Updated: Dec 1, 2021
Breast milk pumping at work can have a variety of challenges, and the idea of pumping at work can seem intimidating, awkward, and even time-consuming. As a certified lactation counselor, I hear all of the concerns about breast milk pumping. Trust me, I get it, but it’s so worth it! Don’t worry if you’re still uncertain; I have some quick tips to help you get off to a good start.
Maybe you wonder if it's even worth continuing breastfeeding when you get back to work and you want to start formula instead. Well, here are some reasons why breastfeeding at work is so worth it:
Breastfeeding mothers' children get sick less, meaning you don't have to leave work as much because your child is sick.
Breast pumping is relaxing. Your brain releases oxytocin when breastfeeding or pumping, causing you to relax from a rough day at work.
Besides buying a pump and bottles, it's cheaper than buying formula.
You're still providing the best food for your baby!
You don't have to worry about your baby rejecting the formula or stomach upsets from the formula.
They're still getting all the fantastic antibodies from breastmilk!
It takes too much time.
In an 8 hr period, you will need to pump 2-3 times, for 15 to 20 mins. Only 30-50 mins of your day will be used to pump. Many women take their lunch break to pump and pump right after work or right before. I suggest feeding your baby when you drop them off to your caregiver, even if they just ate, or pumping 15 mins before you start working. It will prevent you from pumping right away. You can also take 15 mins after work to pump as well. This will help lower the number of times you need to pump during work. You should be pumping every 2-3 hours to keep your milk supply.
I don’t know if I’m allowed.
There are laws protecting breast pumping mothers in the United States who work.
Here’s the general rule: The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to provide, for a nursing mother, both time and space to pump breast milk for her nursing child for up to one year after her child’s birth.
Employers must create an area for the breastfeeding mother that is...
— functional for expressing milk
— shielded from view
— free from intrusion
— available as needed AND NOT a bathroom
Exempt employees may be covered under a state law providing breaks for AND nursing mothers. If an employer has fewer than 50 employees and can demonstrate that compliance with this law would impose an undue hardship on their business, employers do not have to provide nursing breaks to their employees. Employers are also not required to pay nursing mothers for breaks taken for the purpose of expressing milk. However, if employers have a mom pump on paid breaks, the employer must pay an employee who uses those breaks to pump milk.
There is nowhere for me to pump.
By law, all employers have to provide a space and time to pump that is NOT a bathroom. They have to accommodate you. You can use a break room and leave a note on the door to let people know you are pumping. You can pump at your desk and put a poster board to shield it from view. Sometimes you have to be creative. You should let your employer/HR know before you return to work that you’ll need to pump, so you guys can think of a game plan together if they give you a hard time reference the breast-pumping laws and file a complaint if they refuse to accommodate you.
I can’t afford a pump.
Many insurance companies cover pumps; check with your insurance provider to see if you can get one covered. If you get WIC, they can help you obtain a pump or provide you with resources locally to help you get one. Handheld pumps are relatively inexpensive and are usually affordable. Hand expression is another option if you are unable to buy a pump.
What type of breast pump should I get?
There are so many types of breast pumps out there, and some may work better for your situation than others. Here is a simple guide to help figure out what’s right for you.
Handheld Pump: This pump is great for a mom that moves from place to place, has a hectic work schedule with little breaks, and the mom that’s at school. Honestly, I recommend buying one even if you have an electric just in case there’s no plug; it’s an excellent backup. I’ve tried many different kinds of pumps, from different brands. I honestly loved Medela's handheld pump. It’s super comfortable to hold and pump with. It’s not hard to use and has easy assembly. Lansinoh Pump is another pump I have enjoyed using!
Electric Pump: These pumps are great to use for moms who work at a desk and have ample amount of time and space to pump. Hospital Grade electric pumps are the best but are way more expensive. Double electric pumps are ideal for working moms. When buying an electric pump, I would avoid pumps made by a bottle and formula company as the pump's quality won’t always be the best, nor is the warranty on the product. Medela is a great company to buy from (I am not sponsored by them, but I like their products!). Ameda is pretty good. I’ve used their pumps before, and they have improved on a lot of their products.
Wireless Electric Pumps: This specific brand of pumps is great for moms who are on their feet all day, work a cash register or front desk. These are discreet pumps and products. These pumps go in your bra, so people don’t know you are pumping. Some of these pumps connect to your phones, such as the Willow or the Elvie pump.
Breast-milk Catchers: You can use these pumps to catch leaking milk while breastfeeding your baby at home. It’s a great way to start putting some of that milk away. I highly suggest putting this on your baby registry. Below are some that I've personally used and like.
Preparing to Pump at Work
Many moms I talk to ask me this question: How do I store up enough milk in time for work. Here are some suggestions:
When to start breast pumping? Start at least two weeks before going to work to store up milk.
When the baby is not cluster feeding, start pumping after the baby eats.
Store up whatever you get.
Do not get discouraged with any amount of breast milk; you get even a few drops. Save it and keep up your routine.
Pump in the morning after the baby eats; you make the most milk in the morning.
Get a Free Breast Pump!
What to Pack
Making sure you have everything you need for successful pumping is vital! One tip I give to working moms is to have a backup handheld pump in case you forgot something. You can keep it in your car, or if you have a large purse, keep it in that. I’ve had many instances of forgetting my pump at home (mom-brain is real). Here’s a simple checklist of things to keep in your bag:
Breast Pads (optional)
Nursing Cover (optional)
Breast Pumping Bras (optional)
Picture/baby Blanket (optional)
Pumping at work can have its challenges, but it can be integrated into many work routines. In the end, you are giving your baby the best and the most healthy gift of breastmilk. Remember, every drop counts, so never disqualify any milk you get.
What are some concerns you’ve had with breast pumping at work? If you’ve breast pumped at work, what has worked for you? Leave a comment below.
Until next time: Happy Pumping ❤