working and breastfeeding?
4 steps to successful office pumping
Going back to work after having a baby? Aaaah! The end of maternity leave is such a fraught emotional experience, even if you feel ready. If you’re nursing, it’s also a logistical one. For so many years, workplace discussions about breasts have been strictly off limits (hello, harassment!). And now suddenly it’s all about your boobs. You need to broker time off and space for pumping, and to make sure there is enough room in the fridge for storing your liquid gold. Here’s what you need to know to make it as easy as possible.
- Know your rights.The Affordable Care Act (signed into law in March 2010) requires employers to provide “reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk.” They must also offer a “shielded space” that’s not a bathroom (um, thanks). Sadly there are loopholes in this requirement, including the size of the corporation (less than 50 employees and you can get out of it). Knowing what you’re entitled to can make it easier to have a reasonable conversation with your employer to ensure a smoother workplace pumping experience.
- Enlist help. Are you the first person to ever pump at your job? If not, seek out the women who paved the path before you and ask for advice based on their experience(s). Larger corporations with Human Resources departments likely have set standards for pumping employees, but not all will. If your manager doesn’t know how to create a space for you to pump, helpful tips abound. The Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for example, has a toolkit on how to create a comprehensive lactation support program for nursing mothers at the work site. If you have friends and family who have pumped at their workplaces, reach out to them. It can be confusing to figure out how it is all going to work—when to pump, how often, how to pump when traveling overnight. These are likely the same people you hit up for advice during your pregnancy and when setting up a nursery. Never underestimate the value of friendly anecdotal advice!
- Get the right gear. Renting an industrial grade pump that does both sides at once is as efficient as it gets. Your healthcare should pick up the tab on the rental; The Affordable Care Act requires most insurance plans to cover breast pumps. You may want a hands free pumping bra (exactly what it sounds like) so you can pump as you answer emails or eat lunch. You also need bottles and an insulated cold bag big enough to hold your milk but small enough not to take over the entire office fridge. And don’t forget a reusable water bottle for yourself! Drinking lots of water helps you make the milk.
- Lunch date! If there is any opportunity to have “lunch” with your baby, grab it. Maybe your caretaker can bring your baby to you during lunch or another set break time, or maybe your baby is in daycare close enough to your office that you can pop in. Having a midday in person feeding will cut down on your scheduled pumping. And there is nothing like a middle of the day snuggle to keep you going.