Pumping at Work: What You Should Know

Breastfeeding at Work Basics

In generations past, a breastfeeding mom might spend the weeks before her return to work introducing the bottle and weaning. A breastfeeding mom today has more choices. With the advent of the double-electric pump, a new mother can pump during her lunch and fifteen minute breaks and in so doing, continue full-time breastfeeding.

Here are a few tips for success:

  • Drink plenty of fluids. Try to keep bottled water or a filter for water on-hand.
  • Eat snacks. Filling, satisfying foods are best, such as whole grains and fiber-rich veggies.
  • Find a quiet space to pump, in which you know you won't be interrupted. Try a "Do Not Disturb" sign. If your office has a window, cover it with black paper or fabric.
  • Set a calming atmosphere. You can do this with lighting, music, pictures of your baby, etc.
  • Set a timer so you don't have to watch the clock.

The Equipment

There are several products that have made my day-to-day life easier, and without which I may not have been able to continue full-time breastfeeding both of my sons to a year. My job is very limited with time, and my break times are hard and fast. I needed a pump that could get the job done quickly, a way to clean the pump parts between my 2-3 daily pumping sessions, and a way to keep the milk cool during the day. I also wanted to have my hands free. After some trial and error with my first baby, I was able to settle on the following needs for my second child:

  1. A high-quality double electric pump: I now use the Medela Freestyle. It is superior in almost every way to my first pump, the Original Pump in Style. See my Top 20 Nursing Mom Necessities article for more information on this.
  2. A pumping bra or bustier: I use the Easy Expression Hands-Free Pumping Bustier. There are other brands you might try, however, such as Simple Wishes, or PumpEase.
  3. Pump Wipes: I use the QuickClean wipes by Medela. These make it possible for me to wipe down my pump within about a minute without the use of soap and water. My usual process at work might be to use these wipes during the day and clean and sterilize the pump daily at home.
  4. A Back-Up Hand Pump: In the rare case that you might forget part of your electric pump at home, or neglect to charge its battery, you will want to have a back-up hand pump to be kept at work or in your car. Waiting until you get home in this case can be painful and embarrassing, not to mention detrimental to your milk supply. I have the Avent Isis, which is extremely comfortable; however, you will need Avent bottles in order to use it. My favorite hand pump is the one that comes in the Lactina Hospital Grade Pump kit. If you rent the hospital pump for the first month, you will have to buy one of these, and it can be used double-style with your pumping bra, which makes things go faster. This pump also has a pressure adjustment feature.
  5. Extra Pump Parts and Bottles: Medela sells a Freestyle Spare Parts Kit, which I have had to use. It was a lifesaver! I also recommend having more than the 4 bottles that come with your pump. An extra set for the babysitter is always a good idea.

Your Rights

Many working mothers find themselves in working situations where milk expression is not encouraged, or where there is no safe place in which to do it. Time can also be a problem for those who work less than an 8 hour day. All of the above applied to me. With my first son, my boss was a mother who had never breastfed and seemed opposed to it, my place of work had no private spaces outside of filthy bathrooms, and my work day was less than eight hours. I found myself having to fight for every aspect of breastfeeding at work. What I learned in the process is important for all breastfeeding mothers to know.

First, milk expression at work is now a national right in the US, as of the 2010 Healthcare Reform. If you are an employee in the US, here are your rights:

  • You have a right to reasonable break times for milk expression, as needed, up to your child's first birthday.
  • You have a right to a place in which to pump that is shielded from view of other employees and IS NOT a bathroom.
  • You may have additional milk expression rights, depending on where you live. Many states have their own policies that go above and beyond the national legislation. For example, some states require that the place in which to pump not be too far away from the employee's regular working area.

Please note that if additional break time must be given to you outside of your normal breaks, your employer is not required to pay you. Also note that if your employer has fewer than 50 employees, they may be able to get out of this entirely.

For more information on the national legislation, check out Section 1207 of the Healthcare legislation, here: http://www.usbreastfeeding.org/Portals/0/Workplace/HR3590-Sec4207-Nursing-Mothers.pdf

To find out about the laws that apply in your state, check Breastfeeding and the Law portion of the La Leche League website, here: http://www.llli.org/Law/LawUS.html?m=0,1,0

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Comments 1 comment

courtney 6 years ago

really informative; thank you!

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