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10 Easy Fixes for Pumping at Work

breast pumping at work

Jeffrey Westbrook

You and your baby are in the breastfeeding groove, and you love the bonding each feeding brings. But your life is about to get a lot more hectic with a job in the mix. Whether you plan to express milk to feed your little one while you're at work or to maintain your supply while the two of you are apart, you'll soon be using a breast pump. When I was a new mom, I found it tricky to find the ideal spot and time to use mine. What I craved were solutions -- like these! -- to the perplexing situations pumping can present.

There's no pumping room where I work.
The Fix: Talk to HR about carving out an area. Under the Affordable Care Act (part of the Fair Labor Standards Act), many employers must give nursing moms a place to express milk and "reasonable" unpaid pumping breaks for one year after the birth of a child. This area can't be the bathroom, it should be available when you need it, and you should be shielded from view. If your office has a lactation room, scope it out pre-baby. "I assumed that I could go in and use our 'mothers' room' whenever," says Annie Grant, a mom of two in Newburyport, Massachusetts. "But I had to be added to a special calendar, have my security badge recoded to gain access, and schedule times with another woman. It worked out, but for a few hours, when I was bursting at the seams, I couldn't do what I needed to do."

A pump is an expensive purchase.
The Fix: Priced at $200 to $400, a high-quality electric pump is an investment, but it's still much less than the formula you'd buy if you weren't nursing, says Maeve Howett, Ph.D., R.N., a board-certified lactation consultant at Emory University Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing in Atlanta. Just one month of formula can run well over $200, more if you purchase the ready-to-feed kind. And a double electric pump allows you to efficiently pump both breasts at the same time, so you can express enough milk for a full feeding in ten minutes. To save money, register for yours so family or friends can give it to you. If you're making the purchase, check with your health-insurance company; your plan may cover all or part of the cost. If you have a flexible spending account through your employer, save the receipts. Breast-feeding pumps and accessories are eligible for pre-tax dollars from these plans.

Suzanne Chan's Favorite Parenting Hacks
Suzanne Chan's Favorite Parenting Hacks
Bottles in cooler

Jeffrey Westbrook

My day's such a whirlwind, I forget to pump.
The Fix: : Block out pumping sessions in your public office calendar (mark it "personal"). Pump when you would nurse if you were with Baby, suggests Nancy Hurst, Ph.D., R.N., a board-certified lactation consultant and director of Women's Support Services at Texas Children's Pavilion for Women, in Houston. That might be every three hours if your babe is younger than 6 months (10 A.M., 1 P.M., and 4 P.M.), twice during a workday for babies between 6 and 10 months, (11 A.M. and 3 P.M.) and once midday after that.

Cleaning pump accessories is weird at work.
The Fix: Carry a surplus of supplies. "I bring three sets of pump parts to the office -- one for each session -- and then I take them home to wash them," says Holly Hosler, a Baltimore mom. Or sanitize them discreetly during the day. Jennifer Seyler, a mom in Chicago, quickly cleaned parts at her desk with disinfectant wipes made for pump accessories after her morning session. After her second pump, she rinsed the parts in the kitchen and sterilized them in a micro-steam bag.

It's so hard to relax when I pump.
The Fix: Your body is used to triggering "letdown," the release of milk, in response to the sound and feel of your baby's sucking, so it may be difficult at first to cozy up to a pump. Eventually, though, women who exclusively pump do experience the letdown response from the machine's whirring sound and feel, Hurst says. Give your body time to get used to responding to it. To encourage production, you might look at photos or watch videos of your cooing baby on your phone while you pump. If channeling those smiles causes you to miss your baby or worry about how much milk you're making, change tracks. One mom told Hurst that her best trick for a quick letdown was to imagine money falling from the sky. Jen Jamar, a mom in Robbinsdale, Minnesota, found she had an easier time expressing milk if she spent her session catching up on Facebook or Twitter, or flipping through a fave magazine. "Make pumping your time," Jamar suggests.

Baby bottles

Jeffrey Westbrook

I feel awkward stripping down to pump in the mothers' room at work.
The Fix: Stick with button-downs, wrap dresses, or nursing tanks under a jacket or cardigan. Even if you have access to a private pumping room, you may find you're happier living in nursing tanks and cardis. For days when a zip-up dress is required, keep a sweater to toss over your shoulders when you have to disrobe to pump.

I can't get anything done while I pump.
The Fix: You shouldn't expect to hold court in a conference room while filling milk containers (now that's leaning in!), but there's a lot you can do -- say, catch up on email, review a document, or sit in on conference calls with the speaker on mute (no one will have a clue). You may even find that certain tasks benefit from 20 minutes of undivided attention while you pump.

My milk supply is dropping now that I nurse less and pump more.
The Fix: When you're with your little one in the evening and on weekends, nurse often. The more milk you're moving, the more you'll make. You can also add a pumping session immediately after your baby's first morning feed. Your body tends to make the most milk in the morning, Howett says. Plus, most babies sleep their longest stretch at night, so you're likely to wake up with full breasts -- enough to nurse your baby and express a few ounces. Do guzzle fluids. "A lot of women who tell me they're not making enough milk aren't drinking enough water," says Teresa Hoffman, M.D., an ob-gyn in Baltimore. You need 15 glasses a day outside of meals -- more if you exercise, Dr. Hoffman says. You know you're hydrated when your pee is pale yellow.

Breast pump

Jeffrey Westbrook

Pumping eats up my lunch hour.
The Fix: Even if pumping doesn't count against your lunch break from your employer's perspective (ask your HR department), you're a working mom and efficiency reigns supreme. Pack a sandwich for lunch and protein-rich snacks such as string cheese and low-fat yogurt so you won't have to run out for food or succumb to "I'm starving" stress. And look for upsides. You may even make some new friends. At one point, Jean Flores, a labor and delivery nurse in Miami, was one of six women in her department hitting the pumping room. During lunch, they'd fill bottles, eat, and catch up on their charts. "We had great camaraderie and an amazing built-in support network," Flores says. Talk about nourishment!

I have to hop on a plane to travel for work.
The Fix: Most crucial: Don't go without your pump's battery pack. You may need to set up shop in an airport bathroom stall that has no outlet. Lindsey Burik, a mom in New York City, who flew for work while pumping, advises taking a dish towel to set supplies on, pump-cleaning wipes, and a sealable plastic bag for ice. "You can't bring melted ice through security, so when I was flying home, I'd dump the ice chilling my milk before I got to security, then get new ice in the terminal," Burik says. She requested a mini-fridge for storing her milk at hotels or asked to keep her labeled bottles in the hotel's freezer. And don't be shy with security, she says. "I'd call out, 'It's a breast pump!' They'd be like, 'Oh, okay, get her out of here.'?"

Watch our quick video below for more advice.

Breast Pumping Made Easy
Breast Pumping Made Easy

Originally published in the June 2013 issue of American Baby magazine.