Pumping Schedule, Pumping Laws, and How to Continue Breastfeeding in the Workplace
The return to work is a big change for many families after having a baby. If a mother chooses to breastfeed, she will need to workout additional preparations.
You can have great success with breastfeeding by pumping as a working mom. It takes knowing your rights, having your bags packed, and creating a pumping schedule. We are here to give you the insight and pumping at work tips to help you do so.
Pumping at Work: Your Rights and the US Laws
When you return to work, you need to know what the pumping at work laws are. The rights of working moms to have access to pumping space and breaks are outlined in Break Time for Nursing Mothers under the FLSA. The Fair labor Standards Act, often referred to at Mother’s Law, states that nursing mothers must be allotted adequate time and a private space for pumping after having a baby. This does not apply to every working mom who is nursing, though. This applies to companies with 50 or more employees. It also applies until the mother is 1-year post birth. Outside of these conditions, the employer may challenge the right to time and space to pump.
Your home state may also have additional state laws in place to protect your rights to pump.
These state policies are in addition to the federal Break Time expectations listed above. It is important to note that these laws do not specify that your breaks must be paid. However, the breaks mandated for all employees (what many traditionally know as “smoke breaks) must be provided without penalty to nursing moms. If you need or choose to pump beyond those times, it may not be compensated.
Packing Your Pump Bag as a Working Mom
The last thing you want is to arrive at work after a chaotic morning to find you do not have what you need to pump. Engorged, leaky breasts can make presentations difficult (and can be painful!)
To make pumping successful at work, timesaving hacks matter. You will need to pack your pumping bag for quick and easy pumping breaks. If you have duplicate pumping supplies, you may leave some things at work. Also, there are things you will take back and forth between home and work. Here are things you will need to have:
Double Electric Breast Pump
A manual pump or a single pump can do the job. But for the most efficiency, a double electric pump allows women to pump both breasts at the same time. There are pumps that are battery charged and pumps that plug into the wall. Many women qualify for a free pump from their insurance.
When choosing a pump, consider what your priorities will be. Do you want to be able to pump from your desk? Do you need to be able to pump and walk? Will you be able to plug it in while in a private area? This will help you decide what type of pump will serve you best as a working mom.
A pumping bra allows you to be hands-free while pumping. This bra is made so that the pump shields slide into the bra and are held in place. We know that as a working mom, your time is so valuable. A hands-free pumping bra gives you the ability to do other things while pumping. This could be eating a snack and hydrating with a bottle of water. It could be pumping at your desk while working on a report. It may mean using the time to watch your favorite video of your little one to promote oxytocin and letdown.
Ice Packs/Cooler Bag
When transferring milk between work and home, you want to make sure it stays around the same temperature. Having a cooler bag with an ice pack allows you to take your pumped milk back home for your baby. This is especially important if your workplace does not have refrigerator space for your pumped milk. Even if there is a refrigerator, it can be nice to have your own bag to ensure no one mistakes your pumped milk for coffee creamer. It has happened, there are stories!
4. Bottles & Caps
Always make sure you have bottles in your pumping bag to pump into. The only exception would be if your pump does not require bottles (for example the Willow or Elvie pump) or if you choose to pump directly into milk bags. You may also choose to use storage bags to transfer the milk into.
5. Pump Parts
Even the smallest part of the pump is necessary for each session. One of the best working mom tips is to keep a spare set of pump parts at your workplace to ensure you are never without. If you do not have extras, check your bag every morning for the shields, cords, membranes, and valves needed to operate your pump.
6. Sterilizing Wipes/Bags
In order to keep those pump parts clean while at work, sterilizing wipes or sterilizing bags are great. These allow you to keep your parts clean between usage without needing a sink, soap, and time to wash everything.
Another alternative to sterilizing products is using the refrigerator method for your parts. The CDC does not approve this; however, moms everywhere share this top hack to make pumping easier. Put the pump parts in a plastic freezer storage bag in the refrigerator between pump sessions. Most women agree this is suitable and safe to do throughout one day, with a sanitation within 24-hours.
*Note: The CDC does recommend a thorough washing after every pump session. You can read the CDC guidelines here. We want you to be safe and hygienic, and also know you are pumping with limited time and capacity at work.
Staying hydrated is one of the best ways to promote milk production. At work, many women forget to drink enough water. Bring a fun water bottle to work with you. Make it easy to drink enough water while pumping and throughout the day.
Keeping your parts and milk clean means having clean hands. After a busy work session, have easy access to hand sanitizer so you can be clean before and after pumping.
Making a Pumping Schedule at Work
When you return to work, you want your pumping schedule to mimic your baby’s eating pattern as much as possible. The reason is so that you continue to signal your body on how much milk is needed. When pumping at work, ask yourself the following questions:
1. What break times can I consistently have available?
2. What time is needed to prepare to pump and clean up from pumping?
3. What is the maximum and minimum time between pumps to avoid engorgement?
Once you understand the time you need and the time you are working with, you can create a “best case” schedule that incorporates some wiggle room as needed. Try to stick to the schedule as best as possible.
For many moms returning to work, pumps are needed every 3-4 hours. This means you may be pumping 2-3 times at work depending on your workday. A helpful tip is to pump right before going to work and shortly after leaving work to decrease the time needed in the workplace.
Cheers to the Working Moms Living on a Pumping Schedule
If you are pumping at work, we say cheers to you! Integrating a work schedule, home schedule, baby schedule, and pumping schedule is no small feat. When you need support and encouragement, tap into communities that understand. Look for other pumping moms in your workplace that you can connect with. Have honest conversations with coworkers to help cover your time and promote teamwork. Find other pumping moms in online support groups where you can talk about the challenges and victories.
Even on the days when you are rushing to the pumping room carrying stress from a busy workday, remember you are not alone. You are juggling multiple balls and sometimes balls will fall.
Sometimes milk will spill. Some days will be difficult. But, motherhood is messy and beautiful and you are too!