I went back to work when my son was twelve weeks old. I was determined to make it to at least six months of breastfeeding which, of course, meant that I’d have to pump at work. “How will I manage to pump at work?” was definitely a thought that ran through my mind a lot as the day approached. I knew pumping took time from the little bit of pumping I had done at home before returning to work. I was nervous about voicing my needs, making sure I had a space, cutting out time during the day, and more. It’s tough to find an hour of time (or more!) in the middle of a work day that doesn’t completely inconvenience a ton of other people.
Returning to work is hard enough without having to worry about all of those things. The good news is: There’s nothing to worry about. You are covered by the law as a breastfeeding mom! The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) states, “Employers are required to provide ‘reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk.’ Employers are also required to provide ‘a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.’”
1). You’re allowed breaks for pumps– whatever a reasonable amount of time is for you, that’s what you get. You also aren’t restricted to just one break. Your boss can’t keep you from pumping more than once a day… as long as that doesn’t heavily impede your work, of course.
2). Your employer needs to provide a private space for you that isn’t a bathroom! They are required to provide a functional space for you. Don’t be bullied or guilted in to using a bathroom– yuck!
3). You are legally able to pump at work for up to a year after your child’s birth. (Some places may allow longer, but you aren’t protected under federal/state laws for that.)
Some things to know…
1). Your employer is not required to pay you for pumping breaks. Don’t let this deter you if you really do want to continue to breastfeed/pump, though!
2). Keep an open line of communication with your HR department and/or supervisor. This can only be successful if you don’t get pushed around.
A few tips from an experienced pumper…
- If you’re able to keep a mini fridge near you or in your pumping area, do it. Then you don’t have to worry about your liquid gold getting messed with. Not to mention, if it’s just for you then you can keep your own snacks in there!
- Pump in the car. I’ll admit, I was iffy about this at first. I drive a small car and live in an area with a lot of jacked up trucks. I was weirded out that someone might see me! Eventually, I got over this. I cover up with a light cardigan and drive along without making any eye contact. Doing this has cut down on my rushing when I get to work and made me feel a little less guilty about my break later in the day.
- Try to schedule your pumping breaks around normal break times. My big pumping break in the middle of the day is around lunch time. I only miss out on a little bit of instructional time with students. This can be difficult for some but you need to make sure to get those breaks in!
- Get yourself a good pumping bra. I spent many months holding the pump in places, just watching netflix for an hour in the middle of my work day. Sounds great, right? Well, not really. Once I got myself a hands free pumping bra, I was able to actually be productive during that hour! Definitely helped out on the work front!
- Coconut oil. Definitely use coconut oil while pumping! Hour long pumping sessions don’t need to end in chapped nips!
Is pumping annoying and tedious? Yes. Is it for everyone? Nope, and that’s ok. If you want to go back to work and continue breastfeeding, pumping is your option and it’s completely doable thanks to laws that protect you. Don’t get discouraged by hurdles, missed socializing opportunities at work, or long pumping sessions. It is worth it in the end, for however long you choose to breastfeed. I can say this confidently as a working mom who is entering month eleven of breastfeeding and pumping at work. You can do it and I’m here for you if you ever need some encouragement!