Updated: Nov 4, 2021
Hold up. You are reading a guide about pumping at work.
Do you realize what that means?
Yes, that's right. It means that you are still feeding your baby breast milk!
Whether your baby drinks 1 ounce or 30 ounces of breast milk a day, this is a huge win.
And you deserve major kudos for the many hours of nursing and pumping (both day and night!) you have put in thus far.
Our bodies were made for breastfeeding, but that doesn't mean that it is easy.
As you plan to return to work, you may feel a little nervous about maintaining the milk supply you and your baby have worked so hard for.
And rightfully so. Maintaining your milk supply while pumping at work is no small feat.
Or maybe you are just trying to figure out the best times to pump and how to actually build pumping into your work day. This can be a challenge.
And if you're a planner, you are probably trying to figure out which breast pump to choose and which supplies you need.
You are in the right place for all of those things.
I am excited to share with you my favorite practical tips for pumping at work and share a ton of helpful resources.
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How To Prepare To Pump At Work
There are a few things you need to line up as you prepare for pumping at work.
Even if you're not a big planner, like me.
You don't want to be caught with your shirt off, breasts full, but without the supplies you need.
Or with a boss that didn't expect you to build pumping into your work day.
Or to spend 30 minutes wandering around trying to find a place to pump on your first day back (been there).
As you begin to think about transitioning back into the work place, you are going to have many big emotions. And things to do.
As with everything else (hello, parenting life), find 15 minutes here and there to slowly chip away at your list.
Let this list of to-do's help you get organized rather than overwhelm you.
One thing at at time.
One Month Before You Return To Work
If you are reading this with less than a month to plan, no worries. You can totally get these things done procrastination style.
1 - Where will you pump?
Where you work, what you do for your job, and how big or small your employer or place of work is will contribute to whether this is an easy or challenging task.
Federal law requires many (but not all) employers to provide “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk”.
Check out Know Your Pumping Rights At Work to determine what your employer is required to provide.
Designated Pumping Room At Work
If you work for a large employer or in a large office, there may already be designated pumping rooms at your work.
If this is the case, call the Human Resources Department and ask...
where are the designated pumping rooms located
detailed directions on how to actually get to the room
how do you access the room
what is in the room (chair, sink, outlet, place to put a computer?)
is there a schedule or are you able to use the room as long as it is not in use by another nursing mother?
You may want to pop into work ahead of time to actually find the room. I'll spare you the story about how, when working as a nurse at the hospital, I had a list of many available pumping rooms, thought I was set, but spent 30 minutes frantically trying to find a room (any room!) on my first day back. Where the heck is room C1235!
Also, if you know other nursing mother's who have used these pumping rooms, consider reaching out for tips on using the designated pumping areas.
No Designated Pumping Room At Work
On the other hand, many women work for employers where there is not only no designated pumping rooms, but it is challenging to even find a private space to do so.
As I mentioned above, federal law requires many employers to provide a designated place for you to pump.
However, not all nursing mothers are protected under the federal law. If there is no established designated place to pump, you may need to get creative.
Consider pumping at/in...
an unused office
a spot in the employee lounge
an unused walk-in closet
ante-room to a bathroom or locker room (can you hang a curtain?)
if you find a space that doesn't have a door, suggest hanging a retractable curtain so you can make the space private upon use
pump in your car
ask other nursing mothers at your work where they pump
make a pumping at work door sign so coworkers know not to interrupt/intrude
If you work in health care, hospitality, drive around, travel by airplane, or even just have a long commute, you may need to get creative with where you pump.
The good news is, you have options...
pump when traveling - with a hands-free pump (like Willow Gen 3) under your shirt
pump when working - with a hands-free pump (like Willow Gen 3) under your shirt
No matter your situation, it is worth it to figure out where you will pump now rather than on your first day back to work.
And don't be shy about reaching out to your boss or the Human Resources Department to come up with a plan.
2 - Call your boss
No need to focus so much an on details at this point.
But do reach out to your boss, let him/her know...
you will be pumping when you return to work
where you plan to pump
how often you will be pumping at work (usually about every 3 hours, check out How To Schedule Pumping At Work)
if you will need provided breaks for pumping or if you plan to pump while you work (check out Productive Pumping)
ask how others breastfeeding moms have managed to pump at work in the past
thank him/her for their support (being grateful for support, even though they are often obligated to allow you to do this, goes a long way with their flexibility and attitude about your pumping)
3- Order supplies
Do you have....?
a breast pump (Check out How To Choose The Right Breast Pump)
pump accessories (breast milk collection bottle, flange, extra membranes)
breast milk storage bags
cooler bag and ice pack for storing milk
bag to carry your supplies to and from work/pumping areas
hands-free pumping bra (a must if you aren't using a hands-free pump)
baby bottles (if your baby has been exclusively nursing)
Now is a great time to do some research and order.
Other helpful resources