First, the good news. If you’re a new mom who wants to continue to breastfeed after you go back to work, the Affordable Care Act requires employers to offer you a private space for pumping at work, as well as “reasonable break time” to pump every day.
Now for the bad news. Just because you can pump at work doesn’t mean it’s particularly easy to do (and the law doesn’t require your employers to pay you for the break time, although many do). In fact, figuring out all of the logistics of pumping at work can take more strategizing than a four-star general.
To help you navigate it, we’ve outlined nine things to think about before your maternity leave is over that will make pumping at work a lot more manageable.
- Scope out your pumping room
Although you have a right to have access to a pumping room at work (that isn’t a bathroom), that doesn’t mean your office actually has one that is useable. You’re going to need a space that has a power outlet and privacy — so if it’s a conference room, you’ll need to make sure you can block off the time there and be able to lock the door. Also, if you’re in an office with windows, you may want to ask HR to either install miniblinds in your office or ask to be in a room without windows. If possible, try to take a visit to your office before you head back to work so you can scope out exactly where you’ll pump and request any changes you may need ahead of time.
- Buy an extra pump for work
You’re going to have your hands full enough with taking your baby to daycare and transporting all of your pumping gear to and from the office, so the last thing you want to be doing is lugging around your pump, too. Instead, pony up the money to get an extra pump so you can keep one at the office and one at home. Although you can usually get one pump covered through you’re insurance, you’ll likely have to pay for a second one. We offer a significant discount for moms who purchase a second pump within six months of purchasing their original pump through their insurance.
- Buy extra pumping parts so you don’t have to waste time cleaning
Ideally, you’re supposed to clean your pump parts after every pumping session, but if you want to save time, invest in extra flanges, bottles and other pumping parts that touch breast milk so you can just sanitize them all once a day when you get home. Put the three sets in separate Ziploc bags in a tote bad and keep them all in the fridge so you can just throw the dirty parts in the bag after each pumping session.
- Keep it cool
One of the trickiest things about pumping at work is figuring out the logistics of how you’re going to keep all of your milk cool. If you have your own office, you may want to buy a mini fridge where you can store your bottles as soon as you pump them. (A mini fridge doesn’t have to be as big as the kind you had in college. They now have tiny mini fridges that hold up about six pop cans and can either be plugged into the wall or run on a battery).
If you don’t have your own office, you’ll have to store your milk in the office fridge, so make sure you clearly label your breast milk after each session. If you want to be discrete about it, put the bottles in a cooler bag in the fridge during the day, and then pop the ice packs in them from the freezer to take the bag home with you.
- Block off time on your office schedule
If you want to maintain your milk supply, it’s best to pump on the same schedule that your baby would regularly be feeding on. For example, if your baby is younger than six months, that means pumping every three hours. By the time your baby is six to 10 months old, you’ll probably only have to pump twice during the workday, and maybe only once a day around lunchtime after that. To prevent your breasts from getting painfully engorged, don’t miss a pumping session! Protect your time by blocking it off on your office calendar (make sure you block off the 15 to 20 minutes you need to pump, plus some time to change and clean up). Also, empower yourself to say “no” to clients, customers or co-workers who want to drag you into an impromptu meeting or talk during those times.
- Buy a car adaptor for your pump
If you travel a lot for work, you’ll definitely want to make sure you have a car adaptor so you can plug your pump in while you’re on the go. The car can also be a handy place to pump if you head out to grab lunch, although you’ll probably also want to throw a nursing cover in the car as well so people aren’t peeking in your windows at you in the parking lot!
- Get a hands-free nursing bra
One way of the most must-have items for any pumping mom is a hands-free nursing bra. These bras have holes cut out in the front that hold your flanges in place so you are free to type or talk on the phone while you’re hooked up to the pump. Truly a lifesaver. Just remember to put your phone on mute if you’re on a conference call!
- Dress for (pumping) success
Speaking of nursing bras… you’ll have to think strategically about what to wear when you’re pumping at work. Any dress or shirt that you have to take off over your head is going to be harder to get on and off. Wearing nursing camis with cardigans over them is easiest, as well, as wrap dresses and shirts that button up the front.
- Film a video of your baby
Several studies have proven that you’ll pump more milk when you’re thinking about your baby, so one of the best things you can do is shoot a video of your baby and watch it on your phone while you pump to help with let down. You can also bring something that smells like your baby or look at photos of him or her, too.