Got Milk? Making Pumping at Work, Work!
You’ve heard it before: “Breast is best.” And most moms agree. In fact, 74 percent of mothers breastfeed their baby initially. But if you plan to return to work, keeping it up by using a breast pump can be tricky.
Statistics bear that out: Only 43 percent of moms still nurse or pump by the time their child is 6 months old (50 percent is the goal, according to Healthy People 2010, the government’s health initiative). Only 21 percent of moms make it to the one-year mark.
Having a supportive workplace helps make pumping at work easier. But that’s only the beginning. Prepare in advance to pump during the day if you plan to return to work shortly after baby is born. By thinking through some logistics, you can plan ahead for the transition. Moms who have been there and experts share some tricks of the trade to prime you for pumping success.
Don’t psych yourself out.
Pumping and working can be challenging, but if you dwell on the negative, you’ll talk yourself out of it. And don’t feel guilty either for being away from your desk. “Most smokers are taking more breaks than I do,” says Hillary Bates, the mom of a 6-month-old, who has been pumping at work for four months.
Get a double electric breast pump.
Don’t waste your time single pumping. “Buy the best, most powerful double pump you can afford. Without the right equipment, you’re almost doomed to fail,” says Jeanmarie Ferrara, the mother of a 10-month-old daughter. Single pumping can take up to three times as long as double pumping.
Pump in a room with a lock on the door.
You’ll need privacy to relax. It’s a must. Find out in advance what space might be available at your workplace. (See end of article for more information.)
Keep to a strict pumping schedule.
Going too long between pumping sessions can be uncomfortable. So set aside 15-minute chunks of time several times daily. “If you work in an office that uses electronic calendars, mark off time for your daily pumping breaks,” says Julie Kupsov, the mother of an 11-month-old. “It reduces the chance you’ll have meetings scheduled over your regular pumping time.”
Multitask to stay productive.
“Use pumping time to catch up on e-mails or do light reading so you can keep working, too,” says new mom Tracy Baldwin. “But don’t pump while you’re on the phone with co-workers. It puts them in an awkward position; ‘What’s that noise?'”
Bring your baby’s T-shirt from home.
A photo of your baby is nice, “but it’s the smell that tricks your body into thinking your baby is nearby, which can help with let down,” says Dr. Miriam H. Labbok, director of the Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Keep plenty of ice packs on hand. You can also get a small refrigerator for your office to keep milk cold (and safe for your baby to consume).
Store parts properly.
Milky breast pump parts can sit out for eight hours without becoming contaminated. “Human milk is very effective at killing bacteria for eight hours after it leaves the breast,” says Mary Overfield, a registered nurse and lactation consultant at WakeMed Health & Hospitals.
However, the safest way to pump milk is to start with clean breast pump parts. If you don’t have time to wash breast pump parts between sessions during the day with soap and water, consider buying extra sets so you always have a fresh one handy.
“Occasionally, as long as you’re not pumping for a premature or sick baby, you can store breast pump parts unwashed in a closed plastic bag in a refrigerator or in an insulated bag with frozen ice packs. Refrigeration will slow the growth of bacteria,” Overfield says.
Sandra Gordon is a journalist and author of Consumer Reports Best Baby Products, 2009.
A Place to Pump
Forget the days of pumping in a restroom stall at work because that was your only option for privacy. As part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law March 23, 2010, employers with 50 or more workers must now provide a functional and private place other than a bathroom for expressing milk that’s shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public. The room can either dedicated for nursing moms or should be able to become immediately available for expressing milk when necessary.