Is your last day of maternity leave rapidly approaching and you have no idea how you’re going to tolerate pumping breast milk at work? Rest assured, mama — you’re not alone. Every working mom dedicated to feeding her child breast milk has walked in your shoes.
We’ll give you some tips to help ease your transition as you go back to work so your baby can continue to benefit from that liquid gold.
Know What You’re Entitled To
Not every boss is going to bend over backward to make sure you have everything you’re entitled to by law when you’re pumping at work. You may find yourself having to ask and fight for things your boss should provide you with. Stay fierce —your baby is counting on you for its nutritional needs and that’s far more important than playing nice at the workplace.
Create a Checklist
Maternity leave goes by shockingly fast. Before you know it, you’ll have to be headed back to your job. The time to plan, though, is before that happens.
A month before you return to work, make a checklist of items that have to be addressed before you go back. You’ll want to start a freezer stash of breast milk and discuss with your boss where and when you’ll be pumping at the workplace.
Closer to the date, you should ensure you have all the equipment you’ll need for pumping in a convenient bag you can carry to work.
Choose Your Pump Carefully
Before heading to the workplace, give careful thought about the kind of pump you want to buy. It should be portable, operate at more than one speed, be double electric so you can pump both breasts at once, not be too loud, and operate on a battery or power cord.
Write Out a Pumping Schedule
You can try to wing it instead of having a written plan in place. But you’ll likely find it easier to commit to a pumping schedule when it is in writing. It’s too easy to accidentally skip or push back pumping sessions if your schedule isn’t written down.
You don’t want to forget to pump for too long or you’ll face the possibility of engorgement, clogged milk ducts, and diminished milk supply. You should try to pump, even at work, around every three hours.
Try to Relax
Relaxing isn’t easy to do at work during normal circumstances. But when you add a pump, naked breasts, and potentially weird coworkers, it can get even harder to relax.
If you find yourself given a place to pump where you don’t feel comfortable, getting that let-down reflex can be a real problem. To help solve this issue, play some relaxing music on low while pumping or carry around a picture of your baby or one of their onesies that has that precious baby smell on it.
Take Some Shortcuts
Pumping at work can take up a good chunk of your workday, so you’re probably eager to not waste any more time than you have to. That’s why shortcuts can come in handy. Here’s one of our favorites for pumping breast milk at home or at work.
You don’t have to fully wash your breast pump after each use. When you’re at work, simply rinse it with hot water and put the removable pump parts that come in contact with breast milk in a large Ziploc bag, zip it up, and put it in the refrigerator. Then when you need it again in three hours, take it out and pump again.
You should always wash it at the end of the day though — you don’t want old milk on the pump the next day.
Be Ready for a Bumpy Ride
It doesn’t matter how ready you think you are for pumping while at work, you’re going to experience some hiccups. Maybe you’ll miss your baby far more than you anticipated while you’re at work or it won’t be as easy as you thought to carve out enough pumping time during your workday.
When the road gets tough, remind yourself that it’s worth every step. And if you can make it through the first week or two, you’ll start to fall into a routine and it will seem much easier.