Breastfeeding can be frustrating until you get the hang of it. And even after that, getting used to pumping in the workplace can be tough.
According to a recent survey, one-third of mothers stopped breastfeeding because they were returning to work. Even though it can be stressful, it’s also important to recognize that breastfeeding has many benefits for both you and your baby.
That’s why we’re sharing 11 tips to make expressing milk at work a lot easier.
Breastfeeding and Pumping Tips for Working Mothers
Experts recommend breastfeeding exclusively for the first 6 months and supplementing it with real foods for up to two years. Here’s a few ways you can make that happen, even if you work full-time.
#1 Get a Good Electric Breast pump
One of the most important tips for breastfeeding working mothers is to invest in a good electric breast pump. This way, you can pre-pump milk for your baby to have while you’re away for hours. You’re also more likely to keep breastfeeding for longer (and impart those benefits) if pumping is efficient and comfortable. Here’s some key features you should look for:
- Adjustability— While some women need more suction for milk flow, others may find the same settings painful. Being able to adjust the suction is important for comfort.
- Discreet— While there’s nothing wrong with breastfeeding in public, some women are more comfortable if the device is discreet. If you can relate, look for models that specify they’re quiet or low-noise.
- Portable— Even if you plan to pre-pump exclusively from home, many women need to express during the day to relieve engorged and painful breasts. For this reason, it’s best to choose a small and lightweight pump that you can easily fit into a medium to large-sized purse.
- Easy to use— Choosing a model with an intuitive design means that you’re less likely to fumble around with the settings each time. Less frustration means that you’re more likely to nurse for longer.
- Battery-powered— It will also be easier to pump on-the-go if it has the option of an AC adapter or battery for when you don’t have access to an outlet.
We recommend the Serenity Breast Pump. It has an adjustable 10-step suction, 2-phase extraction technology and comes with 2 soft silicone breast shields in different sizes for maximum comfort. It’s perfect for the working mother for a few other reasons:
- Low noise
- Small and portable
- Unlike other models, it saves your settings each time, so you don’t need to waste time adjusting them each session.
- Runs on AC adapter or batteries with auto shut-off
- Comes with milk storage system
- Qualifies for Medicare coverage (depending on policy and state law)
#2 Talk to Your Employer About Accommodations
First off, you should know that there’s certain accommodations your employer must make by law. This includes:
- Break time to express milk
- A functional space to express milk that doesn’t include the bathroom (this could include private offices, conference rooms, etc.)
To figure out the logistics, we recommend talking to your employer while you’re pregnant if you plan on breastfeeding. However, it’s never too late to ask if you’re still nursing. You may talk to your manager, supervisor or human resources department about where you can pump and how frequent the breaks will be (ex. 20-minute breaks every 3-4 hours). If you experience any pushback, remember that it’s your right to be able to pump in a clean space.
#3 Safely Store Milk
After pumping your milk at work, it will stay good for up to 4 hours at a room temperature of up to 77°F. However, we recommend storing your milk in the fridge as soon as possible. You can keep it in the fridge for up to 4 days before it needs to be frozen.
We suggest keeping it in your work fridge until the end of the day, then transporting it home in an insulated cooler bag. Ice packs are another option. This is especially important during summer months when the milk can spoil quickly if it’s exposed to the sun.
If you don’t want to carry around a cooler bag, Amazon has some stylish options made specifically for breastmilk.
#4 Create a Schedule
When you go back to work, try to create and stick to a schedule. For example, make it a point to pump every three hours in the beginning and make the intervals longer the older your baby gets. Take a look at your current work schedule to see what will work best. For example, maybe your mornings are typically filled with meetings. In this case, you can make a schedule to pump before work and next in the mid-morning or during lunch when the meetings are finished.
If your job allows, try to stick to this schedule. In addition, this may make it easier for your coworkers to know which times you usually aren’t available. You can also consider posting a sign on the door when you’re breastfeeding so people know not to interrupt you.
#5 Make a Work Pumping Kit
While you’ll transport your breast pump and breastmilk, keep a kit of all the necessary items at work so you don’t have to lug it back and forth every day. This can include extra batteries, storage containers, extra ice packs, date labeling supplies, hand sanitizer, etc.
#6 Wear Shirts Easy to Pump In
While you may have some nursing shirts, you don’t need to buy a whole new work wardrobe. Instead, choose to wear shirts that make nursing easy. This may include:
- V-neck tops or dresses
- Crossover tops or dresses
- Button-up shirts
This way, you won’t need to take off your entire shirt or dress for each session.
#7 Make Weekends (Or Days Off) for Nursing Only
Of course, this isn’t a rule. However, giving pumping a break for a few days may help since you don’t typically produce as much breastmilk compared to nursing. If your weekend or days off allow you to be home with your baby, try nursing exclusively.
#8 Ask About Work Schedule Flexibility
This won’t be possible for all jobs, but if you want, you can ask your employer about alternative working schedules. For example, instead of working five 8-hour days, ask if you can work four 10-hour days and get one day off.
Another option is to ask for one work-from-home day a week. If your employer is skeptical, you may persuade him or her by asking to test it out for a month and reevaluating after. You can also reiterate that you’ll have more energy and will be able to get more work done with the alternative schedule. Having an extra day off is not only good for baby bonding, but it can give you an extra day of nursing, possibly making it easier on your breasts.
You can also ask to take longer lunches so you can go home during that period each day. Or, you can choose a childcare provider or babysitter close to your workplace, allowing you to squeeze in a lunch nursing session.
#9 Purchase Breast Pads
Breast pads are helpful to have on hand because many women experience leakage or their milk lets down at inopportune times. Wearing breast pads and changing them after ever pumping session can prevent wet shirts. If you commonly have this issue, you may also wish to keep an extra shirt in your office in case you need to change.
#10 Refrigerate Breast Pump Parts If You Can’t Immediately Clean Them
If you have a few pumping sessions at work each day, you may end up spending a lot of time cleaning and sterilizing it after each session. Another option is to store the parts in a fridge in a container or clean bag until the next session. Then, at the end of each workday, bring it home for a thorough cleaning. (Note: You shouldn’t leave your breast pump at room temperature if you plan to use it after without cleaning it). If you can, buy a second set of parts so you’ll always have a set clean.
Pumping at work isn’t the most comfortable experience, so you may have to take steps to get yourself comfortable enough for the milk to flow. If you have the luxury of choosing a warm room or controlling the heat, that could be the first step. Then, you may want to take a few moments leading up to pumping to relax. This can include a quick 3-minute meditation, listening to an inspiring podcast or calming music, or looking at pictures of your family.
Try to pick one or a few of these activities and do them before every pumping session. Eventually, your body will likely get used to these cues and be prepared for a quicker letdown.
P.S. Have you heard of the Snotty Buddy? This hack allows you to clean your baby’s nose faster than the traditional bulb syringe. The best part? It removes more with less (or no) baby fussing! Gets yours today for $9.99.