For breastfeeding moms returning from maternity leave, pumping at work can be a challenge. But it’s a perfectly attainable and admirable one. Just like anything—from learning to breastfeed to soothing your newborn—it just takes a little practice and preparation. Here are some tips to help get you started off on the right foot.
Know Your Rights
Breastfeeding laws and protections in the workplace–where they exist–vary from state to state. In Massachusetts, the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 requires employers to provide a nursing mother with “reasonable break time to express breast milk after the birth of her child for up to one year. This means new moms can not be penalized for scheduling pumping or expressing breaks, but employers are not required to compensate for that time. It also requires employers to provide “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from co-workers and the public” for milk expressing purposes.
Communicate Your Needs
When you’re ready to share your big news with your employer, speak openly about what you’ll need to facilitate pumping when you do return to work. Have conversations with HR, managers, and colleagues who’ve “been there,” to ramp up support and get all your questions answered.
Long before you head out on maternity leave, ask about your employer’s designated clean, private pumping space. And don’t be afraid to speak up about other needs you may have, such as a place to store breast milk, a comfortable chair to pump in or a stable, level surface to minimize spillage as you’re wrapping up. Every ounce counts!
Make a Checklist
Returning to work is an adjustment–there will be a lot on your mind and emotions will be running high. But you’ve got this! Have a checklist on hand and pack everything you’ll need for pumping every night, including those tiny valves and wipes for easy clean up. Missing one small component in the midst of a morning rush or in a sleep deprived state can derail your ability to pump at work, which can lead to a host of other challenges such as engorgement, infamous mommy guilt, supply, and supplementing.
Think about the flow of your day and peak milk supply times. For many new working moms, breastfeeding with baby just before leaving for work, then pumping 30 to 45 min after that feeding can help maximize output. If baby is still sleeping when you’re getting ready to leave, simply pump everything then. And depending on your commuting time, leave some time between your last pumping session and the end of the day. That way you’ll be pretty full and ready for baby to feed and snuggle as soon as you walk in the door.
Schedule Pumping Sessions
Being a working mom and a breastfeeding mom simultaneously is a balancing act. A great way to stay on top of both priorities is to schedule your pumping sessions right into your work calendar. That way colleagues will know not to schedule meetings when you’re not available, and you’ll get reminders even when you’re deep in the zone, to drop everything and pump. Skipping sessions can affect your supply.
Invest in Good Gear
Everyone has different budgets and breastfeeding goals. But if you are hoping to breastfeed your baby for several months to a year while working, it makes sense to do some research and find a well-reviewed breast pump, cooler, bottles and storage supplies that meet your specific needs. For example, if you have a less than ideal pumping space with poor sound-proofing, perhaps you’d want to go for a pump known for being on the quieter side. If you plan to work while you pump, hands-free might be an option. Some pumps have adapters and others are battery operated. Find what works for you. Most insurance companies offer a breast pump as part of the maternity benefits, so if you’re looking for or need a high grade pump, it may be worth a call to the insurance company to find out about your options.
Take Stock and Ration
When you come home with your bottles of pumped breast milk, carefully transfer into breast milk storage bags, keeping in mind the ounce amounts your baby consumes. Sometimes if they’re filled too much more than a typical feeding, that precious milk can be wasted. To add to that, go through the inventory with anyone who might feed your baby. A partner, nanny, friend or relative may in theory know you worked hard to pump and freeze all that milk, but they may not fully understand how important it is to use only what’s needed when it’s needed. 🙂
If you need any support at all (or a good night’s rest with overnight newborn care), our experienced, professional baby care experts and nannies are here to help. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with questions you may have.