As a working mother of two, I can say that making the transition to pumping at work isn’t always easy.
But I did learn a few things the first time around that helped me during my second transition to pumping after going back to work.
After our first child was born, I was pumping while at the office. Most recently, I’ve been pumping during a work-from-home situation. And while I can honestly say the latter has been more comfortable, the tactics for success have remained the same.
Tips for Pumping at Work Success
1. Know Your Rights
It is important to know you have a right to pump (of course there are exceptions based on your employer) and receive adequate breaks to do so.
Equally important is knowing employers have to provide a private place that is not a bathroom which is also free from intrusion (has a lock). This is due to an amendment to Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (29 U.S.C. 207) which became effective in 2010.
Read up, because you may need to advocate for yourself.
After our first child was born, I learned this the hard way. Even though I was in touch with my human relations (HR) department weeks before returning to work, on my first day I found they had not made proper arrangements for me to pump.
HR wanted me to pump in a first floor room with no blinds to the exterior windows, a two-way mirror (although that did have a blind), and even a closed-circuit camera. Yes, that is a true story.
I knew that setup was not going to work.
When a bathroom was suggested as an alternative, I had to point out the law, and its details, for a third option to be offered. I was finally set up in an unused office. It wasn’t special, but it was private, had a chair, and an outlet. And that’s really all I needed.
2. Prioritize Pumping
I have found that scheduling pumping in my calendar has been the most effective way to carve out the time to keep up my supply.
When I got a new job after our first child was born, my manager kept ignoring my blocks for pumping and scheduling meetings during my pumping times. This left me scrambling to squeeze in time, or skip pumping sessions altogether.
I eventually needed help from HR to establish pumping as a priority. Unfortunately, though, from all the inconsistency, my milk supply took a dip. The dip was one I never recovered from and within just a couple of months of moving to that organization, I had to wean my son from breastfeeding due to a lack of supply.
With my second baby, I have been much more consistent. I have been clear with my supervisors and the time has been respected, even encouraged.
I treat my pumping times just like any other meeting and I take a full break to do so. And even though I work from home, I find walking away from my workspace to pump helps me maintain my supply.
Keeping pumping at work a priority has really helped me build an increasing stockpile of milk for whenever we decide to wean from nursing. And because I have my employer’s support to pump, I feel valued, which motivates me to work even harder in return. It’s a win for everyone.
3. Dress for Success
Find a pumping bra and attire that is convenient and comfortable.
I remember the first time I wore a dress to work while pumping. Of course, I didn’t realize I would basically have to strip down to my underwear for the required access. Even with locks on the door, I felt vulnerable. So for me, dresses and pumping do not mix.
I also know that I will pump longer, to help maintain my supply, if I’m comfortable. That’s why I always have a cardigan or full-zip jacket close by to pull on during pumping.
It might take some trial and error to find what works best for you.
You’ve Got This!
Pumping at work can be a bit of adjustment, but a little preparation goes a long way. While it may be awkward at first, that won’t last long. And before you know it, you’ll be a pumping pro!