Pumping at work may be awkward and uncomfortable for most new moms. Not only pumping your milk feels strange, but you’ll have to deal with the stress of doing it in a foreign environment. Perhaps you’ll even have to deal with the disapproving looks of your coworkers.
Yet, pumping at work in all peace is totally doable.
Here are 11 strategies and tips to follow to improve your pumping game and make things easier.
1. Know Your Rights
Not all working environments are friendly for nursing moms. If your boss doesn’t have children or if it’s a man, chances are you’ll have to deal with a few strange looks when you’ll mention that you need breaks to pump your milk.
Some workplaces are not even equipped with a pumping or nursing room. When I returned to work after having my first child, I didn’t even know I had the right to ask my employer for pumping breaks and a special room.
That’s why it’s important to know your rights.
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers have to ensure their breastfeeding employees get a private space where to pump their milk. This has to be a room different from the bathroom and access to this space must be restricted to nursing moms.
You should also know that employers have to allow a “reasonable” amount of time for you to collect the milk. However, these breaks aren’t necessarily paid.
2. Get Pump Spare Parts With You
Once you know your rights, you should start thinking about the pumping process. Pumping at work may seem easy but in reality, it’s awkward.
Washing or sterilizing pumping equipment or baby bottles is even more awkward. For this reason, I suggest you should take spare parts with you.
Keep the dirty parts in a bag to wash them at home and the clean ones in another bag to use during the pumping sessions.
3. Pump When You Would Breastfeed
Pumping at work is easier if you maintain a strict schedule. Your body is used to produce milk at determined hours, more or less when the baby is hungry. And that’s why you should try to pump more or less at the same time.
This helps lactation and also prevents incidents, such as leaks.
4. Wear Nursing Shirts And Bras
A great way to make pumping at work easier is by wearing specialty garments. There are dozens of nursing shirts and bras designed for nursing moms. They are designed to provide easy and discreet access to the breasts – just what you need when you’re pumping.
The only advice is to invest in loose cotton garments that don’t irritate your skin.
5. Maintain Your Milk Supply
Maintaining your milk supply is tricky, mainly because there is no baby to stimulate lactation. In fact, your baby is the one that triggers milk production, and no suction means less or no milk.
However, there are tricks to maintain your milk supply for a longer time.
A thing you could do is to pump at the same hours when you would normally breastfeed, as mentioned above.
Another trick is to breastfeed your baby as often as you can when you’re at home. Even if you have milk supplies in your freezer, it is essential to latch your baby to the breast whenever possible.
6. Pump During Lunchtime
Remember when I mentioned the “reasonable” unpaid breaks? You can reduce them by merging your paid lunch break with pumping. Instead of eating out, pack your lunch and schedule your pumping sessions during lunchtime.
Many moms use this trick and this gives you the possibility to make new friends. By engaging with other nursing moms you’ll also feel more motivated to pump your milk at work.
7. Invest In A Portable Cooler
If getting used to pumping at work is doable, if you share a fridge with coworkers, storing the milk is a whole different story. Breast milk doesn’t go bad quickly, but if it’s too hot it could be unsafe to store it at room temperature until you get home.
A solution is to invest in a portable cooler. This will keep baby bottles away from curious or disapproval eyes.
To maximize space in your cooler, store the milk in bags rather than bottles.
8. Manage The Leaks
Regardless of how natural they are, leaks are embarrassing. A way to deal with them is with a breast pad. They are similar to menstrual pads and go between your breast and the bra.
I’d also recommend having an extra shirt in your bag, just in case.
And to minimize embarrassing situations, try to stick to your pumping routine.
9. Ignore Rude Coworkers
Unless all your coworkers are moms that have dealt with pumping at work, expect to receive inappropriate or even rude comments.
The easiest way to silence these coworkers is by ignoring them. A smart answer can also give them a reason to shut up.
If their comments become annoying, just talk to your boss, human resource department, or the government. You shouldn’t tolerate harassment of any kind.
10. Attention To How You Store Breast Milk
I already mentioned the portable cooler, but if that’s not an option, pay attention to how you store the milk. Breast milk resists up to 8 hours at a room temperature lower than 77°F. However, if the temperature exceeds this threshold, you should refrigerate the milk.
Once refrigerated, make sure you won’t keep it at room temperature for more than four hours on your way home.
Also, make sure you freeze the milk as soon as possible after getting home.
11. Keep Your Pump In The Refrigerator
Sterilizing your pump at work is often impossible but keeping it in the refrigerator keeps it cleaner and prevents the development of the germs.
To avoid inappropriate comments, store your pump in a sealed bag that is not transparent.