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Getting back into work mode after having been away caring for your newborn, can be very challenging not only physically, but emotionally and mentally. Having to pump while at work certainly does add another challenging element to the mix that can make things seem even more difficult to juggle.
We get it, and want to help make this transition as smooth as possible for you. Here are our top 8 practical tips to help you prepare yourself for successful pumping at work!
Prepare yourself ahead of time
We get it mama—Returning back to work after spending weeks (maybe even months) being with your baby every day is challenging. Being away from your little one and having to manage pumping in the workplace outside of your comfort zone, can be scary!
To make the transition a little easier for yourself, your baby, and your employer, make sure you prepare yourself ahead of time. Call your employer and let them know about your plans to pump at work. They may need some time to prepare themselves by ensuring they have a space ready to accommodate you.
If you work in an office setting, you may even be able to book conference rooms based on your baby’s feeding schedule (more on this a little later) prior to your return! Prepare yourself ahead of time so you can at least rest assured that you’ll have a place available for you to pump upon your return to work.
From boob to bottle: practice makes perfect
Going back to work means you’ll have to start preparing your baby to transition from boob to bottle. For many parents and their babies, this is a process which often takes a couple of weeks (and various bottles) to master. You can start offering your breast milk to your baby in a bottle around the 4 week mark which is when your milk supply begins to establish itself.
In fact, go do something nice for yourself and have someone else give the baby a bottle, that way your baby can get used to different faces (and you get a well deserved break!). Keep in mind that you may also have to try various baby bottles until you find one that your baby likes!
And again, don’t worry if things don’t go smoothly the first time around. It can take quite a bit of time and practice. It’s something both you and your baby will have to work through together.
Set up your workplace pumping station & breast milk storage
Set yourself up for success by getting a basket or a pumping bag, and filling it up with all the essentials you need to create the ultimate pumping station for work! Make sure that you invest in a breast milk storage system so that you have somewhere clean and safe to store all the milk you’ve expressed. If you’ll be storing the milk in a shared fridge, consider getting labels so there are no mix-ups.
No fridge at work? No problem. This cooler bag is especially designed to store and transport your breast milk storage bags while keeping them icy cold. If you’re a pumping boss mama who travels for work, check out Milk Stork—this company makes it super to get your breast milk home to your baby when you’re away on business.
Make your workplace pumping space your own
Aside from creating your pumping station, you’ll have to consider other things you may need to make your workplace pumping space your own. Afterall, pumping at work is not the same as pumping at home. You’ll want to personalize your pumping space so you can have a more positive and productive pumping session!
You can use a pumping “do not disturb” door hanger to maintain your privacy, a comfy nursing pillow to rest your arms so you can catch up on your Instagram Feed, and foldable storage ottoman to put your feet up while you pump and to store your pumping bag.
You should also consider bringing something that reminds you of your baby. It can be one of the many videos you have of your precious baby cooing, or one of your baby’s blankets. Seeing and smelling any of these will help you relax and will also encourage the production of the Oxytocin hormone which is responsible for triggering your milk letdown reflex.
Create a schedule that works for you & that won’t hurt your milk supply
Most if not all moms who have to pump at work worry about losing their milk supply. What’s important to remember here is that it’s all about supply and demand mama! While you’re at work, it is best practice to pump as often as your baby feeds while you’re at home (think every 3 hours). Doing this will help you preserve your milk supply.
You’ll find that you probably need to pump every 3 hour or so while you’re at work. Open up the breastfeeding app that you use to track your little ones feeding sessions and create a work schedule that mimics those times. Add all of your pump sessions to your work calendar so you don’t forget to pump and so that your coworkers know that you won’t be available for some time.
Make the most of your pumping session
You’ll have a limited amount of time to pump at work. To make the most of your pumping session, to avoid hurting your milk supply and developing blocked milk ducts (ouch!), it’s imperative that you empty your breasts properly. Massaging your breasts while you pump encourages your body to produce more oxytocin which helps trigger your letdown reflex, increases output, and helps yield fattier milk.
Our Warming Lactation Massager not only stimulates the breast through vibration, it also combines heat which helps to relax the breast improving milk flow, letdown, and shortens your pumping time! So don’t forget to add it to your workplace pumping station.
Creating your freezer stash
Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to start working on building a massive milk stash right after you give birth. Mama, you only need about two days worth of milk which equates to approximately 50-70 oz., pumped and stored in your freezer before you return to work. We’re serious, that’s all you need!
As long as pumping remains a part of your daily routine, you’ll be good to go! Many moms think they need to start pumping ASAP and have gallons of milk set aside before they return to work but that is simply not true. In fact, pumping regularly in addition to breastfeeding before your baby is 4-6 weeks old, can cause your body to go into overproduction mode, which you want to avoid!
That’s because 4-6 weeks is around the amount of time it takes for your breast milk supply to become fully established. However if you work a job that will require you to be away from your baby for extended periods of time, you’ll definitely want to have more milk available—around 25-35oz for each day you’re away from baby.
Know your rights!
You absolutely do not have to pump in the bathroom (yuck!) or your car. The Break Time For Nursing Mothers Provision which was passed in 2010, requires employers to provide nursing moms with reasonable break times to express breast milk after the birth of her child.
It also requires that employers provide a place for an employee to express breast milk that is not a bathroom, and that is shielded from the view and intrusion of others. Keep in mind that the Break Time For Nursing Mothers Provision only applies to companies with 50 or more employees.
If you work for a smaller company, speak to your employer and see if you can come up with an arrangement that works for the both of you. Many states also have their own laws which offer more protection for moms who pump at work. Get familiar with all of these laws, talk to your employer, and pump with confidence knowing that you are protected!
We hope these tips help make your experience pumping at work a lot easier, more enjoyable, and productive!