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The Baby Guide

The Mom Guide: What You Need to Know for Pumping at Work

Hi there, Snapi parents! Snapi Health Dietitian and recent first-time mom, Sydnie, here.

Going back to work after a baby is hard. Full stop. Whether you are the primary caregiver or an equal co-parent, or your family is using formula or breastfeeding, adding a baby to the morning routine is tough. For breastfeeding moms, there is the added challenge of having to pump at work to maintain supply and feed your little one while they’re away from you. If you’re anything like me, this was the absolute most intimidating part of going back to work (once you have found someone to watch your baby, of course). Let me share a few tips, tricks, and basics that will hopefully make your transition a little less stressful.

First off, if you are continuing to breastfeed when you return to work great for you! If not, that is ok, too. If you end up changing your mind, no worries. Step one is choosing a pump (I know, duh!). You should look for a double electric pump, which means that you can pump on both sides and it does not require any manual work from you. There are plenty of high-quality options so think of what is best for your situation and go for a pump that suits your needs. You should consider portability, weight, noise, tubeless vs tubes, etc. It’s perfectly fine if you decide to choose a different pump than your friend/ neighbor/sister-in-law if you feel that it’s the best option.

Next, you’ll need to decide what to pump into. Options include bottles or bags (and there is a ton of variety within these categories). Think of how you’ll be storing your milk at work and transporting back and forth. Mama tip: Do NOT purchase a year's supply of whichever option you think may work for you. There is a very good chance you will change your mind after a week or 2 (speaking from experience). Also, brush up on your safe storage of breastmilk to help determine the best system.

Next up, be sure that you are aware of your rights. Any company with over 50 employees is required to provide a reasonable accommodation for breastfeeding women and any smaller company is required to make accommodations unless it would provide undue hardship. Speak with your job prior to going back to designate a clean, private location (that is not a bathroom) to pump as well as establish a schedule. Typically pumping 15–20 mins every 3 hours should be sufficient. I can tell you personally that you should plan on some extra time to set up and clean up, especially until you get the hang of it. Speaking of cleaning up, be sure to bring any supplies you will need to clean your pump parts between uses. You will also ideally find a place to air dry your parts (again, be in open communication with your employer).

Finally, just remember that there will be mishaps. There will be tears. Most of us have sat in our office or pumping room literally crying over spilled breastmilk (I hit this point on only day 2). It is part of the process. Here are some additional tips that may make things easier:

  1. Bring a photo of your little one and relax while pumping, this can help get more from your pumping sessions.
  2. Bring a spare outfit to leave at work or in the car. Inevitably you will have a huge presentation or meeting and the baby will spit up or you will spill all over yourself. You will be grateful to have an alternative to swap into midday.
  3. Consider keeping a bag with snacks, water, nipple balm, and some other comfort items easy to grab.

My final, real-life Mama tip: leave a hand-pump/manual pump in your bag, just in case! Things happen. Power can go out, you may not be able to get back to your office, etc. (In my case, you may be exhausted from being up all night with a sick baby, then head to work and forget your flanges at home only to realize you have no option for pumping at work and sneak out to a store halfway through the day to purchase said hand pump- ooof.) Keep in mind that we have all been there and you will laugh about it someday (maybe even today). You and your baby will work through the hiccups and be just fine if you stick with it.

About the Author:

Sydnie Gil is a Registered Dietitian with a Masters degree in Nutrition Science. Sydnie began her career in public health, where she became passionate about supporting pregnant and breastfeeding women and their kiddos. Sydnie recently became a Mom herself and now feels bad for years of telling her clients to “sleep when the baby sleeps” (yeah right!).

All the information a parent needs to raise a healthy, happy baby. New posts on Mondays and Wednesdays.

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