I dreaded the idea of leaving my baby to go back to work at the office. I broke down in tears when I found out my official return date. I have a great job, but I just couldn’t imagine a full 8 hours away from my precious little guy. I also couldn’t imagine that during the daytime his warm little body nuzzled in my arms would soon be replaced with a cold piece of plastic connected to a bulky device.
My brain couldn’t wrap around all of the supplies needed and steps I’d have to take to pump at work. Going from being snuggled up nursing my babe to a cold office with plastic pieces, I just wanted to do everything I could to make it a comfortable experience. It was a learning curve for sure, BUT once I got the hang of it, I have to admit I actually began to really enjoy my pump breaks.
It’s all about perspective. You just have to get in the mindset that you are doing this for your baby. Think of it as an honor to be able to provide for your little one in so many different ways. That alone will make it all worth it.
A few weeks or so before you’ll be heading back to work, make sure you communicate with your employer about your needs and what they provide so you are able to plan accordingly and set yourself up for success!
know your rights
I was a little nervous to let everyone know that I would be needing so many breaks. But with my department being all women, it made things a little easier to talk about. Even if there are men you work closely with or near, just be confident and matter of fact. They’re probably more uncomfortable with it than you are! (see side story below)
By law, your employer must provide you a reasonable amount of time for you to pump until your baby is one years old. They must also provide you with a clean space to pump that is NOT the bathroom. If you will be pumping in a shared room, block off time and let it be known that the space will be in use. For a more comprehensive guide of your rights as a breastfeeding employee, Kellymom has is a great resource to point you in the right direction.
figure out a pumping schedule
You’ll want to pump around the same times that you would nurse your baby when you are with them. Depending on your last feed with your baby before you leave in the morning and your commute time, you should be able to settle in at work before having to rush to pump. Every day when I get into my office, I check my schedule for any meetings and plan my pumping schedule around it. I found that pumping three times a day—at 9, 12 (on my lunch break) and 3 worked best for me and my body.
find a comfortable space
Your office may already have a designated room set up for this. Mine did not, but I fortunately have my own office. I had to make a few adjustments for privacy, but I felt most comfortable being in there rather than hauling my stuff back and forth to somewhere else in the building. Whatever space is available to you, do what you can to make it a calm and relaxing area to pump successfully.
side story—One time my CEO walked in my office while I was pumping but I think it flustered him more than it did me! He’s a dad with daughters so I don’t think it was too unfamiliar of territory, but uncomfortable, nonetheless. I had my shirt covering myself so he didn’t even realize it at first. I think my face got red but I had to laugh afterwards at the situation. If there’s no lock on your door, make sure you are covered up once you get situated! You may even need to put a do not disturb sign on your door.
set the atmosphere
You don’t want to be tensed up or stressed while you are pumping. This can directly affect your milk output. Shut out anything that may be going on at work, close your eyes and visualize being with your baby. Watching videos is also the best too. The sound of coos and cries alone can help with triggering a letdown. Using our God-given senses allows our bodies to respond the way they were designed to.
storing milk and pumping parts
With the breast pump that I had, I went back and forth between using bags and bottles. Either way, make sure to mark these with the date once you finish. If your work has a refrigerator, place your bags near the back. If there’s not one available or you don’t feel comfortable storing them with everyone’s lunch, get a cooler with icepacks to keep in your office.
I also kept a small bottle of Dr. Bronner’s castile soap with me to wash my parts. To be totally honest though, I didn’t always wash between sessions. If you are able to store them in a refrigerator or cooler, this isn’t totally necessary. I found that these ½ gallon stasher bags worked really great for storing my parts easily.
*pro tip* store your car keys wherever your milk is so you can never leave without it!
prep pumping parts at home
Each night, I wash and boil my pump parts to sterilize. Once everything was dry, I would put it in my stasher bag and throw in my purse. I learned some hard lessons several times when I chose not to do this and ended up leaving all my stuff at home! I also kept a full supply of bags in my office so I would never be without those.
IF you happen to run out of bags, just get creative! Wash out any container and pump away. I even used my bullet smoothie cup to pump milk into a handful of times.
consider your clothing
Just like we have to think about what we will wear out when we have our babies with us to be able to breastfeed them comfortably, we have to also think about being able to access our boobs easily at work. Wear a shirt or dress that is easy to pull up or unbutton.
Another pro tip to save you from potential embarrassment: keep an extra shirt with you. When I first went back to work, there were days that I totally forgot to put my breast pads into my bra. I would begin pumping on one side, and my breast would begin leaking on the other and get all over my clothing. OR I just plain spilled my milk onto my clothes. Keep a basic tee or two at your desk just in case this happens so you can quickly change. Accidents happen, it’s comforting to be prepared!
If there’s another mama in your office who is also pumping, bring her some coffee and let her know you’re in this together! A girl in my department had her baby a month after I did so we were both pumping at the same time. It made things a lot easier to be able to share with her any struggles—and even bags and bottles when either of us forgot them!
Don’t let all of this information, preparation and parts (so. many. parts.) overwhelm you. I’ll say it again, you are doing this to nourish YOUR BABY. Enjoy the breaks away from work. Look at photos of your baby, read scripture or even make your grocery list. Just relax and pump out that liquid gold!
I know everyone’s work situation is different. Please feel free to ask me any specifics about how to get acclimated with pumping at your job! I want this to be an enjoyable experience for you—not something that you dread.