Establishing and continuing a breastfeeding relationship is no mean feat. It’s understandable that if you choose to return to work whilst breastfeeding, the thought of disrupting that may worry you. You can fit breastfeeding and working into your life by pumping at work. It’s not easy but it can be done.
Moms who express at work:
- Can continue breastfeeding for longer
- Ensure you baby still get the best nutrition
- Save money
- Take less time off with sick babies
Continuing to breastfeed and work is in the best interest of baby, mom and workplace. Check out our strategies to make pumping at work easier for you.
1. Practice makes perfect
Don’t wait until the day you return to work before running through your pump schedule for the first time. A practice run a few weeks before you start will help you iron out any problems you come across. This is particularly important if you’ve never pumped before, as it often takes a few tries to get sufficient volumes from a pump. Your first day will be stressful enough without having to worry that you aren’t getting any milk from your pump.
Tips for your practice runs:
- Swap one nursing session with an expressing session
- Let someone else feed baby from a bottle
- Get to know your breast pumps features and settings
The more you practice the easier expressing will be and the sooner baby will adapt, when it comes to your return day.
2. Request a short week
At your return to work meeting you may want to request working a half week on your return. If you work regular 9-5 a return on a Wednesday or Thursday is more manageable than a full week. If you work shifts it may be easier to start you first week with split shifts. The first few days can be overwhelming and a few days break in between can help you to adjust.
3. Choose a quality breast pump
The type of pump you buy will depend on how often you are working and therefore frequency of expressing.
Once a day approx twice a week then hand expressing or a manual pump may suffice.
Twice a day or more than 3-4 times a week you should consider an electric grade pump. A single pump will work well but a double will speed up your pumping sessions.
Working full time – you will need a double electric pump to stop your milk supply falling whilst you are away from baby. You should invest in a good quality, reliable breast pump. You can purchase or rent a hospital grade breast pumps. They are expensive but they will save your sanity of you need to pump often.
4. Remember accessories
Your test runs should highlight to you which accessories you will need for your breast pump. The most common things suggest by other moms who pump:
- Pump bag – to transport discreetly
- Extra bottles – keep a stash a work in case you forget to pack
- Hands free pump bra – continue pump whilst working or even commuting.
- Shawl – to provide extra privacy an ensure your co-workers don’t accidentally see anything
It’s best to have all these organized before you return to work and not when you are at work.
5. Create a schedule
Before your maternity leave you probably had a set work routine, a usual time to wake, eat breakfast, leave etc. Now baby is hear that may need to change to accommodate other factors such as child care drop off, a nursing session before work. You will now need to factor in expressing session into your work day. If your baby usually feeds 3 times in the time you are at work, then you need to pump 3 times at work. It is part of Federal law that female employees are allowed “reasonable break time” to pump milk at work, up until your child is one year old.
A session may take around 20- 30 minutes to empty both breasts. The more practice you have with the pump and the more comfortable you become with expressing a pump session will be much quicker. You don’t need to stick rigidly to your schedule and it will change over time, but at first it give a good structure to fit everything in to your day
6. Organize a pump area
It is your employer’s responsibility to find you a suitable space to express that is not the bathroom. Although it’s not a requirement this area should be comfortable and private to ensure optimal milk flow. If you use an electric pump it should include a mains outlet as well as a chair and table. If you don’t have your own office areas some ideal areas include
- A disused office
- Conference room
- Storage areas
- Cubicle area curtained off
- Disused shower rooms
- First aid rooms
To save any awkward moments between you and colleagues remember to put a ‘please knock’ sign up if there is the possibly someone may walk in.
7. Stimulate your let down
Your let down is an involuntary reflex which is stopped by feeling stressed or uncomfortable. The stress of starting work, being away from baby and anxiety of feeling exposed when expressing can make it very difficult to relax whilst you pump at work. It’s important for you to relax whilst you pump. Some suggestions include listening to music, closing your eyes or reading a magazine. You may find that items which remind you of baby will help boost your milk output. Try a photo, small item of clothing which smells like baby, or a video clip on your phone.
8. Safe storage
If you don’t have access to a food safe refrigerator you will need to consider how you will store your expressed milk. A quick guide to storage times:
Room temperature (19-26°C, 66-78°F) for 4-6 hours (3-4hrs if the room is hot)
Cool box (15°C, 59°F) for 24 hours
Refrigerator (0-4°C, 32-39°F) for 3-8 days (ideally within 72hours)
The best solution is to store your milk in a cooler bag with an ice pack. The milk can then be placed into the fridge or freezer when you return home. Remember to label your milk with the date expressed, it can then be rotated and oldest milk used first.
9. Pump hygiene
Depending on what facilities you have at work, it may be easier to clean as you go. This will prevent you having to carry around dirty equipment and then having to do it all after a long day at work. Most works have a microwave available in a staff room. This is ideal for a quick wash of parts and using popping in steam sterilizer bags for a few minutes. This will save you so much time – and probably your sanity!
If you don’t have facilities to clean your pump at work then stock up on large zip lock bags. These will help store and separate dirty pump parts from your clean equipment as you pump through the day.
10. Hydration and nutrition
You probably already know from breastfeeding that you get extremely thirsty during a session. This applies to expressing too, so make sure you always have a bottle of water at hand when you pump. Your body is working hard to make your milk and you need to replace those calories with regular meals. If that’s not possible try healthy snacks little and often. Nibbling on fruit, cheese, nuts and wholegrain crackers whilst expressing will help give you the energy to work and express without flagging.