Are you a breastfeeding mom who is getting ready to go back to work after baby? Not sure about the whole pumping at work process? I’ll walk you through what to do, step by step, with plenty of tips and hacks.
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Here’s a step-by-step guide to pumping at work.
Figure out Where to Pump
Hopefully, you have some kind of lactation room or office setup where you will be able to comfortably pump. (Your employer may be required to provide you with a room to pump in that is private and free from intrusion – more information on your legal rights here.)
If at all possible, I would recommend figuring out the logistical details about where you’ll be pumping before you go on maternity leave – or if you’re already on maternity leave, before you return. The first day back might be stressful enough without trying to figure out who you need to talk to to get access to the room or how to schedule your pumping time in Outlook.
If you don’t work in a traditional office – say you work in sales and are on the road – think about where might work for you to pump. Your car might be the best option – more info on pumping in your car here.
Get Set Up
When you sit down to pump, the first thing you want to do is plug in your pump, if you’re using an outlet.
Then you can put on your hands-free pumping bra and assemble your pump parts. (If you don’t have a hands-free pumping bra, definitely get one! Being able to do other things while you pump is life-changing. This is a great one, or you can read reviews of others here.)
It’s super helpful if you can use a staging mat like the one that comes with the Pumparoo while you assemble everything.
I like this one because you can wipe it clean when you’re done.
Get Something to Entertain Yourself
I usually brought my laptop into the lactation room and worked while I pumped. I found it helpful to focus on doing something quick – like responding to a few emails – that I could knock out in the short time I had.
However, if you won’t be working, bring a book or your phone or a crossword puzzle or something to make it not totally boring.
Most women will want to start pumping in letdown/massage mode, and many pumps automatically turn on that way. (Note that the Spectra S1 and S2 start with the settings you were using last, so you may want to adjust them before turning your pump on.)
When you turn your pump on, milk will just dribble out at first. Then, after a few minutes, you will see it start to spray. This is called a letdown.
When you see this, you can switch the pump mode to expression mode. (Some pumps, like the Willow and Elvie, will sense letdown and switch it automatically. Other pumps will move to expression mode after a certain amount of time.)
How long should you pump?
This depends on how often you pump, and how long it takes you to “empty,” but a good guideline is 15 minutes. More on this (and setting up a pumping schedule) here.
Once you’re time is up/you’re finished pumping, you can unhook yourself from your hands-free pumping bra and put your pump parts back on your staging mat as you disassemble them.
Store Your Milk
Then you can put away your milk. I found it easiest to store and transport my breastmilk in the bottles that I pumped into. While I was at work, I put it in a mini-fridge in our lactation room, and then when it was time to go home, I put it in a breastmilk cooler.
If your office doesn’t have a fridge that you’re able to use (or if you travel between sites at work and you don’t have an office), it’s fine to keep the milk all day in a breast milk cooler, as long as you start the day with a frozen ice pack. Your milk should be good for 24 hours in the cooler.
Another option if you don’t have a fridge (but do have a desk or space to plug this in) is this adorable, tiny fridge:
Clean Your Pump Parts
There are a few different ways that you can manage your pump parts after you pump them.
Some moms prefer to keep their pump parts in the fridge (in a gallon-sized zip-top bag, or the Pumparoo shown above) in between sessions, and this is what I did.
However, a few years ago, the CDC started recommending that breast pump parts be washed in between each pumping session. If you’d like to use clean pump parts for each session but aren’t able to wash in between each one, one option is to bring in to work as many sets of pump parts as you need for the day. Then, you can wash them all in one batch at the end of the day.
A Few Additional Pumping at Work Tips
- Leave an extra set of pump parts at work, in case you forget anything. Having to go back home or scramble because you forgot a breast shield is no fun.
- On the topic of forgetting things when you’re packing things up, use a checklist to pack your bag. You can grab a free one here.
- It’s okay to be flexible with your pumping schedule. Do your best to get your sessions and pumping time in, but if you have to shift a session to make a meeting, in most cases, it will be fine.
- If it’s difficult for you to pump at work, consider pumping on your commute.
- Don’t have a breast pump yet? You can find out what you qualify for here.
Hopefully this helps you get an idea of what the pumping at work process should look like for when you go back to work! Let me know in the comments if you have any questions!