Mom wearing comfyfit baby carrier outside of the office.

How to Pump at the Office

As your maternity leave comes to an end, there’s another aspect to keep in mind as you prepare to return to your daily grind. If you continue to breastfeed, pumping during work is a must. Make it easier on yourself by learning how to use the pump ahead of your start date and begin planning out the logistics of these sessions. If taking time out of your day to pump breast milk is a concern, know that your rights are protected by law to do so. Here are some things to consider as you add this task to your work balance.

Choosing Your Breast Pump

Breast pumps come in a wide variety. Something to consider when purchasing one is what will work best on the go. Some general qualities you’re looking for are portability, power and efficiency. Do you work in a quiet office? Consider the noise the product makes. Do you travel for work? A cordless pump might fit your needs if you cannot rely on electrical outlets. If you’re a multitasker who plans to check and respond to emails via phone as you pump, look for a hands-free, or wearable model. For moms looking to express the most milk in little time possible, double pumps are a smart choice. Before you make an out-of-pocket investment, check to see what your health insurance will cover. In some cases, policies will cover the total cost.

Where and When to Pump at Work

At work, you’ll need a private lactation space for your pumping sessions. Under federal law, employers are not only required to provide this area (not counting the restroom), but they must give you sufficient break time for pumping. Depending upon your work environment, if you’re not aware of this type of space, consult your human resources department for a solution. You might have the comfort of your own office with the blinds and the door closed. In some cases, an empty office or conference room will work for your needs. Think about putting up a “do not disturb” sign on the door so you keep your privacy.

Keep in mind you’ll be using this dedicated spot every 3 to 4 hours to pump a sufficient supply of milk. If you find your work schedule too hectic, don’t stress about pumping exactly on the dot. What matters is you’re getting in multiple sessions a day with enough time in between so your supply replenishes.

Tips for Easy Flowing

Pumping outside the comforts of home can prove to be difficult, but try your best to relax. The more routine these pumping sessions become at work, the more your body will become conditioned to them. For some nursing mothers, it’s disrobing in a cold lactation space that’s uncomfortable. Pay attention to your wardrobe and what will be easiest to wear while still sticking to your company’s dress code. Some suggestions include wrap dresses, button-down shirts and nursing camisoles worn under cardigans and jackets. During the work day you’ll also want to make sure you’re getting sufficient hydration and proper nutrition. Keep a water bottle and some healthy snacks handy to keep up the supply.

Cleaning the Pump

Now that you’ve pumped that milk, next comes finding a plan to properly clean the equipment. How you approach this depends largely on your work environment. You want to make sure these parts do not come in contact with the germs of a communal sink. In addition to cleaning and sanitizing, they must air dry as opposed to towel dry which could transfer germs. In some cases break rooms have a dishwasher you could use. You could also bring an extra basin from home to clean them in the sink. An easier alternative is to bring extra parts and clean them properly at home. If your work area has a microwave available, check the model of your pump to see if the parts can be cleaned via special steam bags.

Storing the Milk

Because the milk you pumped is perishable, think about your options for storage to keep it fresh. You can use your break room refrigerator but if one isn’t available, a cooler with ice packs is sufficient. It’s wise not to freeze your supply until you arrive home from work. Once your pumped breast milk unthaws, it should not be refrozen.

Here are some guidelines for storing freshly pumped breast milk:

  • Breast milk kept at room temperature keeps up to 4 hours
  • Refrigerated breast milk keeps up to 4 days
  • Frozen breast milk is best to use up to 6 months, although up to 12 months is acceptable

Protip: Be sure to label each milk supply with the date and time to keep track of expiration.