The thought of juggling work with breastfeeding might seem daunting. Many moms-to-be and new moms want to provide breastmilk for their baby but struggle to see how to make returning to work around breastfeeding possible. The good news is that legislation is on your side and there’s plenty of practical strategies that means you won’t have to compromise on your plans to feed baby breastmilk. Pumping allows you to combine breastfeeding with work. In this article we take a look at the top tips and pearls of wisdom from moms who’ve navigated returning to the workplace and pumping so that they can continue their breastfeeding journey without stress.
How Does Pumping at Work Support Breastfeeding?
It's helpful to begin by considering why pumping is important for you and your baby when you return to the workplace. Many moms want to breastfeed their little one around work schedules, feeding in the morning before work and then breastfeeding at night. That leaves a window of time when you and baby are apart. Breastmilk production works on a supply and demand basis, and so, if you go for an extended stretch of time without feeding or pumping, your body will reduce your milk supply. Pumping throughout the day enables you to maintain milk production and provides breastmilk you can then store so your baby can still receive your milk when you’re apart. Jess, a Momma working in Real Estate explains:
“When I was expecting Joshua, I knew I wanted to breastfeed him. I had thought that I could just feed him in the mornings before heading out. But, as we learnt together, I saw how my body responded to Joshua’s feeds. When I didn’t feed through the day, there was a change, and my milk supply began to dwindle. It’s been a real eyeopener seeing how responsive my body is to the process. Now I am back at work, pumping as part of my work schedule every 3 or 4 hours means I can provide for Joshua in the ways I had always planned to and I’ve been able to increase my milk supply as a result. I keep things simple by using BPA free breastmilk storage bags with temperature sensors included so I know my milk is being stored hygienically”.
Know more about Breastfeeding Tips for Busy Working Moms: Balancing Breast Pumping and Work to help you deal with breastfeeding at work.
Your Rights as a Breastfeeding Mom:
Legislation recognizes the benefits of breastfeeding and there’s protection in place to ensure working moms have accommodations that support breastfeeding. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires that your employer provide basic accommodations including "a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view to express breast milk while at work” as well as "reasonable break time" to pump. As a working mom, you’re entitled to such provision for a full year after your baby’s birth. Your workplace’s HR team can advise. Marissa is an elementary teacher and found her workplace to be accommodating after an initial setback:
“I was the first member of staff in a long while to go on maternity leave. My workplace hadn’t needed to tackle how to support breastfeeding working moms, and initially were surprised when I explained about my need to have facilities and time set aside for me to pump. However, when I explained how employment legislation meant I’d be able to thrive at work and continue my breastfeeding journey, my employers were very accommodating. My contact time with students each day was reduced slightly, and a comfortable room with a fridge was set aside for me. Here I pump and store my expressed milk safely.
I made use of the M5 Wearable Breast Pump which was fantastic in those early months as I could also discreetly wear it in the classroom to continue to pump throughout the day to avoid engorgement. And, in my scheduled pump breaks, the vibrating function loosened my milk ducts and got my milk flowing quickly. Cassie is 8 months now, and I feed her myself each morning. Her caregivers feed her my milk through the day via a bottle and incorporate my milk into porridge for her. I’m proud of what we’ve achieved, and I think it sets a great example to the kids I teach”.
Practical Ways to Prepare for Pumping at Work:
So, pumping is important for working breastfeeding moms, and there is legislation to support that. But what about the logistics of returning to work and pumping? As maternity leave comes to an end, many moms are nervous about the practicalities of making pumping work for them and their baby. As with many aspects of parenting, a bit of preparation, planning and practice will make the process smoother and less daunting.
It’s sensible to begin pumping well in advance of any return to work. This gives you time to become comfortable with the process and feel a sense of mastery. In the month prior to returning to work, look to pump once or twice a day initially. You can pump in between baby’s feeds. If breastfeeding is well established, it’s likely you’ll have enough time between your baby’s feeds to express milk that can be stored. Remember the act of pumping will support and increase your overall supply, so baby won’t go hungry.
It’s helpful to relax as you prepare to pump, and many women find a gentle breast massage can support the milk let down process, as can looking at your baby or even a photo of your baby. It’s a good idea to ensure your pump has a letdown function that begins to stimulate the milk flow as you pump, so that the process is comfortable and pain free. The Momcozy M5 breast pump is a good fit. Take your time to ensure the pump flange creates a good seal with your breast, and don’t be daunted if you only produce a few drops or a slow trickle to start with. In time, your body will adjust. Getting used to the process prior to returning to work will mean you’re pumping like a pro when the time to head to the workplace is upon you.
Ayesha took her time to practice pumping prior to her return to work as a nurse. Here she shares her experience of incorporating pumping into her breastfeeding journey:
“Karim was feeding regularly throughout the day to a predictable schedule by the time he was 4 months old. We’d found a pattern that seemed to work for us. So, I was nervous about starting to pump in preparation for returning to work. I didn’t want to mess up the routine we’d got going on! My breastfeeding advisor suggested I build in a pump when Karim was napping after his feed. I got myself settled and looked at him to help me feel connected with him when I gave pumping a try. Initially I used my fingers to gently massage the area.
I was relieved the pump was cordless and quiet, so I could sit with him whilst he napped. It took a bit of practice, but then I found the process became second nature. In the week before I headed back to work, I was pumping several times a day and pottering around doing a bit of housework whilst I did so. Now I’m at work, I use a lactation massager to help me ensure a good let-down and I’ve got a photo of Karim I keep in my breast pump carry case. That really helps me to stay connected with him whilst I pump”.
So, with a bit of preparation, returning to work need not be the end of your breastfeeding journey. Take time to incorporate some of the tips and techniques here to ensure pumping at work is a stress-free experience and ensure you and baby both continue to benefit from breastfeeding for as long as you want.