One of the sweetest moments of my day is lying in bed in the early morning while snuggling with and nursing my baby girl. On weekdays, this is followed by one of the worst moments of the day: looking at the clock and realizing it’s time to get up and get ready for work. It’s not that I hate my job or anything, but I’m not exactly a morning person. At all.
Balancing the needs of an exclusively breastfed baby with your need to return to work to support your family can be a tricky undertaking, but it can be done.
Just because your maternity leave is up doesn’t mean you have to give up breastfeeding if you wish to continue it. But—reality check—you will have to train your baby to take a bottle, and you will be pumping in the office. This idea might fill you with a sense of dread, but fear not—you can do it!
I pumped in the office for almost a year after returning to work with each of my older two children and plan to do the same with baby number three who was born this spring. I’ll admit that pumping is not my favorite thing in the world, but the benefits of breastfeeding for baby’s first year are worth it.
The first, and arguably most daunting, hurdle to pumping at work is that it requires you to discuss an intimate bodily function with your boss, and that can be a little awkward. The most important thing is just to be confident about it, and keep it brief and direct. He or she needs to understand why you are taking these breaks during the day and will probably have to assist you in finding and approving your pumping location.
If you are lucky enough to have your own office with a door that locks, then you are pretty much set. If not, you’ll have to seek out another appropriate location. By law, you have a right to a private space that is NOT a bathroom stall or janitor’s closet to pump breastmilk for your baby.
My office complex actually includes a designated nursing room. It has nice low lighting (a welcome respite from the fluorescent lighting of the main office), a door that locks, and an electric outlet that works. I moved a rocking chair and a table in there and was good to go.
If your office doesn’t have such an ideal location, you might have to get creative about re-purposing another under-utilized space around the office. Hopefully, your superiors will be supportive of your needs and help you get settled. Fortunately, my boss and the human resources manager were supportive, but even if your superiors are less than enthusiastic about your pumping needs, you have the right to do it, and you shouldn’t be discouraged by their lukewarm response.
Once you get the initial pumping conversation out of the way and get your space set up, you should be able to take care of business discreetly on a daily basis. If you work independently at your desk most of the day like I do, there shouldn’t be a need to continuously update your boss about your pumping breaks. If you’re away from your desk for 20 minutes twice a day, they’ll know why.
It will be a little different if you work as a teacher, nurse, in a restaurant, retail store, or other job where you are counted on to be interacting with students/patients/the public on a regular basis, and you will have to arrange your breaks with co-workers to ensure you’re not leaving duties unattended. With a little practice, you’ll find your pumping routine.
If you’re ready to take the pumping plunge, here are a few lists you might find helpful. Good luck!
WHAT YOU NEED:
- A double electric breast pump (some insurance plans cover these, so check with them!)
- Breastmilk storage bags
- Wash cloth to catch stray drips
- Bottle brush/dish soap to wash the pump bottles and parts
- A small cooler and ice packs for storing/transporting pumped milk (I carry this with me to the lactation room, then carry it back to the main office fridge for storage)
- Pump at about the same time each day. I usually do around 10:30 and 2:30.
- Get used to your pump before using it in the office; make sure you know how all the parts fit together and work
- Get baby used to taking bottles before you return to work; have someone else (not you) feed them to your baby
- Listen to soothing music while you pump; make a “pumping playlist” to call up on your smartphone while you pump.
- Don’t worry if you don’t think you’re getting a lot of milk when you first start pumping. Some days you’ll have less than others; it takes some time to get used to it.
- Wear nursing pads! You never know when you might spring a leak, and you don’t want to have milk dripping down your shirt during a staff meeting! (Don’t ask how I know…)