ahead of time.

A Breast Pump Bag

Going from home to work and back with all of the accessories you need for your breast pump will require a breast pump bag. Without one, your life will be more difficult, and you’ll increase the risk of contamination of your breast pump parts. Find something that has space for milk storage bottles or bags, sanitizing wipes, extra nursing bras, power adapters or batteries, a drying rack, and if possible, a built-in cooler. You’ll need a portable cooler to ensure that your milk is safely transported from work to home, so if your breast pump bag doesn’t have one, it’s essential that you buy one elsewhere.

Understand Your Milk Supply

Your milk production works on a supply and demand cycle. To continue producing milk in the same quantity as when you were breastfeeding, try to stick to your baby’s nursing schedule. Ideally, this means pumping every three hours (longer if your baby is older). This will help you avoid problems with engorgement and keep your milk supply strong while you’re away from your baby. If you’re using a double electric breast pump, each session should only take about 15 to 20 minutes to completely empty your breasts. Typically, working moms follow a schedule where they nurse before leaving work, then pump three times throughout the day, and nurse again immediately when they return from work then continue with their regular schedule. Find what works for you and if you have any questions, talk to your doctor.

Encourage Letdown

Cold, uncomfortable office rooms aren’t exactly conducive to a successful pumping session. Instead, try to encourage letdown by getting yourself mentally and physically prepared for breastfeeding. First, find a comfortable space and make sure that you’re relaxed. Take deep breaths, put on some calming music or your favorite podcast, and try to push any work-related tasks out of your head. Some moms find that looking at pictures of their babies help as doing so releases hormones that trigger letdown. The same phenomenon happens when you smell your baby, so some women bring a onesie or blanket to help.

If you’re having difficulty, try giving yourself a light breast massage or use a warm compress to prepare the milk ducts. While you might have trouble with the first week or so of encouraging letdown while away from your baby, eventually your body will adjust, and you’ll be able to use your breast pump with ease.

As you get more comfortable pumping at work, you may find that you’re able to multitask and pump at work at the same time. If you’d prefer to do that, then go for it. However, don’t feel pressured to work throughout your sessions as you’re legally given this time to breast pump.

Safely Storing and Transporting Milk

Every time that you pump, place the milk directly into a storage bag and write the date on the bag. Even moms with photogenic memories will eventually lose track of the date of pumping, which can cause safety risks to the breast milk itself. Once you’ve labeled it, store the expressed milk in a refrigerator. You can use the shared fridge at work, just make sure that people know it’s breast milk. You can also purchase an insulated bag or cooler to store your breast milk during the day. Then, as soon as you get home, transfer the expressed milk directly into the refrigerator or freezer.

Expressed breast milk can be kept at room temperature for up to four hours. It can be stored in a cooler or well-insulated bag with ice packs for up to 24 hours. Breast milk kept in the refrigerator needs to be used within four days, but it can be frozen safely up to 12 months. Try to use your supply within six months for the best quality and safest option. Always use the oldest milk in your supply first to ensure that you’re properly rotating your supply.

Stay Healthy

Another great way to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your breast pumping sessions at work is to stay healthy. Make sure that you’re hydrated throughout the day and eating healthy, nutritious snacks. Breast feeding (and pumping) mothers should aim to eat about 200 to 500 more calories a day than usual, but these shouldn’t be empty calories. Prioritize whole fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, nuts, yogurt, or cheese to get the most out of your food.

After you pump at work, make sure that you follow the CDC guidelines to properly clean your breast pump parts and avoid any contamination. When choosing your breast pump, take your time during research. Find something that works for you and ask friends or family for recommendations. Remember that the Affordable Care Act requires that your insurance provider covers breast pumps, breastfeeding support, and other supplies that you may need. Byram Healthcare is here to help you find the perfect breast pump through your insurance coverage.