Juggling pumping breast milk and working is easier at some jobs than others. While women that work in an office can usually take pumping breaks or work on a laptop while they pump, it’s a lot harder for nurses, teachers, and bus drivers. Here’s what to do if you can’t pump at work (or aren’t able to pump for as long as you’d like) and aren’t sure whether or not you want to wean.
With my job, I can’t pump at work – can I still exclusively pump?
I’m pumping for my 4 week old baby, and I’m going back to work in 2 weeks. I can’t pump at work. I work 8 hour shifts as a server in a small, busy restaurant, and I don’t get more than a few minutes to sit down at a time during the entire shift.
Can I continue exclusively pumping if I don’t pump during my work hours? Or is 8 hours too much and it would be better for me to wean from the pump before I go back to work? I don’t want to get engorged or a clogged duct.
Yes, it is doable to continue breastfeeding if you want to! What you can do is reshuffle your pump times so that you still have the same number of sessions (or maybe 1-2 less, depending on what you can manage), but spread out so that you’re not pumping while you’re at work.
Let’s say that you’re currently pumping 6 times a day, about every 4 hours, and you work from 12pm-8pm at the restaurant. Your new schedule could be something like this:
6am, 9am, 11:30am, 8pm, 10pm, 12pm
Or, you could drop a session and do something like this (making sure to keep your total pumping time per day the same):
6am, 9am, 11:30am, 8pm, 11pm
With this schedule, you pump right before you start work (if you drive, you could pump in your car, otherwise, you could maybe ask for a space) and immediately after. You can obviously switch up the times if you get up/go to bed at different times or want to pump in the middle of the night.
Your 8pm pumping session might need to be a bit longer because you’ll have a decent amount of milk stored up (just like your first session in the morning).
A lot of exclusive pumpers who pump regularly around the clock wonder – what happens if you don’t pump for 8 hours or more? It’s different for everyone, but you may get engorged, or leak. If you find that you’re suffering from engorgement, one option might be to bring and use a manual pump for a few minutes to get the edge off – even if you have to do it quickly in the restroom and have to dump the milk. I would also suggest wearing breast pads to catch leaks.
Another common questions – will going without pumping for 8 hours affect your milk supply? It’s possible, but your best bet to mitigate the risk of that happening is to keep your total pumping time in a day the same.
If by chance you are covered, you can mention your situation to your manager and see what ideas he or she has for working around two pumping breaks. Even if you’re not covered, it might not hurt to explain your situation and see what they say, though this obviously depends on your job and your boss.
Pumping at work is taking too long
I have been exclusively pumping since birth due to a poor latch, and I have to return to work next month. In my job, I don’t get assigned breaks and often my ‘lunch hour’ is taken up by education sessions. My pump sessions are currently 25-30 minutes, and I pump five times per day. I try to pump until I am empty, but this is obviously taking too long. I am worried about what my colleagues will think when I am off pumping for that length of time.
Is there any way to reduce how long it takes to pump or is the just an anatomical/physiological thing that I have no choice in?
There may be a few things that are helpful in reducing the time that it takes to pump. Some women have found that doing breast compressions makes pumping faster, for example. Additionally, if you switch you pump back into letdown mode after your milk stops flowing, you might find that you get an additional letdown more quickly.
However, you can maybe rejigger the schedule so it’s not as big of an imposition on work – you may not need to pump two or three times at work. For example, you could do four of the five sessions at home – say, one before work, one immediately after work, one right before bed, and one in the middle of the night. That would leave just one session during the workday to figure out.
You could also make the four home sessions a bit longer and make the workday one a bit shorter – instead of pumping until you’re empty for that session, you could set a hard limit of 20 minutes, for example.
As for your co-workers, this is obviously not possible in many jobs (see the above question!), but is it an option for you to work from a laptop or anything while you pump? I had a whole conversations with my coworkers over instant messenger and they had no idea I wasn’t at my desk. I also dialed in to conference calls on mute (and stopped the pump when I had to unmute and talk). Depending on what you do, none of this may work, but wanted to throw it out there in case it helped.
Sorry that this is so hard and good luck with the return to work!