Working and Breastfeeding

I work full time outside of the house and I have a nursing infant. My pump is my best friend. We have a love/hate relationship. I hate being pumped (could it make me feel more bovine??). I hate washing and sanitizing pump parts every night even more than pumping. That being said, I love that it allows me to nourish my baby even though I'm not with him.

Knowing that he is getting exactly what he needs from me nutritionally helps every time I'm in my pumping room (it's a glorified walk-in closet with a folding table and chair) at work. Here are a few tips that helped me when I started back at work and continue to help me today.

  • Alert your employer about your intentions before you go on maternity leave.
  • It's an awkward conversation worth having. I let my superiors and HR know that I planned to pump upon my return. I came back to having a private room to pump in and was able to use it the day I returned. I even have my own key so I can come and go as needed.

  • Know the law.
  • Despite your views on Obama's health care reform, it has been a benefit for nursing mamas returning to work. There is now a law saying that most employers must provide you with a private place to pump that cannot be a bathroom. For more information, click here. As I understand it, this law doesn't apply to teachers. I don't get that part at all. But I could be wrong. Feel free to correct me in the comments.
    [Edit] I got clarification tonight on the pumping law for employers. It applies to non-exempt employees only. Typically non-exempt employees are paid hourly and exempt employees are salaried. Talk to your HR department for more info.

  • Practice, practice, practice!
  • Make sure you're familiar with your pump before it's show time. You may even want to do a trial run and pump when you would pump at work. This really helped a friend of mine who is a teacher. Her body got used to pumping at a similar time each day. It also helps build up a supply of milk to fall back on if needed. I think that this will help you avoid any potential issues on your first days back. That being said...

  • Prepare for the unexpected.
  • I always make sure I have extra membranes and breastmilk storage bags (for when the bottle runneth over). I carry fenugreek supplements in my purse and keep Mothers Milk herbal tea in my desk for days that my supply feels low.
    It's also handy to know of a local place that carries pump parts in an absolute pinch. I once forgot my power cord at home (yes, really!) but luckily a friend with the same pump lived close by and I was able to borrow hers for the day. I thanked her profusely in behalf of my child and full breasts.

  • Have the proper equipment.
  • I use a hands free pumping bra and love hands free pumping. This also allows me to look at photos and videos of E on my phone. It helps me relax and I swear that I let down more frequently because of it. Make sure to have a photo of your nursling. It's something cute to look at while you pump.

  • People are nosy.
  • Make sure you have a sign on the door that alerts people to the fact that you're pumping and not to enter. It may seem like a no brainer, but I got walked in on twice during my first few weeks back. Luckily, I was setting up or cleaning up both times so I wasn't exposed. I now put a hot pink sticky note on the door that says "Room In Use" and haven't had any incidents since.
    Be prepared for questions. If someone sees me going into or out of my pumping room, I often get asked, "What do you do in there?" Frankly, it's none of their business and I don't want to have to explain myself. I usually respond with, "You don't want to know." I tell them what I do only if pressed. Usually the asker is male and embarrassed after I explain that I am still nursing my son and need to pump while at work.

  • Know that you're not alone.
  • I'm the only one at my office that uses the pumping room. I'm also the first one in a few years to do it. There are lots of blogs and online support groups if you don't know anyone else who is a pumping mom. If you need more motivation or inspiration, check out this article on a military mom's pumping story. She is one bad ass mother! I found this article on balancing work and baby helpful too.

If you are a full time pumping mom, you are a ROCK STAR in my eyes! Do you have any tips that have helped you pump?