Breastfeeding 101: How to Pump at Work

Are you getting ready to return to work following the birth of your baby? If so you are probably feeling both excited about going back to work and apprehensive about separating from your baby during the workday.

Pumping breastmilk for your baby is one way to stay connected to your baby while you are apart.  It also provides them with the very best nutrition and is especially important during their first twelve months of life.

Pumping at work is a commitment but with good planning it can go quite smoothly!  More and more mothers are making the decision to continue breastfeeding once they go back to work, and businesses on the whole are getting behind the effort and offering more support for nursing employees.

If you think you may want to pump once you return to work, start planning for it at least a month ahead of time.  Here are the steps to take:

1. Buy the right pump

If you will be pumping at work it is worthwhile to invest in a
double-electric breastpump.  They are fully automatic, enable you to empty both breasts simultaneously for maximum efficiency, and the suction strength can be adjusted for comfort.   Medela’s Pump in Style is an excellent choice.

2. Introduce your baby to the bottle

Once your breastfeeding is well established and your baby is feeding well (which can be around three weeks but varies from baby to baby), introduce him to the bottle by putting 2 ounces of warm breastmilk in a bottle.  Have someone else (ie, dad, mother, friend) give your baby the bottle since he will be more likely to take it from someone else. The earlier you introduce the bottle to him, the more likely he will be to take it.  Once he takes the bottle, have someone offer him a bottle of breastmilk at least every two days to make sure he stays used to drinking from it.

3. Start a freezer stash of breastmilk

Start pumping and freezing your breastmilk so that you begin to build up a supply for when you return to work. This will help you feel less pressured as your return-to-work date nears.  A good time to pump is early in the morning before baby’s first feeding, when your breasts are full from the night.  Some moms like to pump on one side while baby is nursing on the other, since they find that let down is easier when baby is on the breast.  Freeze your milk in small quantities of no more than 4 ounces (consider even 2 ounces) so that when you take breastmilk to heat up, you can warm only what you need and minimize the chance of wasting any.

4. Inform your employer

Several weeks before you return to work, inform your employer of your plan to pump at work.  Identify a place at work where you will be able to pump. Some moms are fortunate enough to have a workplace with a designated lactation lounge.  Most, however, find other places to pump which can include their private office, a private office that is not theirs but available, an empty room, etc.  You will need a private space with a closed door, no internal windows (or if so, ones that are blocked) an electrical outlet and a comfortable chair.  You will likely need to pump 2-3 times during an eight hour workday.

5. Dress for pumping

Consider that you will need to access your breasts for nursing 2-3 times a day, and dress for this.  A one-piece dress with no opening down the front, for example, would be difficult.  So would clothes that wrinkle or stain easily since you will be moving your clothes aside and from time to time there may be a spill.  Dark colors and prints are ideal since they tend to hide stains better than lighter colors.  You may prefer wearing clothes that are specially designed for nursing, or wear a nursing camisole under regular clothing, so that you feel less exposed and have easier access.  You should wear nursing pads in case you leak.

You are doing a wonderful thing for your baby by planning to offer her breastmilk once you return to work.  Stick with it, and seek out other moms who are pumping or who have pumped, who can offer support, to help keep you going.  If there are any other women in your organization who have pumped at work, seek them out and ask for tips or advice.  You can also find moms online who are pumping at work and share tips and
stories. You can do it!

This post was written by Elisa Minsk Hartstein, the mother of 4 beautiful breastfed children and the President and founder of Milk Nursingwear a nursing wear brand.  Elisa earned an MBA from Columbia University, a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and conceived of the idea for Expressiva Nursingwear (which she founded in 2000 and sold in 2007) during her countless hours of pumping following the birth of her first child.

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