pumping at work everything you need to know

How to Pump at Work: 13 Things you Need to Know

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How to Have a Seamless Transition from Breast to Workplace

9 weeks in and you and your baby have finally gotten the hang of breastfeeding. No more worrying about how to get your baby to latch. You’ve mastered your baby’s nursing cues. Cluster feeding is behind you. And, thank goodness your milk supply is now established!

It feels good, doesn’t it?

But now your maternity leave is almost over and you have to tackle yet another challenge, pumping at work! You’ve heard horror stories about mom’s supply decreasing drastically once they went back to work. Their breast pump can’t seem to keep up with their baby’s demand and the childcare provider is requesting more milk. Â It can be a very stressful time.

Where do you pump at the office? How often? What devices work best? There are so many factors that keep you organized, focused, and prepared to balance your work day while you continue breastfeeding. Instead of trial and error, getting stuck with a dinosaur of a breast pump, dealing with office politics, or the feared clogged milk-duct clog where poof you now have mastitis- this is everything you need to know about pumping at work.

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Women on phone preparing to pump at work


Where to Get a Breast Pump?

First things first, have you gotten your electric breast pump? If not, because of the Affordable Care Act you can qualify for a free breast pump through your insurance provider. It’s as simple as submitting a qualification application, having your insurance company contacted to verify coverage and reimbursement, your doctor submitting documentation of your pregnancy, and then receiving your breast pump in the mail. The cool thing is once you complete the application, everything is else is done for you.  

How do I transition to pumping at work?

Once you know that you intend to pump at work, contact your employer and let them know so they can make the necessary arrangements. Chances are this won’t be their first experience but if it is, you want to give them a heads up.

Now what?

Get to know your breast pump and make sure it’s ready for use:

You don’t want your first pumping experience to be on your first day back, so you’ll need to practice at home. During one of your baby’s naps or when dad is around to watch the baby, give your pump a test drive.

Most breast pumps come with a flange between the sizes of 24mm and 27mm. The thing is, the included flange may not be the appropriate size for you. You want a flange that correlates to YOUR nipple size. If not, you can end up with cuts on your nipples, bruises on your breast, and lack of milk.

The medela website has a useful diagram with steps to help you decide your perfect fit. You don’t want any part of your nipple to rub against the inside of the flange tunnel. On the other hand, you shouldn’t see any portion of your areola in the tunnel either. If one of these occurs, your flange is too small or too large and your milk output will suffer.


What supplies are needed for pumping at work?

Take note of your pumping trial run. Were you comfortable? Did you have everything you needed? Sometimes you won’t know what you need until you’re in the situation. But, there are a few universal items you should have:

This is a basic list, but I do have a more detailed checklist of essential items for pumping at work.

What are the laws for breast pumping at work?

You have rights as a breastfeeding woman in the workplace. Starting back in 2010, the Affordable Care Act mandates that employers provide time and space to allow mothers to pump breast milk while they are at work.

What does this mean for you?

Reasonable break time

Your employer has to provide reasonable break time for pumping until your child reaches the age of 1. But, what’s considered reasonable? The law requires that you receive a break any time you NEED to express milk.

Each women’s body is different and so is her capacity to store breast milk. If you happen to be a woman with a lower capacity threshold, you will have to pump more often to maintain your milk supply. Where as a woman with a higher storage capacity can get away with pumping less often.

Your employer can’t compare your pumping needs with that of another woman. So, when you feel it’s necessary to express milk, they have to provide the time for you to do so.

Some women are unaware of this and notice that their milk supply tends to significantly decline once they return to work. If you feel like your milk supply is declining, use these 5 ways to to increase your milk supply naturally.

Do you get paid to pump at work?

Giving you break time is necessary, but your employer is not required to compensate you for that break time. However, If you are entitled to a break through your job and you choose to you use this time to pump, then you will be compensated. Your employer cannot treat you differently for choosing to pump during your paid break.

How do you maintain privacy while pumping at work?

I mentioned earlier that your employer has to provide both time and space for you to pump while at work. That space cannot be a bathroom and has to be able to be locked. No one should be able to openly see you or accidentally intrude on you while pumping.

That said, you should also place a sign on the door to further ensure no one attempts to barge in on you. You can get a free pumping privacy sign here.

Exceptions to the break time for nursing mothers provision

The only exception to the time and space provision is when you work for a company that has less than 50 employees. In this situation your employer isn’t required to accommodate your pumping needs. They can say that it is too difficult to supply and causes them a financial hardship.

Be sure to research your state’s law when it comes to being a nursing mom in the workplace. Most times they have laws that offer greater protection than what is provided by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). If the state law provides better provisions for you, the FLSA provision can’t preempt it.

Now that we have the legalities behind us, let’s address the logistical side to pumping at work.

How many times should you pump at work in an 8 hour day?

Every mom wants to know how many time to pump at work. Unfortunately, there is no one size fit all answer to this question. Your pumping frequency will fully depend on you and your body’s storage capacity. At times, this can vary.

How often are you nursing your baby at home? Pumping at work should mimic your baby’s feeding schedule. Most mom’s find that pumping every 3 hours works for them.

If you are exclusively pumping, then you already have a good idea of how often you need to pump. Use this same pumping schedule at work.

Don’t be alarmed if at the end of your work day you haven’t pumped enough to cover your baby’s needs for the next day. Your pumping sessions aren’t limited to the 8 hours you spend at work. You may find that you have to take advantage of your commute time.

Some moms use a car adapter to pump while driving to and from work. You can also squeeze in another pump session after your baby goes down for the night. These combined sessions should give you everything you need.

What is a typical pumping schedule at work?

Your work pumping schedule is not set in stone. It is not unusual to find yourself making adjustments as your baby grows and their needs change.

If your milk supply is steadily dropping, you may have to pump more frequently. Or, you may find that you can stretch the time between pump sessions.

Sign up below to get 3 sample schedules for pumping at work.

sample pumping at work graphic

How long do you need to pump at work?

The point of pumping is to empty your breasts, sending a signal to your brain that it’s time to make more milk. It’s a delicate balance because you want to have enough to feed your baby but you also don’t want to end up with an oversupply.

According to Kelly Mom, you should pump for at least 10 minutes but no longer than 20-30 minutes in a session.

Why is this?

Anything less than 10 minutes is not enough time to properly stimulate your nipples and allow a sufficient let down of milk. If you continue to pump for greater than 30 minutes at a time, you can cause damage to your nipple and breast tissues. You are also telling your body that you need more milk.

If you do need more milk, make sure to get your FREE copy of 5 Ways to Increase Breast Milk Naturally.

When in doubt, a great rule of them when pumping is to stop 5 minutes after you’ve seen the last flow of milk. This way you’re sending the right signals to your brain and your milk supply will match your baby’s needs.

Remember, a breast pump will never be as efficient or effective at emptying your breasts as your baby is. So, don’t be discouraged if your output doesn’t match what your baby drinks in a session. Your pumping output will be the highest in the morning and will start to dwindle as the day progresses.

Don’t focus on the amount of ounces produced in a session. Instead, look at the total amount of ounces pumped for the day.

How Do You Clean Pump Parts at Work?

This is a very good question and one that can cause moms a great deal of stress.

It doesn’t have to be a complicated process. 

Most likely when pumping at work you’ll be short on time. You want to maximize every minute that you have. It’s better to have that extra 5 minutes to pump rather than spending it trying to find a place to wash pump parts.

So what do you do?

People will tell you that you can store pump parts in the fridge and there are a lot of moms (including me) who have done this with no problems. But, that goes against the CDCs most recent recommendations.

Other moms, use cleansing wipes, but you might not be able to get to every pump part with this method. Parents.com recommends that you thoroughly hand wash your pump parts between sessions with soap and water. If this isn’t feasible, bring extra pump parts instead.

Use a large storage bag, like this one, to store your used parts throughout the day. This way you only have one thing to keep up with.

How Do You Store Breast Milk at Work?

You want your breast milk to stay cold between sessions as well as during transport home. The best practice is to have your own ice pack and cooler bag.

This way you don’t have to worry about a coworker accidentally drinking your milk (trust me it has happened!). It will also ensure that your milk stays cold on the drive home.

You can either keep your cooler bag inside of your pump bag or you can store it inside of your work refrigerator. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.

If you keep it in your pump bag the ice pack may not stay cold enough for your transport home. By keeping it in the refrigerator you have to be sure you can trust that your coworkers won’t mess with it.

How to have a successful breastfeeding journey while pumping at work?

Don’t worry, I have been where you are. I remember feeling stressed and wanting to give up. It was too much.

You are probably feeling a bit overwhelmed yourself with everything else you have going on. Sometimes it’s just easier to make things as simple as possible. I bet you’ve heard of the K.I.S.S method- Keep It Simple Stupid, my mommy mantra!

That’s what helped me. I simplified the process by taking a breastfeeding course tailored to moms who have to pump at work.

Before then I didn’t really know how to use the breast pump. When I would try, not much came out. My job is fast paced so I was afraid I wouldn’t have the time to pump the way I needed to. On top of that my baby was refusing to take the bottle.

That course saved my breastfeeding journey! It taught me how to get my baby to drink from her bottle, helped me create a pumping plan with my boss, and gave me easy steps to aid in my transition back to work. I highly recommend it to you as well. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when the work has already been done for you.

Fast forward 20 months and I am still breastfeeding my daughter and pumping at work. I hope everything I’ve shared with you has set you up to also be successful with pumping at work.

Simplify your process and sign up for the back to work breastfeeding course today!The Ultimate Back to Work Pumping Class



2 thoughts on “How to Pump at Work: 13 Things you Need to Know”

  1. First son not too good at breastfeeding (but always tried enthusiastically). Used to take ages to get him latched on properly and then he’d just look up with his big blue eyes as if to say ‘well, i’m on now mum – open the tap’! He wanted the milk, but didn’t really want to work too hard for it. I suffered many an aching wrist using the manual breast pump whilst watching Corrie!

    1. Sounds like you really put in a lot of work to make sure your baby got breastmilk. A manual pump is good to have but it can be challenging if it’s the only type of breast pump you have.

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