How to Make Pumping on the Job Work for You

by jordan berns 


Sometimes it seems like when you just have mastered breastfeeding, work calls for you. Some mothers who go back to work decide that pumping works best for them. Pumping sets the stage for new challenges to master, but also new rewarding moments. Pumping may be stressful for moms on the go, but there are special techniques to make this process possible.

Pumping at work can work!

Before You Go Back to Work:

Before heading back to the office, ask your pediatrician how much milk your baby will likely need while the two of you are apart. This amount may decrease with the introduction of solid foods. If you are exclusively breastfeeding, it is recommended that after four weeks of nursing to pump once a day to introduce your baby to the concept of bottle feeding. Get a head start on your freezer supply by pumping extra milk a few days before you return to work.

Sometimes babies need a little reassurance when they’re away from their moms. If they don’t take to the bottle with a caretaker, try leaving them with a shirt or blanket that smells like you to relax and comfort them.

Another good conversation to have before returning to work is one with your employer. Ask them when and where it’s best for you to pump. A huge achievement was made in 2022 when the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act was signed into law on December 29. The law adds so much more to past legislation about pumping at work:

  • Provides the right to break time and space to pump breast milk at work to millions more workers, including teachers and nurses
  • Makes it possible for workers to file a lawsuit to seek monetary remedies in the event that their employer fails to comply
  • Clarifies that pumping time must be paid if an employee is not completely relieved from duty (

Previous laws like the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) amended Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act to give pumping women new protections. This law states that for a year after her baby is born, a woman is entitled to a private place to pump during a reasonable amount of breaks, and this space cannot be a bathroom.

If you cannot find reasonable accommodations at work, getting a battery for your car and pumping in your vehicle could also be a possible option.

Pumping can be a critical part of some’s work/life balance.

While at Work:

Pumping at work probably isn’t going to be very convenient or very fun. However, with careful planning and a compassionate attitude, it can be achievable.

While at work, bring insulated baggies to store your milk. Fresher milk has more antibodies against currently circulating bugs and illness, and it generally has more nutrients. However, to create a substantial stockpile, freezing is the name of the game. To create a stockpile of breast milk, you’ll need a consistent freezer. Since liquids expand when they freeze, make sure to leave a little air at the top of the milk bag so it has room to expand safely.

The CDC recommends babies can drink breast milk that was stored frozen for six months at best, or even frozen up to a year can still be fine. It is best to store milk in the back of the freezer, so it doesn’t thaw out when the freezer door opens and closes. If you can’t put the milk in a refrigerator right after pumping, breast milk can be kept at a room temperature of 66.2 to 78.8°Fahrenheit (19 to 26°Celsius) for 6 to 8 hours.

Besides insulated bags, it could help to bring extra towels, extra breast pads, and an extra shirt with you to work. (A dark shirt with a print is less likely to show leakage!)

Some women find that their breaks are too short to pump properly. If so, you can combat this problem by purchasing or renting a double pump that expresses both breasts at the same time. A 2012 Australian study discovered that simultaneous breast expression (SIM) was more effective than expressing one breast after the other (sequential breast expression (SEQ)) and yielded milk with a higher fat content. Double pumping can increase milk production by up to 18%. This can also give you a free hand to eat a snack or catch up on a little work. If double pumping isn’t for you, perhaps try a Haaka. This wearable device catches leaking breast milk from one breast while you pump or breastfeed on the other side.

If you can manage it, try to pump with the same frequency you nursed with at home. If you have difficulty with standard pumping, try power pumping! To power pump, pump in ten minutes off and on intervals over the span of an hour. Your body will react similarly to cluster feedings from your baby.

Coming Home From Work:

Pumping has great advantages, but one of the drawbacks is that it doesn’t produce the same hormones that are released when you nurse your baby. This is why you might find that you produce less milk when you are pumping as compared to breastfeeding. To reintroduce these hormones, try to breastfeed as soon as you are reunited with your baby. When you get home from work, relax, and then spend some time doing skin-to-skin contact. Skin-to-skin helps increase your milk supply and encourages your baby to nurse.

Remember that motherhood can be a stressful time, and it’s totally normal to both miss your baby and also be relieved to be back at work. Raising a newborn can be complicated and no one is able to make a judgement call on your motherhood journey but you. So if going back to work is either a pleasure or a pain, remember that at the end of the day, all that matters is that you’re doing your best for yourself and for your family. 




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