When it was time to head back to work after maternity leave, there were several things I was worried about. I was worried about leaving my sweet 12 week old baby, I was scared about her starting daycare, I was scared about how she would do with a bottle, and I was so worried about pumping. I pumped maybe a handful of times when I was nursing Alea. I was so incredibly lucky to stay home with her and she was not a fan of the bottle, so besides adding some breastmilk to her cereal when she started solids, there really wasn’t a need for me to pump. With Mckenna, I’m working full-time as a registered nurse, so pumping is obviously the only way to continue to breastfeed her and provide her with breastmilk when I’m away.
Pumping at work has been a pleasant experience for the most part, with only a few hiccups, and rude comments here and there. Thankfully, I’ve heard more “good for you” and “take as much time as you need” than I have negativity. (Side note: If you’re in a workplace currently with a mother who is pumping, literally the nicest thing you can say to her is “take your time” when she goes to pump. There’s nothing worse than hearing people sigh or feeling like you need to rush.) I’ve taken a few steps to make sure my first pumping at work experience is as “enjoyable” as it can be and thought it would be nice to share a few tips and tricks I’ve discovered along the way.
1. Do Your Research: I dove in head first to all of the information I could find on pumping and pumping at work while I was on maternity leave. I mean, what else are you supposed to do while you’re nursing or pumping? I’d just grab my phone or my laptop and research during those 20ish minutes! I even ordered a book that I HIGHLY recommend to any mom who’s going back to work. It’s called “Work Pump Repeat” and it goes through just about everything you need to know when it comes to working and pumping. It even includes special circumstances like business trips. It’s SUCH a great resource.
2. Know the Laws: Yes, thanks to Obamacare (we’re NOT going to get political here) nursing mothers have the right to express milk at work! I’ve heard a lot of misconceptions on time allowed and just wanted to direct you to the United States Department of Labor’s informational page on the subject. Honestly, I kept these bookmarked on my phone’s browser just in case I ever had to reference the laws and stand-up for my right to break time to pump at work. Thankfully, I never had to use it, but it gave me comfort and confidence knowing I had it “just in case.”
a. United States Department of Labor: Break Time for Nursing Mothers under the FLSA
b. United States Department of Labor: Frequently Asked Questions – Break Time for Nursing Mothers
3. Come Prepared: But not TOO prepared. I think back to my first day back at work and can’t help but laugh. I seriously came prepared with EVERYTHING. So much so, that I brought an additional smaller bag with my Sarah Wells Abby Bag and had another bag for my lunch and snacks. I was so scared I wasn’t going to have enough bottles, or I would need something I left behind. Now, I just come with exactly what I need and only carry my Sarah Wells Kelly Bag and my lunch box. Click here for a full list of What You Need in Your Breast Pump Bag.
4. Bring a Photo of Your Baby: Better yet, take a photo (with your phone or whatever) of your baby breastfeeding or even a video of your baby breastfeeding. This can help with letdown tremendously! I find that I have no problem with the initial let down, but when the flow stops and I’m looking for a second letdown to maximize my output, videos help SO very much.
5. Don’t Dwell on the Ounces: It’s so easy to keep a tally of how many ounces you’re pumping each day and it’s so hard not to focus on that. I completely understand how easy it is to fall into that rabbit hole, especially if you bring fresh milk to daycare everyday as opposed to sending frozen. I made it a point to pump as much as I could on maternity and froze most of it and am so thankful I have a pretty decent freezer stash to fall back on. If you find yourself dwelling on the ounces, take a deep breath, remember tomorrow is another day and another chance to get more milk for your baby. If you’re finding it’s becoming a trend that you’re pumping less and less you might find these tips helpful on How to Increase Your Milk Supply.
All in all, I really truly hope that your experience pumping milk for your sweet baby at work is a good one. I’ve heard such awful stories and not-so-great experiences and I truly hope that none of you have to go through that. It’s sad that we have to fight to feed our littles in some instances, but there’s a mama bear in all of us and it’s hard to not fight back—as you should!
Just know we’re all in this together + in the end, fed is best. If pumping at work doesn’t work out, then just remember there are other ways you can feed that precious baby of yours. We got this.
What tips do you have for breast pumping at work?