Going back to work after maternity leave can be a challenge. Not just practically, but emotionally. For the past year, I spent almost every waking minute with my little one and I loved it. As maternity leave started winding down I began having some anxiety about pumping at work. I work in a traditional office setting and I had concerns about how conducive it would be to my pumping regime.
The good news is it’s not as scary as I thought it would be. Is it awkward? Yes, a bit. It is manageable? Absolutely.
Before I share my tips, let me say that it’s a learning curve. You’ll eventually learn what works best for you. Simple things like what clothes to wear will become more obvious as you go. (But work appropriate yet pumping friendly clothing is a whole other topic…#momlife.) Each day will be a little easier as you develop a routine that suits your needs. Just hang in there.
OK, on to my tips!
1. Plan ahead
Before you return to work, contact your employer and let her or him know you will be pumping so arrangements can be made in advance. More and more employers are anticipating that women will need to pump at work, but having a plan in place before your first day back will help ease your mind and ensure your place of work is ready for you. If your job is mobile and you know you won’t have a designated place to pump, make sure your employer or anyone relying on you knows you will be MIA a few times throughout the day.
2. Pack smart
I use the Medela tote. In my tote I have an ice pack and bottles in a freezer bag. I have a nursing bra that I wear only to pump. I have the pump itself and I have a blanket to catch any leaks. If you know you will be using a nursing bra at work but haven’t used one before, make sure you try it out ahead of time. You may also want to bring a nursing cover depending upon your comfort level and your pumping setup. You want to be confident in your tools.
3. Be open
Things that may seem obvious to you might not be obvious to others who are not in your situation. If you are unhappy with the arrangements that have been made, tell someone. Chances are they will work to find a solution to ensure you can pump as comfortably as possible. Pumping is not shameful, and we shouldn’t feel embarrassed to talk about it when we need to.
4. Ignore the Guilt
When you’re focussed on your job, it can sometimes be hard to disconnect just to eat lunch, let alone to pump. But try as best you can. I don’t check my work e-mails when I pump. I look at pictures of my son and I check with his caregivers to see how he’s doing. If it’s possible, do whatever you can to relax and know that this is a way you can take care of your baby while you’re at work. In a way, it makes me feel closer to my baby boy while in the office.
5. Keep that milk safe
As soon as I’m done pumping, I put the lid on my bottles to avoid spills. I then put the bottles into the freezer bag and the bag into the freezer.
6. Keep it clean
You may want to wash your pump after every use, use a wipe, or put your pump parts into the freezer bag along with the milk so any milk on the pump stays fresh.
7. Don’t leave the milk behind
This may seem obvious, but I wasn’t used to thinking about collecting my milk before I left work. To ensure I don’t leave it behind, I set an alarm that pops up on my phone at the same time every day, reminding me to grab my milk!
If you’re pumping at work, you are not alone! There are thousands of us standing with you. You got this, mama!
If you have tips for breastfeeding at work, leave them in the comments. I’d love to know!
Jacqueline and Lindsay are sisters and new moms living on the East Coast of Canada.