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Pumping at Work: Go from rocking chair to desk chair without losing your supply

Here are the things you can do to prepare before pumping at work so you’ll feel less anxious about when, where, and how you’ll pump in the midst of your job responsibilities.

Going back to your day job after any time off can be a struggle.

But returning to the world of meetings and memos after you’ve had a baby? 

Hello, tough transition.

Now you have to put on real pants (goodbye sweatpants, you were a gift)

And catch up on everything that piled up in your absence (RIP inbox)

And make room in your brain to make even more decisions on top of what you already deal with as a mom (congratulations on your two full-time jobs)

PLUS there’s a tiny human who still needs to eat, which means somewhere in between conference calls and circling back later, you’re gonna need to pump.

After the birth of each of my three babies, I returned to my job as a preschool teacher where I had to figure out a way to pump in the midst of lesson planning, parent meetings, and, oh yeah—teaching a classroom full of 2 and 3 year olds.

I quickly learned preparation is key to a smooth transition back to the workplace. While there are a lot of things you can’t control (like preschoolers, most of the time), you can and should be proactive about your pumping plans.

By preparing yourself, your employer, and yes, even your baby, you’ll feel less anxious about when, where, and how you’ll pump in the midst of your job responsibilities, and more in control of the milk you’re able to bring home.

Pumping at Work

Prepare yourself

When it comes to returning to work, I recommend you begin preparing a minimum of two weeks in advance. But if you’re here panicking because you go back to work in less than 12 hours, you can still put some of these tips to use right away!

  • Practice pumping on the schedule you will follow at work. Depending on where you work and the demands of your job, you may have to adjust your pumping schedule. Figure out when you’ll be able to pump at work, and begin following that schedule at home at least two weeks in advance. This gives you ample time to troubleshoot any issues that might arise, and communicate with your colleagues and boss about your needs and availability.
  • Manage your expectations. Even though you’ve practiced and planned your pumping schedule, there may be times when you have to go off script. Not every circumstance is in your control, so give yourself grace to pump a little earlier or a little later when needed. Virtual meetings are a great time to fit in a pumping session. Keep the camera on your face and your audio on mute, and you can easily multi-task. Even if you do have to speak during the meeting, most pumps are quiet enough to not interfere with your sound. If you have a portable pump, you can pump during your commute to and from work. (this one is my go to and you can use my discount code MOWTP15F to get 15% off) 
  • Secure your supplies. When you’re trying to decide what supplies you need, ask yourself these questions:
  • What do I need to make pumping easier at work?
  • Do I want to bring my pump and pump parts back and forth from home or do I want to invest in a second pump or additional pump parts to keep at work?
  • Where will I store milk to take home? Does my office have a fridge I can use? If not, do I want to invest in a mini fridge, Ceres Chill, or use an insulated bag and cold packs?
  • How will I clean my pump parts at work?
  • Buy the Ultimate Pumping Course and take the Back to Work and Bottle Prep Workshop. This video covers everything you need to know about pumping on the job—including schedules, bottle prep, supplies, and even what to do if you aren’t making enough supply at work— in just one hour. 

My Pumping Mom’s Checklist makes it easy to know what you need in your pumping bag. Print a copy to keep in your bag so you never leave home without your supplies.
  • Acknowledge your emotions. Motherhood is a rollercoaster, and going back to work can be full of highs and lows. Some moms can’t wait to finally be around grownups again, while other moms would be thrilled to never set foot in an office for as long as they live. Most moms, myself included, feel a little bit of everything. With my third baby, I had to go back at just three months postpartum. While I was thankful to have a good job that paid the bills and provided insurance benefits, I resented being separated from my little one so early in his life. Whatever you're feeling during this transition, be gentle with yourself. Your feelings are normal and understandable, and you’re a good mom. Period.

Prepare your employer

Even if you have the world’s best boss, proactive planning and communication with your supervisor(s) will make your transition back to work more seamless. 

  1. Reasonable break time and space to pump at work for up to one year after your child’s birth
  2. A space that is functional for pumping milk, shielded from view, free from intrusion, available as needed, and NOT a bathroom
  • Communicate your needs. Now that you know your rights, send an email to your boss, manager, or supervisor plus your HR representative to let them know when and where you plan to pump. If you have any questions about how your office handles pumping, ask for clarification. If you receive pushback on your requests, include links to the FLSA and PUMP acts, and ask your HR representative for support.
  • Block off shared calendars. Protect your pumping time by putting it on your calendar. The last thing you want is someone booking a meeting with you when you planned to pump!

Set your space to Do Not Disturb. Print and post this Pumping In Progress sign outside your pumping space to avoid interruptions and protect your peace.

Prepare your baby (and their caregivers)

Whether your baby is headed to daycare, or staying at home with a sitter, you’ll want to make sure you’ve prepped them too.

  • Teach your baby how to take a bottle. If you’ve been exclusively breastfeeding up to this point, you’ll want to make sure your baby can drink from a bottle. The last thing you want on your first day back to work is a phone call from the sitter asking you to come home because your kiddo won’t eat. These bottles are great for nursing babies because they have a similar latch.
  • Print and share these milk storage guidelines. Whether you use formula or breastmilk, this cheat sheet will make sure everyone who cares for your baby can safely prepare a bottle.

You can be a confident mother pumper

Heading back to work as a pumping mom doesn’t have to be chaotic. 

And neither does any phase of your pumping journey.

That’s why I created The Ultimate Pumping Course: to help you understand how to use your pump, feed your baby, and maintain a pumping schedule, even while juggling your family, your job, and your postpartum hormones.

Wherever you are on the pumping path, this course removes the “booby traps” and empowers you to:

  • Confidently pump and nurse from day one
  • Choose the right pump and make the most of your pumping sessions
  • Create a pumping schedule that supports your short and long term needs
  • Eliminate pain while pumping
  • Size your flange
  • Establish, maintain, and manage your milk supply
  • Prevent common pumping problems
  • Utilize pumping full-time or alongside nursing as part of your overall feeding plan

You can pump efficiently, effectively, and confidently—from your first feed to the last. The Ultimate Pumping Course will show you how. Get instant access and be one with your pump, starting today.