Some of you may be expecting and planning to pump when you go back to work, or you could be on maternity leave and trying to figure out what to expect when you go back, or maybe you’re already back into work full swing and just feel like you need some help. I’ll preface this by saying I am no pro, much of what I’ve learned has been trial and error, but if sharing my experience can save you the trouble I consider that a win!
So let’s jump right in J first things first… know your rights!
Per the Affordable Care Act of 2010 (Section 7) your employer is required to provide break time for an employee to pump for your nursing child for one year after the child’s birth. They are also required to provide you a private place, NOT a bathroom, for you to pump in. So, in short, your employer has to give you time to pump, whenever you need to pump, in a private place. During my work day I am given two 15 minute breaks and one 30 minute lunch break. Typically the scheduled breaks would vary from day to day, but when I returned to work I requested an accommodation to have my breaks at the same time every day. This was super helpful for me in regulating my body. I would definitely advise contacting your employer before you return to go over those details of what is provided and what you will need… and don’t be afraid to ask for accommodations; pumping is a job on its own!
- Pump before you return from your leave. No new mama wants to think about the day she has to go back to work, but I promise you getting a couple small pumping sessions in once you have the baby is so worth it. This is something I wish I would’ve started sooner. I didn’t start pumping until 1 week before I was due to go back to work and oh my goodness was that stressful. Not only is it good to learn the ins and outs of your pump so that you’re comfortable with it, it is a huge peace of mind to have back up already piling up in the freezer. Once I got my base supply built up a little back up I was able to give a few bags to my son’s babysitter in case he ever ran out.
- Get a hands free pumping bra. This is a game changer! Amazon sells a 2-pack (Nude & Black) for $27. So comfy, and also incredibly helpful. Hofish Hands-free Pumping Bra
- WATER. WATER. WATER! You can never have enough of this when your breastfeeding and I’m sure your labor and delivery team drilled this into your head if your OB/Midwife hadn’t already. Seriously. Get yourself a big water bottle and keep that baby filled at all times. I leave one at my desk so that I never forget to bring it to work.
- Don’t look at what you’re pumping. I make this mistake too often and overly obsess about if I’m pumping enough and the stress does actually make you produce less. Play a game on your phone, read a book, make phone calls… Just distract yourself! Heck, I’ve even turned out the lights and taking a 15 minute power nap. But speaking of distracting, watching videos of your baby can help signal your body. A lactation consultant told me this and I thought it was totally hokey… But it works.
- Establish a routine. Let’s face it, once you’re a working mom your free moments are basically slim to none. So you can drive yourself a little less crazy by settling into a routine with this, and in turn it will also help your body to know when you’ll be pumping. After being at work for 2 months and taking my break at 9:45 every morning, if I went later, I felt it. Since we have very little free time, don’t obsess over cleaning and sanitizing every single piece after every single use. I wipe the suction cups out with a sani-wipe after every use, but the attachments stay on top of the bottle and into the fridge. I just make sure they soak in hot water as soon as I get home.
- Don’t expect for this to be totally easy right off the bat. You’ll have hard moments and embarrassing moments. Once I got all the way to work and went to go pump on my first break and realized I forgot the suction cups. No pumping without those! Another time I pulled my tank top down under my bra to pump… when I finished I did not pull the tank top back over my bra and walked across the entire office, back to my desk, before I realized it was down. Thank you, sleep deprivation. Nobody is a pro at this, so learn to roll with the punches because I guarantee you’re not the first mom to do it.
- Pump as much as you can. Perhaps your meeting ran short and you’ve not got an extra 10 minutes. Use it to pump! There’s no such thing as too much breast milk. In addition to this, don’t stop pumping when the milk stop flowing. If you notice you stop 10 minutes into your session try putting your pump up higher. Stimulating your body as much as possible will mean you’ll produce more, because as we all know breastfeeding is entirely about supply and demand.
- DON’T STRESS. This is so much easier said than done I know, but really, like I said… so much of this is trial and error. You’ll learn in time what works for you. Don’t be embarrassed to ask your employer for the things you need. To be totally honest with you, I think that my boss is embarrassed to talk about it, which in turn made it stressful for me because I felt I couldn’t approach it. I had to learn to just get over it and realize that what I’m doing is nothing to be embarrassed about. I feel like when most people think of breastfeeding and pumping they think it’s an easy natural thing and it’s not. Funny story… when I had my son I had issues breastfeeding at first and I literally sat in my hospital bed so mad (I was actually crying I was so mad) at all the mom’s in my life for not telling me how hard breastfeeding was. I even told my mom when she came to visit how upset I was at her for not telling me and for making it look so easy. Got to love those post-partum hormones, am I right? I was/am the first girl in my family to be a working mom so as far as help with pumping I was pretty much left to the outside resources. We as moms make a lot of sacrifices and the sacrifice we make to pump is a hard one but an amazing one. My, how I would love to be able to eat in the cafeteria or outside on my lunch break rather than pumping! There have been so many days where I’ve just wanted to stop and give him formula so I can be done with it. Reach out to other mamas if you’re feeling overwhelmed, because you’re not alone and just know that what you are doing is amazing!