Pumping At Work

Breastfeeding your baby is hard enough when you are together all day, every day. Continuing to breastfeed your baby is going to be even more challenging when you need (or choose) to return to work. Remember, though, that since the dawn of time, most mothers have managed to juggle everyday work with breastfeeding their babies. You are following in the footsteps of the incredible women who helped to shape humanity and define the world.

Before your baby is born

In order to continue breastfeeding your child, even after you are separated, you will want to invest in a breast pump. This gives you the ability to continue to provide a living for your family while still giving your baby the best and healthiest start in life. Research what breast pumps are available. Look at the pros and cons for each one that interests you. Determine how much you are willing to spend. If you are getting your pump through your insurance provider, learn what they offer. In addition to a breast pump, access to lactation counseling may also be covered with your insurance.

You should decide on your pump and receive it before you baby is born. You don’t want to hassle with that when you should be bonding with your precious little one.

Before you go on maternity leave, talk to your boss about your needs for pumping breast milk. Contact him by email first, then, if it is needed, arrange to have a meeting. Be polite. Point out the advantages breastfeeding offers. Because it is a much healthier food source than formula, your baby will sick far less often. This will save you on sick days, and save the company money for healthcare expenses. A boss and a business that is willing to work with you to provide what your family needs will get increased employee loyalty, which will mean decreased employee turnover rates. Tell him that you are flexible and you will still accomplish the duties that are required of you. If needed, offer to come in early or stay late. Remember, you won’t be pumping breast milk the rest of your career.

If your boss is reluctant to meet your needs, explain the laws regarding breastfeeding and expressing breast milk. You have state and federal laws that protect your right to express your breast milk. You will need to understand these laws, how they apply to you and your situation, and how they apply to the business that employs you.

Before you return to work

After your baby is born, enjoy your time together. Use your entire maternity leave. If you wish, extend it with vacation or sick days. It is an important time for you and your baby to bond. Breastfeed your baby exclusively during this time.

A few weeks before you return to work, take your breast pump out of the box. Read the instructions. Learn how to assemble and disassemble it. You can start to pump milk at this time. It will allow you to learn how to run the pump, get you comfortable with handling it and its parts, and give you practice at completing this important task. Since you are still with your baby, you shouldn’t need to pump more than once a day. As you learn the settings of the pump, you will want to match the pump’s speed and suction levels to your baby’s nursing patterns as closely as you can. By matching the pump’s patterns to your baby’s nursing patterns, you are helping to keep your milk production up.

Returning to work

Expressing your breast milk with a breast pump is going to be hard. For some, it’s embarrassing. That’s okay.

Arrange to return to work on a Wednesday or in the middle of your standard work week. This gives you a short adaptation period, with a nice two-day break, before you fall back into the cycle of a full work week.

You should already know your designated pumping location. If it is not a room designated for lactating women to express milk, make sure your coworkers know when you need to be left alone. Consider hanging a Do Not Disturb sign outside the door during your pumping breaks to avoid awkward interruptions. Make sure your space is quiet and comfortable so that you can relax. Bring music, a book, or something else that will help make your pumping experience calm and relaxing.

By learning how to use your pump in the most efficient manner before returning to work, you’ll feel more comfortable with its operation the first time you have to pump away from home. This will allow you to get maximum results in a minimum amount of time.

As you fall into the routine of pumping at work, you may find yourself facing difficult situations with coworkers, managers, and, potentially, clients. People may be irritated with your frequent breaks and your refusal to be interrupted during those breaks, especially as your baby gets older. They may not understand the importance of breastfeeding, or they may have different opinions about it than you.

Try posting a schedule with your break times so that coworkers know when you’re unavailable and when you should be back. Be prepared to answer some questions about what you’re doing. You can explain your personal stance on breastfeeding and why it is important to you and your baby, or you can simply choose to say that your doctor told you that you need to breastfeed your child for X amount of months for health reasons. Option number one allows you to be very proactive in educating your coworkers about the importance of breastfeeding, its effects on both you and your baby, and how it truly gives a baby the best possible start in life. Option number two gives you a tactful approach to dealing with your coworkers in a way that doesn’t place any judgment or guilt on anyone who may have chosen not to breastfeed or who may have given up on it.

You may face a lot of insensitive remarks and jokes. Remind yourself why you chose to breastfeed your baby. Maybe it’s for the health benefits. Maybe it’s to help keep a strong bond. Maybe you just believe it’s the right things to do. “Ultimately, breastfeeding is a short-term journey for a long-term benefit.” So, enjoy your pumping breaks as an opportunity to focus on your important role as a mother. Your little one is worth it.

Tips for broaching the subject with your boss:

  • Check state laws first. Know what rights you are granted under state and federal law.
  • Ask while you’re pregnant, not when you return from maternity leave.
  • Write an email before discussing it in person.
  • Ask nicely, rather than demanding your rights.
  • Consider the greater good. Your request will benefit other pumping mothers.
  • Explain how breastfeeding benefits the business. A healthy baby means fewer sick days and fewer healthcare expenses, and their support gains them employee loyalty and reduced turnover.
  • Show that you’re flexible. Offer to come in early or stay late to get your work done on time.

by Alexis Grant

Tips for dealing with coworkers:

  • Know your worth. Know the worth of your baby. Breastfeeding benefits both of you.
  • Respectfully stand up for yourself.
  • Don’t shirk or pass off your work duties. Prove that you can be a great employee while also being a great mother.
  • Make sure your coworkers know when you need your breaks. You can’t be flexible on this.
  • If your work doesn’t provide a private place for you, claim your own. A closet, an empty office or conference room, your car, or even your desk. It’s your right.
  • If you are faced with criticism, respond with facts. Explain the lifelong benefits your baby gets from your efforts.