So, you just spent the last 6 to 12 weeks on maternity leave, breastfeeding your new baby on demand. You probably lived in leggings and comfy nursing bras that, of course, were covered in dried milk and spit-up stains, glamorous. You watched hundreds of hours of Netflix while getting out of everything because your baby was always nursing. Laundry? Dishes? Can’t, I’m feeding the baby. Oh, the life. But, tomorrow you head back to the office and your baby heads to daycare. You might be going your separate ways, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up breastfeeding. It just means you’ll have to get real friendly with a breast pump and probably real awkward with your co-workers.
Getting yourself mentally prepared for pumping at work is really the first step. I’ll say it, pumping sucks. It doesn’t compare to the physical connection you have when nursing your baby, and (sorry!) it really doesn’t get any better the longer you do it. But, it does usually pay off. And, if it helps, the first week is the hardest. If you can get through that first week, you’re golden, mama. Here are some tips to make it easier.
Gather your supplies.
- First, you’ll need your pump – I was lucky enough to receive a double pump as a baby shower gift, but most insurance plans now cover them! The double pump was perfect for me because it takes less time and is great if your workload won’t allow for longer breaks. I also have a hand pump that came in handy when I needed to pump just enough to keep from getting too full while figuring out my pumping schedule.
- Bottles, cooler, extra pump parts, wet bag or Ziploc bag. Always pack extra bottles and extra pump parts, you never know what could happen. #mombrain And, if you’re not comfortable storing your breastmilk in the break room refrigerator next to Joe in Accounting’s lunch or Sue’s coffee creamer, then bring a small cooler with a couple ice packs to keep your milk cold until you can transfer it to the fridge or freezer at home. A wet bag or Ziploc bags are great to store your pump parts in until your next pumping session. Just remember to wash them when you get home…or use those extras you definitely packed.
- Nursing cover – because a cover is nice when you forget to lock the door at work and a co-worker walks in on you, completely ignoring the sign on the door.
- Nursing pads. The best thing to ruin your first week back is someone asking if you spilled your coffee on your brand new (non-maternity!) blouse…no, it’s not coffee.
Talk to your supervisor and take it easy.
Let your supervisor know your plan for pumping and ask permission to take it easy that first week back. Be prepared to take lots of breaks to pump or just relieve pressure until you find your perfect pumping schedule. For the first couple of months, I took about 4 breaks for 15-20 minutes each. Once my son was eating solids, I was able to slowly cut my pumping sessions down to just one time over my lunch break. But, everyone is different, take time to figure out the best schedule for you, your supply, and your workload.
Find privacy and fight for your right to pump.
Thankfully, my workplace had a couple pumping mothers, and an empty room – with a lock – was made available for our use. Your workplace is required to provide you with a private space to pump that is NOT a bathroom and allow you time to do so. If your employer or supervisor is giving you a hard time or not providing you an acceptable place to pump, take your concerns to your supervisor’s boss or your HR department. You have the right to pump, if that is your choice, and no one should make you feel uncomfortable or make you question your decision.
I pumped at work for 13 months and we’re still nursing at least once a day at 18 months. I’m proof that working and pumping can be done. It was hard, and I leaked through almost all of my work shirts, and cried over spilled milk countless times, but I made it through that first week…and it gets easier, even if it doesn’t get better.