Mom to Mom Monday: Tips for and How to pump at work

Posted by Becca on 11/25/2013 to Breast Feeding
After a glorious four months at home with my new baby boy and four year old daughter, alas, the time has come for me to return to my part≠time job as a Spanish teacher. The arrival of this change is bittersweet. The professional in me thrives when Iím in my bright, colorful classroom bouncing around with animation and enthusiasm as I try to share my love of foreign language with 20, adorable freshman. That half of me is always looking at things as a lesson: I updates on my facebook page so I donít miss any articles that might go with the chapter weíre working on, I edit little videos I make for my Spanish students on my iPhone while holding or nursing a sleeping baby, and I take photos of the rain or frost on my way to work so I can display them and ask ŅQuť tiempo hace? when we talk about the weather. The Mommy in me loves being home and wouldnít have minded a couple months more if not a whole year off before going back to teach. As a mother, Iím constantly trying to carve out more time for my kids, wracking my brain for ways to be able to both take care of my son and give my daughter the one on one attention she craves, figuring out ways to make folding laundry a fun, family experience, and making sure I take the time to read to and educate a budding preschooler in the sparse moments my son is asleep or calmly nursing.

Both of my babies were exclusively breastfed when I went back to work so I got to experience the fun of pumping while in the workplace. My workplace has been very accommodating of my needs, but I had to be vocal and specific about what those needs were because they wouldnít know unless I told them. Now that Iíve been back to work for over a week, Iíve compiled a list of things Iíve found necessary to successfully express the amount of milk needed to sustain my chubby baby boy while Iím gone.


Daily pumping for your little one doesnít begin the day you go back to the office. There should be previous preparation for both you and your baby if you want to make a smooth transition. The following are steps that I highly suggest one take before going back to work while still breastfeeding:


Get a top≠-of≠-the≠-line pump.

With Bunny, I got a mid≠line Evenflo pump. At first it was great because my milk supply was off the charts. But as I pumped throughout the year and my supply relaxed to meet Bunnyís need, pumping was less and less effective. Some days I got a full bottle or two, and other days I got nothing after a full half hour of pumping. Thankfully, this did nothing to diminish my milk supply, probably because she drank so little while I was gone. With Bear I saved extra money for a full three months until I could afford a Medela pump. That thing can express milk from a rock! Itís amazing and Iím really glad I put out the extra money for itóthough I wish Iíd have been less stingy when it came to my first breast pump. It would have saved that money in the long run.

Practice pumping.

I started pumping almost as soon as my milk came in. I didnít do it regularly, and I didnít actually do it in order to practice, per say, but in the beginning, when I had an oversupply, it was necessary once every week or so to partially empty one or both of my breasts so that Baby Bear could catch up with production and I wouldnít be walking around engorged all day. Also, there were times when I left him with his Daddy or a family member for a couple of hours at a time that required some pumping. This happened every week or twoóenough that I knew how to use and clean my machine efficiently.


Have some extra milk.

The practice with the pump gave us about 20 or so extra ounces of breast milk in our freezer. This has been helpful since itís hard to know how many ounces a breastfed baby actually eats. When I first went back to work, having this extra milk meant my husband and I could figure out how many ounces Bear actually consumes in my absence, without having to resort to formula or having him go hungry if I didnít pump enough.

Practice leaving.

This is definitely easier with the second baby than it is with the first. I remember being in tears the first time I left little Bunny with my mom so I could go see my doctor for only an hour or two. I was sad to leave Bear for the first time, of course, but it wasnít a big deal. Leaving your baby for a couple hours at a time to go shopping or to the dentist is good practice both for you and your baby. Also, it gives you a chance to practice pumping.

Introduce a bottle.

This one is really important and can be somewhat tricky. If you want your baby to exclusively breastfeed, then itís important to establish that first before introducing a bottle. Itís best to wait 2≠-4 weeks until introducing any other nippleóeven a pacifier to your baby (although we broke that rule and gave a pacifier to Bear at about 3 or 4 days old, but he was already a strong nurser at that point). However, if you wait too long, they might never take the bottle, which theyíll need to learn how to do. Once the bottle is introduced, you should make sure that your baby practices with it once in awhile. Bear got a bottle once every week or two in the four months leading up to my returning to work. Bunny practiced with it nearly every day after turning two weeks old both because she hated it and because I went back to work when she was only six weeks old. Now, Iíve had two very different experiences with each child when it came to giving a bottle for the first time. Bunny hated it. It was traumatic and awful for her from the start. She wanted Mommy, and nothing else really helped. In the 9 months that I had to pump for her, she never ate more than 2≠3 ounces in my absense. She ate as little as possible while I was gone and then made up for it by pouncing on me the moment I walked through the door. We did try a couple of different bottles with Bunny and found that the ones with the largest nipple base worked bestóbottles like Nuk and Tommee Tippee. She liked to chomp on them and hold it the same way she did my breast. Bear, on the other hand, doesnít really care where the milk comes from as long as it gets to his belly (though he wonít take it cold), and it doesnít really matter which bottle we give him either. We do like the Playtex Nurser, however, because it eliminates air intake and lessons any gas problems.

Mom and the Bottle.

Itís best if Mom isnít the one to give the baby a bottle. The baby should be around Mommy and know that itís time to breastfeed. This will help prolong nursing for as long as possible. I offered Bunny a bottle once, and it was out of desperation while we were in a car on a long trip. She didnít take it, by the way. I did the same with Bear, and though he will take a bottle no problem, he didnít want anything to do with it. I donít know if this was because I offered it or if it was due to the restraint of the car seat.

Nipple confusion.

Nipple confusion might happen, even if you do wait up to as much as four weeks before introducing a bottle. It happened with Bunny and for a week or two she resisted both the bottle and the breast. It required patience, perseverance, and a good bit of walking and bouncing as I nursed her, but I didnít give up and I didnít offer her the bottle. Eventually, she became comfortable doing both. Even though she didnít drink much from the bottle, she became comfortable enough with it that she didnít scream and arch her back when it was offered.

At Work

Talk to your superiors.

Legally, your workplace is obligated to provide you a place (a private place that is not a bathroom) and the time to pump. My job was extremely accommodating and obliging about this.

Find a place to pump.

Depending upon where you work, finding a private, comfortable place to pump may pose a challenge. A month before I had to be back at my job, I went in on a day my husband had off (which gave me an opportunity to pump and give my son some bottle practice) and I not only observed my long term sub and looked over my teaching materials, but I also spent an hour or more scoping the school and talking to secretaries and administrators about finding a good place to pump. Originally, I was given the visitors locker room. It was ideal because it locked from the inside and had a place where I could sit and relax in privacy. However, once I went back to work, I found that this locker room is often used as a storage space. Pumping while squished between the benches and folded up choir risers wasnít working. One of the custodians kindly gave me use of his office for pumping. Three times a week I have a schedule that requires leaving a classroom full of kids to pump, so I go in his office which is maybe 30 feet from mine, lock the door, and pump in privacy. Thankfully, there are also times where I can just lock myself in my classroom and pump. When Bunny was nursing, I pumped during lunch, but since I go in earlier and leave earlier for Baby Bear, thatís no longer possible.

Schedule it.

When youíre at home taking care of your kids, they are the priority. You donít have to remind yourself to meet their needs. When youíre at work, your job is the immediate priority. Your thoughts are constantly on your to do list and ways to make things more efficient. Itís really hard, sometimes, to stop everything and pump. When my schedule is super tightólike the days I have four classes in a row without any prep timeóIím actually better about remembering to pump. I have one day where I have only one class to teach. This is the day I prep for the next week and tie up loose ends. Itís harder for me to remember to pump then because my schedule is more open and I have so much to do, but pumping has to be a priority for working mothers who are still breastfeeding. You need to plan when youíre going to pump in a given day and then follow that plan. The times may change from day to day depending upon meetings, appointments, and deadlines, but the frequency should not.

Be comfortable.

Get comfortable not only physically but mentally and emotionally. Your best let down will happen when youíre relaxed, so do whatever you can to make sure that happensówhich can be difficult to do at work. My advice for this is to forget about your job for a moment and leave any spreadsheets, phone calls, or papers to grade elsewhere. When I pumped with Bunny, I tried to do all those things and I noticed that I got less milk on days when I was trying to multi≠task. Now that Iím back at work after having Bear, I literally drop everything and just pump. breastpump,breastmilk

Find a happy place.

A very effective way to help milk let≠down while away from your baby is to have photos or videos of him or her handy to look at. I like to prop my iPhone up and watch recent videos of Baby Bear that Iíve taken, or set my phone to show a slideshow of all my photos. Then, I just relax and focus on my kids and how much I love him. Sometimes I peruse Facebook or read a book because I also find these things relaxing. Once, I even Facetimed my family while pumping because I knew my husband hadnít left for work . That was the best! The other day, I was reading an interesting article and I hadnít been pumping for 3 minutes when I looked down and realized that the bottles had already filled. So, itís actually more efficient for my time and to do list if I just drop it all before pumping.

Find a Routine.

It helps to have a routine for storing milk and washing all the parts of your pump when you get home and before you go to work every day. I like to have my daughterís lunches and my sonís diaper bag all set up the night before they have to be in daycare and thatís the time that I get my pump all ready to go for the next day. At some point, I really want to buy a hand pump to have at work just in case I ever forget some necessary part to my pump. That happened a couple times when Bunny was a baby and I had to figure out a way to awkwardly hand express the milkówhich Iíve never been very good at.

Bunny nursed for 25 months and I pumped for one school year (8 months, factoring in my maternity leave). When she was a year old, and I returned back to work, I didnít continue to pump. This was only possible for me, though, because I work part time and I was at a place where we nursed only 3≠-6 times a day and she wasnít dependant upon breast milk as her only form of nourishment. Towards the end of our nursing days, she only nursed in the wee hours of the morning and before bed. Thatís a very easy nursing schedule to maintain around even a full time job.

I realize that some moms look at going back to work as a death sentence to breastfeeding, but it really doesnít have to be that way. As long as pumping is a priority for you, and you are properly prepared to do so (this is barring any other breastfeeding difficulties you may have), you should be able to continue breastfeeding just fine while working. Stress can be a huge contributing factor to diminishing milk supply, so remember to relax. Keep calm, and pump on!


Date 11/26/2013
Mary S
I really admire moms who work and still manage to pump enough breastmilk to feed their child exclusively.
Date 11/27/2013
Kim H
As much as I struggle getting enough pumped just to cover the short times I'm gone or I can't nurse for some reason, I can't imagine needing enough to go back to work! My hat's off to you working mamas!
Date 11/27/2013
Leela R.
I'm away from my son for about 12 hrs a day and have been pumping for him for the past 4 months. He's 9.5 months now and I am literally counting the days until he's 1. I've managed to stay on top of my milk supply and provide him with only breastmilk, but I would make a couple of additional suggestions. First is try to get a medical grade rental from your insurance. More and more insurance companies cover them and it is worth it to have the top of the line machine if you're going to be pumping long term. Second is to have a large freezer stash. I have over 200 ounces in the freezer now, but I started with close to 300 ounces. I'm a manager and some days am in meetings the entire day. I try and duck out to pump, but on some days I just can't get the time to get more than 16 ounces when I need 20. Having a large freezer stash completely eliminates my guilt at not being able to pump enough on some days and I don't have to worry about pumping after my son goes to bed, which some moms do if they can't pump enough during the day. Anyway, cheers to my fellow working pumping mamas.
Date 11/27/2013
Great points.... I find it difficult to pump a work. I was thinking of trying a manual pump.
Date 11/29/2013
Very helpful!
Date 11/29/2013
Stephanie Olmsted
Great points. I pumped some with number because my nipples bleed and I needed to give them a little break. With number 2, I never pumped because hubby was deployed and it was just easier to nurse her. Pregnant with number 3 & planning on pumping some to be able to have some me time each week or date nights. These tips will help out.
Date 12/4/2013
I haven't found a good place to pump at work. Our university has lactation rooms but they are all a 10-20 minute walk away from where I work ... not exactly convenient for a short break! I pumped in a bathroom once and never again. It's too bad, but there are lots of work environments that make pumping near impossible for lots of ladies. Kudos to those workplaces/bosses/companies who really make an effort to be accommodating! I find a manual pump to be a more discreet way of pumping, easy to do under a cover and to stop and start if you are interrupted by a knock on the door. Still awkward, though, when people walk in and wonder what you are doing!
Date 12/4/2013
Jessi Leger
I still need to figure out how to get more when I pump, some days I get more than enough for her to only have breastmilk the next day, other days I only get a few ounces and she has to have a supplemental bottle of formula. Drives me nuts!
Date 1/1/2014
Margaret Clarkson
These are great pointers. There are definitely some things that I hadn't considered before.
Date 4/25/2014
Ashley H
Thanks so much for sharing your experience! I go back to my teaching job in a month (just to finish out the school year) and am hoping that will help make the transition easier for next year. I'll have a completely new schedule and will probably be sharing a classroom come September but I plan to breastfeed/pump for at least a year which I'm finding is a lot harder to get acceptance for than I ever would've imagined.
Date 4/6/2015
katie m
These are great tips. I haven't had to leave the little one at any point but the pumping tips will at least make one part of it easier when I go back to work.

Add Comment

Gift Registry

Newsletter - Sign up for our newsletter to be informed of sales and specials!