By Amy O’Malley RN, MSN
The majority of mothers with children under the age of 18 are employed. This means that a majority of moms will go back into the workforce after having a baby, and if they decide to continue to providing breast milk after returning to work, they will need to pump.
Pumping after you go back to work isn’t always easy. I breastfed my five children, including my twin boys, and found that while some things worked each time, I had to get creative, plan ahead, and make sure I could accommodate enough pumping sessions. This was also the case as my career advanced. Each new job required new thinking about how to approach pumping.
Drawing from my experience as a working mom who made pumping work, and as the director of education and clinical services at Medela, I’d like to share a few pro tips for pumping at work to help moms accomplish their own breastfeeding goals more successfully.
Many moms, who can establish a breastfeeding routine, still need help when they return to work. The logistics associated with the transition back to the office can prove challenging. I am here to say: It can be done and you can do it! And, it helps to add that breastfeeding is associated with higher productivity and lower absenteeism for breastfeeding mothers, according to this American Journal of Public Health report on breastfeeding, work, and the law.
With my five children, I found that getting into a routine and picking the right pump made a big difference. These tips build on each other, so start with the first one.
8 pro tips for pumping at work
- Talk to Your Manager: The law requires that all employers allow employees a break to pump and provide them with a space (that is not a bathroom) for pumping. Let your manager and someone from human resources know you want to continue to breastfeed when you come back after maternity leave.
- Pick the Right Pump for You: Think about where you will be pumping. Are you a multi-tasker who likes to be on her feet and pumping? Or do you prefer to stay put? Either way, there is a pump out there that will work for you. I always recommend a double-electric pump, ideally one with 2-phase expression technology, which has been shown to yield 18 percent more milk during a single pump session.
- Schedule Your Sessions: This tip might not work for everyone. But, if you have a job that allows you to manage your calendar, scheduling your pump sessions can protect that time and serve as a reminder to get it done.
- Get to Know Breast Milk: You will likely be transporting breast milk home, from work. Knowing how to collect, store and reheat breast milk safely is as important as your cooler, ice packs and food grade bottles.
- Communicate Clearly with Your Support Team: Whether this includes your spouse, partner, nanny or grandparent communication helps to manage your milk supply and be sure to use the fresh milk first!
- Connect with Other Moms: Continuing to breastfeed while working isn’t without challenges, even when everything is going as it should. Connecting with other moms, especially those at your workplace, can provide you with encouragement, support and needed advice.
- Consider a Leaving a Pump at Work: It isn’t possible for everyone, but leaving a pump and spare parts (these are a must!) at work can make it easier to continue pumping.
- Pump While Breastfeeding: If you’re strapped for time and you’re concerned about missing a session, try pumping on one side while breastfeeding on the other!
Like breastfeeding, there is a learning curve for pumping at work. This advice is meant to help moms get started as they work toward their respective breastfeeding goals.
Amy O’Malley began her practice as a pediatric nurse at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, where she was later appointed Director of Nursing Resources. Amy spent several years on the faculty at Loyola University School of Nursing in Chicago where she taught Pediatrics and Community Health. Currently Amy is the Director of Education and Clinical Services at Medela. She develops education and programs for both mothers and clinicians to share the latest evidence, develop tools and programs to help mothers to initiate their milk supply and reach their breastfeeding goals. Amy has presented nationally and authored numerous book chapters. Her greatest accomplishment is her five children, all of whom were exclusively breastfed. For more information about breastfeeding and transitioning back to work, visit MedelaAtWork.com.