Going back to work after your maternity leave is over can be emotional and stressful – especially if you’re still breastfeeding. Here are seven tips to navigating pumping when you return to work.
Know Your Rights
Depending on where you are located, you may have legal rights regarding the ability to pump breast milk at work. For example, in the United States, where maternity leaves are often only 12 weeks or less, the Break Time for Nursing Mothers law requires employers to provide qualified employees with a place to express breast milk and reasonable break time to do so. This break time must be provided until your baby turns one year old.
Depending on what state you live in, you may have additional rights. By checking the laws outlined in the Breastfeeding Coalition for your state, you can find out what requirements your employer must meet.
Make a Plan for Pumping at Work
Many nursing mothers need to pump for two to three times during the work day, for about 15 minutes each time. You’ll want to talk to your manager about how to fit these necessary break times into your work day while meeting your job responsibilities.
How easy this will be depends on your job. If you work at a computer, you may be able to take a laptop to a lactation room and work while you pump. However, if you are a teacher, it may be more challenging to find time in your highly-scheduled day at school. If this is the case, try to think of what might for you – maybe a longer session at lunch instead of two shorter sessions would be feasible.
Have a Checklist for Your Pump Bag
It’s a good idea to leave a checklist by your pump bag to make sure you have everything you need. Here’s what to include:
- Breast pump (A double electric breast pump is the best option for working mothers, as single pumping takes twice as much time.)
- Breast shields
- Pump parts
- Bottles to pump into
- Caps for the bottles
- Breast milk cooler
- Breast milk freezer pack
- Extra breast pads
- Baby Blanket (This is helpful to put this on your lap in case of spills or drops while disconnecting.)
Leave a Spare Set of Pump Parts at Work
Mornings can be really hectic when you’re trying to get out the door and get to work, especially when you have a baby. Even if you use a checklist, it’s inevitable that one day you will forget something crucial, like your breast shields or your pump valves. If this happens, you often have to either buy a new pump close to your office, or go back home and get what you forgot.
To avoid this, leave a spare set of pump parts and bottles at your office. This way, if you forget something, you don’t have to scramble.
Pump for at least 15 Minutes
Some mothers struggle with milk supply when they’re pumping at work. One way to combat low milk supply is to pump for a few extra minutes and try to get another letdown.
It seems like it would make sense to stop pumping when milk is no longer flowing, because it appears that your breasts are empty. However, if you keep pumping for a few additional minutes after the milk stops, in most cases you will get another small letdown of milk. Pumping for 15-20 minutes will usually ensure that you get at least two letdowns, and help you maintain your milk supply.
How to Wash Your Pump Parts
Speaking of washing pump parts, after you finish pumping, you will need to wash your pump parts before your next pumping session. The CDC recently issued guidelines for how pump parts should be washed. They suggest washing pump parts in a separate wash basin, using a special bottle brush, and washing pump parts in hot soap or water. Pump parts should be air-dried on a clean towel.
Another solution is to bring enough pump parts to get you through a full day of work, bring them all home and wash them there, according to the guidelines.
How to Transport Your Milk Home
Hopefully, you’ll have a refrigerator at work where you can store your expressed breast milk during the day. When it’s time to go home, you can transport the milk that you’ve pumped in a breastmilk cooler.
If possible, freeze the freezer pack during the day, and then it will keep your milk colder during the trip home. As soon as you get home, you can put your milk in the fridge until you have time to prep your baby’s bottles for the next day.
Going back to work while you’re breastfeeding can be daunting, but one you have a routine in place, it gets much easier. Using these tips to plan ahead should help you stay organized and avoid problems with pumping at work.