Tips for Breastfeeding and Pumping at Work

Tips for Breastfeeding and Pumping at WorkThis World Breastfeeding Week the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) selected the theme Breastfeeding and Work, Let’s Make it Work.  This is a theme revisited from World Breastfeeding Week 1993, which supported the Mother-Friendly Workplace Initiative.  Work, in this case, is defined broadly as a formal, informal or working in the home situation.  No matter where a woman works or what her life circumstances may be, she should have the right, support and encouragement to breastfeed.

The outlined goals this year include enabling mothers to breastfeed and work through support and facilitation from employers, legislation and social action groups to protect the rights of mothers.  WABA sights three elements of support to allow mothers the opportunity to breastfeed:  time, space and support.  There have been major strides in the 22 years since the last breastfeeding at work campaign; however there are still many improvements to be made on an employer and legislative level.

On a personal level, returning to work without derailing your breastfeeding goals may feel challenging.  It certainly comes with additional logistical measures but is completely possible with preparation and support.  Many new moms abandon their breastfeeding journey when they head back to a workplace outside the home, even if they haven’t reached the recommended six months of exclusive breastfeeding.  World Breastfeeding Week is aimed at encouraging mothers to continue breastfeeding when they return to work and to remove many of the barriers that hinder breastfeeding at work for new moms.

Today we’re sharing some tips for breastfeeding and pumping at work to help you prepare for your transition after maternity leave.

Before Returning to Work

  • First, research the laws in your city and state so you know your rights.  Most states require employers to provide time and space for breastfeeding or pumping at work.
  • Set a goal and write it down.  Statistics show that if you record your goals, you’re more likely to stick to them.
  • Before your first day back on the job, visit your workplace and talk to your supervisor about your desire and right to continue breastfeeding.  Even if your boss is male, he may be more supportive than you think.  Explain that you feel that breastfeeding is the best way to nurture your baby and, with all of the health benefits involved for you and your baby, it may actually prevent many sick days of missed work in the future.
  • If your baby will be at a child-care facility on site or close-by, or if you have a nanny who can bring your baby to your office, you may want to negotiate time to spend breastfeeding your baby during your workday.
  • If you plan to pump during work, discuss a flexible daily timeline that will allow you 15-25 minutes to pump two or three times a day.
  • Find a space to pump.  Your place of employment may already have a lactation room, which is great!  If not, explain to your supervisor what you need: a comfortable chair, an air-conditioned room, privacy and a place to store your milk.

Packing your Bag to Return to Work

You may be babyless at work, but you still need some gear to pump at work.  These items include:

  • Your breast pump – invest in a really good one that is super efficient and will last
  • Clean breast shields
  • At least 2 clean bottles for every pumping session
  • A cooler to transport pumped milk
  • Stickers to label your breast milk with the date
  • Wipes or other cleaning products to sterilize your pump
  • A nursing bra
  • Nursing pads
  • An extra shirt in case you leak
  • A snack
  • Something to read

Returning to Work

When the day arrives to go back to work, you may feel a little anxious.  That’s normal! Keep these tips in mind:

  • You’ve worked hard to negotiate what you need to breastfeed or pump during your workday so use it.  Don’t get so caught up in tasks that you forget to take nursing breaks.  Put your nursing breaks in your calendar as a reminder.
  • Let your co-workers know what’s going on so they can be supportive.  If you inform them rather than sneaking around, they are more likely to help work around your schedule.
  • Wear something that makes you feel great the first day back.  Even if you haven’t lost your entire baby weight, go into work the first day looking and feeling amazing.  That includes a supportive and comfortable nursing bra.
  • If you run into trouble with snarky co-workers or less-than-supportive bosses, tackle it head on.  If you can’t come to terms, go over their head to ensure you fight for a change in your workplace.  The next mom who plans on breastfeeding or pumping at work will certainly thank you.

Breastfeeding and pumping at work is not without its challenges.  But with effort and determination, you can reach your breastfeeding goals.  This World Breastfeeding Week, think about your commitment and know that millions of people across the globe stand with you as you work to achieve the best nourishment for your baby.