9 Tips to Simplify Pumping Breast Milk at Work

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by: Lindsay Hutton
Having a newborn at home is work enough — pumping breast milk at work shouldn't add to your stress. If pumping is on your agenda after you return from maternity leave, follow these steps for a successful experience.
Baby drinking bottle
Get Your Baby Used to the Bottle
If you've been exclusively breastfeeding during maternity leave, it's important to get your baby used to taking a bottle before you head back to work. Most experts recommend waiting until your baby is at least one month old before introducing a bottle to ensure breastfeeding is well-established, but talk to your child's pediatrician about what is best.

Start bottle-feeding at least two weeks before your start date. Since breastfeeding takes more effort for your baby than bottle-feeding, start with a low-flow nipple to avoid overfeeding or breast refusal. Try offering her a bottle with a small amount of breast milk right after one of her feedings so she can get used to the nipple. Also, have someone else feed her — your baby knows your scent and will likely want your breast instead of the bottle if you are the one offering the bottle.

Working mom talking on phone with baby in lap
Talk to Your Employer
The Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010, requires employers to give working moms with a baby younger than 12 months reasonable break times and a private place to pump other than a bathroom. (This does not apply to some companies with fewer than 50 employees, so talk to your human resources department to find out your company's policy.)

Talk to your employer before you return to work to determine where you will pump, and discuss how it will affect your schedule. An ideal space will have an electrical outlet, a comfortable chair, a table, a door with a lock, and shades if there are any windows in the room. Having a plan before your first day back will make pumping much easier.

Business woman using tablet
Commit to a Routine
Remember: Pumping at work is something you have the right to do. Treat your pumping sessions as you would any other important meeting. Block off the time you need in your calendar and make it a priority. Don't be afraid to ask for support from your co-workers.
Electric breast pump on white background
Buy the Right Equipment
Finding the right pump can make all the difference in the world, so talk to friends and family and read reviews online to find one that works for you. A good-quality electric pump will allow you to pump both breasts at once, while a lower quality pump or hand expressing your milk only allows one at a time, and will take longer. Once you find a pump that works for you, make sure you know how to use it before your first day back at work.

If you can afford it, keep a pump at home and another at work to avoid having to carry it back and forth to the office every day. If having two pumps isn't an option, double up on the parts that need to be washed after every use so you'll have a backup in case you don't have time to wash them immediately after pumping.

Working woman talking on phone
Choose a Comfortable Wardrobe
Think about how difficult or easy an outfit will be to pump in, and keep this in mind as you are getting dressed in the morning. A two piece outfit (for example, a blouse and skirt) makes it much easier to pump than a high-collared dress.

Prints and loose-fitting tops work well to hide leaks and spills. Keep an extra shirt, bra, and breast pads at work for back-up in case you need to change.

Baby boy laying on back drinking bottle
Keep Up Your Milk Production
Many women have a hard time keeping their supply up when they are pumping versus nursing, since the sight, smells, and sounds of your baby are what help let down your milk. Try to stay as relaxed as possible. Massage your breasts before starting, and look at a picture of your baby or watch a video of her on your phone while you pump. A blanket or onesie that smells like her can also help stimulate your milk production and make pumping a little easier. Always make sure to drink plenty of water.

Pump as often as you can. A good rule of thumb to follow is to do it whenever your baby normally eats. If there are days when you don't have time to get in your full sessions, try to pump for at least a few minutes. Skipping a session will not only make your milk supply dwindle, it can also make you engorged and put you at risk for mastitis.

If you find your production is low, consider talking to your doctor about taking herbal supplements that may help.

Line of baby bottles on white background
Stockpile Your Supply
Try pumping at least once or twice on the weekends to get a head start on your weekly supply. Breast milk can easily be frozen, so start a stockpile to have on hand for the beginning of the week or for days you don't produce a lot of milk.
Close up of baby bottle with baby sleeping in background
Safely Store Your Milk
Breast milk is valuable stuff, so storing it safely is important. You can pump directly into a bottle and store it in the refrigerator until you can bring it home with you at the end of the day. Label your bags with your name and the date so you know which milk to use up first. If you pump a surplus of milk that your baby won't eat over the following few days, you can also safely store breast milk in freezer bags.
Happy working mother with smiling baby on lap
Go Easy on Yourself
Pumping is hard work and can take its toll on working moms. If you are having a hard time keeping up, know that you have options. Many mothers supplement their breast milk by mixing it with formula, or they find it's easiest to strictly formula feed. Also take solace in the fact that you won't be pumping forever — set small goals for yourself and celebrate when you achieve them. You're doing a great job, Mom — give yourself a pat on the back!