Prepare for Pumping at Work

Breast Milk pumped at work
Photo © Jamie Grill/Getty Images

If you are going to work after having a baby, you have probably thought about how you will integrate pumping during work hours into your schedule. Maybe you know other employees who have already been successful at making this work, or maybe you will be a trailblazer at your job. Either way, there are things that you can do to make your life a bit simpler when it comes to pumping.

Preparing to Pump

The preparation that you put into your prep work to go back to work can help you be more comfortable while working and pumping. It can increase your confidence and help to make you successful in meeting your goals

Learn About Pumping

Just as with nursing, pumping takes some getting used to. For this reason, you may want to start pumping a few weeks before returning to work. You can even sign up for a breastfeeding class. Not only will you learn some helpful tips and tricks (like how to increase your milk supply by pumping), you'll also get the chance to ask targeted questions.

Want to take that up a notch further? Look for a breastfeeding and working class. Many lactation consultants and hospitals offer these types of classes. This is a great way to increase your specific knowledge.

Know Your Rights

Breastfeeding is considered the optimal way to feed your baby. Major medical organizations have all made recommendations for breastfeeding, including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

The AAP recommends exclusive breastfeeding (meaning only breast milk via breast or bottle) for about 6 months followed by continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced for 1 year or longer. 

One of the issues with this policy is that it does not address the hardships that many women have, particularly as they reenter the workforce after having the baby. This is where protections from the Affordable Care Act’s "Break Time for Nursing Mothers" law comes into play.

The “Break Time for Nursing Mothers” law requires employers covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act to provide “reasonable break time” and a private space (not a bathroom) for breastfeeding mothers to express milk for one year after giving birth. 

If you’re not covered by the federal law, don’t panic. Your state may have laws that protect your right to pump at work. Be sure to ask your HR representative at work or check out your state’s breastfeeding rights.

Gather Your Materials

You should try to have as much of this ready before going back to work. And once you are back at work, it’s important to lay this stuff out the night before. It can be all too easy to forget something and nothing is worse than getting to work, only to realize that you only have one of your flanges.

  • Breast pump: It’s tough to pump at work without…a pump. There's a wide array of pump options and styles, from manual pumps to hands-free pumping bras. You can even use a hand expression technique to remove your milk. Just make sure everything is in working order and ready to go.
  • Relaxation Materials: Your milk may not always come down when you're ready for a pumping session. Relaxation is the key to encouraging your let-down reflex. Try looking at a picture or video of your baby while you pump. A warm compress can also help get your breast milk flowing.
  • Milk storage: Make sure you have plenty of milk storage bottles and bags to store your milk after you’ve pumped.
  • Cooler bag: Keeping your milk cool throughout the day is essential. The ideal storage for expressed milk is a refrigerator. But if you don’t have access to one at work, any type of insulated bottle bag or cooler with an ice pack will do. Just don’t forget to put your milk in the fridge or freezer when you get home.  

Have a Good Pumping Spot

Get your lactation space ready. This can mean finding a place to pump, store your supplies, and sit comfortably. Some employees choose to work while pumping, while others find that relaxing and leaving work behind is more conducive to making more milk faster. This might be something that works with trial and error.

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Article Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Breastfeeding. Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics. 2012;129(3):e827-e841. doi:10.1542/peds.2011-3552

  2. Reasonable Break Time for Nursing Mothers. Fed Regist. 2010;75(244):80073-80079.

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