Going back to work after maternity leave can be a big transition for many women who work outside of the home. Especially for pumping milk and keeping up your supply while away from your baby.
It can be a challenging juggling act to schedule and fit in pumping while also meeting your work demands. Do what works best for YOU but also be patient with yourself and the process.
To make things easier for you, we have compiled two quick checklists to help make pumping a bit smoother at work.
GEAR (Part 1)
- An electric breast pump - Electric breast pumps are fast, efficient and allow you to pump both breasts at once. Get a portable pump that you can easily carry to work. Another option some working mothers recommend is a hands-free, under the shirt pump like the Willow, which may be a good fit for those mothers with jobs where nursing breaks or nursing rooms aren’t an easy or viable option, e.g. teachers or medical professionals.
- An extra set of pump parts and bottles/caps - It’s incredibly frustrating after carrying an entire luggage set worth of gear to work and then sitting down to pump only to realize that you are missing essential pump parts like flanges, membranes, bottle caps or milk storage bags. To avoid this, keep a full extra pump set at work. Many pumps come with a free starter set - save these - or borrow some from another mom who is done with pumping.
- Milk storage bags/bottles - You’ll need something in which to pump and store your milk. You can either use bottles (make sure they have the caps attached!) or milk storage bags. TIP: as we said above, keep extra sets of these at work.
- A hands-free pumping bra - A hand-free pumping bra/tank is a game-changer. You can continue to work as you pump, enjoy your lunch or a snack or just breathe and relax without having to hold your pump in place with your hands.
- Insulated freezer bag or mini cooler + ice packs - You will need to store your milk at work, and transport your milk from work to home. If you don’t have a refrigerator available to you to store your milk while at work, you can store your bottles/bags in an insulated cooler. Try to keep at least 3 cold packs or ice in the cooler to keep your milk cold. If you do have access to a refrigerator, then you can use an insulated freezer bag to bring your milk back home, just make sure you include at least 3 cold packs to keep the milk cold during your commute.
- Wash Cloth/Burp Cloth + Wipes - You may want to have a wash cloth/burp cloth and wipes on hand to clean yourself up and any potential drips or spills.
- Water Bottle & Snacks - Staying hydrated is essential. Drinking water before and during pumping sessions is a great way to maintain your water intake. Sipping warm water is especially soothing and relaxing and may help with letdown during pumping. Getting enough nutrients and keeping up your calories is also important for a lactating mother - so try to have some healthy and nutrient-rich snacks on hand during the day and while pumping. Nuts like almonds and walnuts, Greek yogurt, and granola are great, simple snacks.
- A big bag to fit it all in! - You will need a BIG bag to fit in all your gear. There are some great backpack pump bags with numerous pockets that can help organize your gear and help you easily carry everything. And if you keep some sets at work, your daily load will be lightened.
SYSTEMS & PLANNING (Part 2)
- Block off time to pump on your calendar - For many working pumping mothers, scheduling in pumping sessions throughout the work day and then consistently following that schedule is key to keeping up supply. To stay on track, decide the times that work best for you to pump, plug them into your calendar and then set alarms on your phone as reminders to go pump.
- Secure a pumping room or private pumping space - Make sure there is a pumping room/space to pump available before you return to work. If the room needs to be reserved ahead of time, try to reserve your ideal times.
- Let your co-workers/team/boss know that you plan on pumping at work - The support of your team/co-workers is also an important factor for successful pumping at work. Co-workers can cover you or schedule meetings around your sessions so that you have the time and space to pump.
- Create a system to clean your pump parts (+ you!) - It’s helpful to have a cleaning system in mind to clean your pump parts. Some mamas recommend placing all the pump parts in a gallon-size zip-loc bag, storing it in the refrigerator between uses and then taking the bag home at the end of the day to wash at home. Others use quick-clean sterilization wipes for pump parts and baby wipes for their body. You may also want to bring some nipple cream (coconut oil, lanolin) for possibly sore nipples/as a flange lubricant.
I hope this list proves helpful to any working mothers returning to work. It may seem like a lot at first, but once you get your system and routine down, it will get easier. Remember to be patient with yourself and the process.