A Guide For Pumping at Work

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pumping at work

In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, Ashland Women’s Health is joining Bump Club and Beyond to share all the tools you need to be a breastfeeding mom in the workplace.

The dual-income household is a reality of most households in 2017. Not only are women killing it in the workplace, most families rely on two incomes to make ends meet. For breastfeeding moms who have to go back to work as early as eight weeks after delivery (don’t even get us started on maternity leave), that means making arrangements for pumping at work. While there is absolutely a lot to think about, from pumping accommodations, to storing and transporting your breast milk, there are ways to simplify the process.

First, Know Your Rights

The “Break Time for Nursing Mothers” law is a federal law that requires employers to provide a “reasonable” break time and a private place—that isn’t a bathroom—to express breast milk at work up until the baby’s first birthday. Despite this legal protection, many employers are not fully aware of what they must provide. It’s best to talk to your boss—and if necessary, your HR team—before your maternity leave to make sure you have the time and space you need to pump upon your return to work. Our Workplace Bill of Rights is a free, customizable letter that you can copy, paste and send straight to your boss to help start that conversation. While federal laws are on your side, the specific language state-by-state may make these requirements easier to enforce in some states than others. Don’t be intimidated to stand up for yourself!

The Prep for Pumping at Work

The one key ingredient to continuing your breastfeeding relationship after you go back to work is a breast pump. Start by finding a pump that meets your specific needs in the workplace, like portability, strength and sound. (Our “Which Breast Pump is Right For You? Quiz” will help you answer the right questions and find the right insurance-covered pump for you). Once you’ve got the pump, you’ll need supplementary gear: some can stay at work, and some will need to travel with you every day in your pumping bag. Find everything you need in our guide: 10 Things You Need to Pump At Work. And remember, you will have to think about how you are going to store and transport your breast milk back and forth from the office. Trust us, it’s NBD.

The Backup Stash

If you plan on pumping at work, it’s helpful to have a week or two worth of milk stashed in the freezer while you get in the groove of pumping throughout the day—especially if you are used to exclusively nursing. (Check out our guide for building a backup stash here). If you haven’t started to work on that backup supply just yet, a good rule of thumb is to start pumping at 8 weeks for a 12-week leave, or at 4 weeks for a 6-week leave. If your schedule is more flexible or different in other ways, and you’re wondering when and how to start pumping, this guide, from one of our board-certified lactation consultants at Ashland Women’s Health, can help. As for storing your stockpile: breastmilk is seriously liquid gold.

Anyone who tells you that it’s easy to be a working/breastfeeding mom has seriously underestimated what it takes. But if continuing your breastfeeding relationship is something that is important to you as a mother, stand your ground. You can absolutely make this work for you and your baby. And think of how much you will be able accomplish during that uninterrupted time when you are working while pumping. Slay it, sister!

For more information on pumping, breastfeeding and being a working mom, please contact Ashland Women’s Health. Our team is on standby to help make life easier for working moms throughout the United States. Together we are stronger!