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The new mother’s survival guide to pumping at work

The new mother’s survival guide to pumping at work

You have been breastfeeding your baby since her birth at the family birthing center, and your maternity leave is coming to a rapid end. You want to continue breastfeeding, but you aren’t sure how to go about pumping at work.

Here’s your no-nonsense guide to survive pumping at work.

What the law says about breastfeeding

“Federal law requires employers to provide break time for nursing mothers for one year after the baby is born,” said Kimberly Benedict, RN, IBCLC, lactation consultant at Touro. “Employers are also required to provide a space for working moms that is not a bathroom, shielded from view and free from intrusion by coworkers or the public.”

The fair labor standards act put out by the United States Department of Labor doesn’t put a limit on how many break times you are allowed to take, but the law also doesn’t require that employers pay for the time you spend in a pumping session. Employers are only exempt if they have fewer than 50 employees and can prove reasonable break times for nursing mothers puts a strain on their business.

Now that you know the law, let’s talk about what you can do to make planning and feeding your baby breast milk easier on you.

Find your pumping area in advance

Don’t wait until it’s time to pump to find out where you need to go. Speak with your supervisor when you return to the office and look for a private place. If your employer doesn’t quite understand what you need, feel free to explain. Your pumping place should not be in a bathroom and must be available whenever you need it.

If your employer doesn’t have anywhere obvious for you to pump, offer creative solutions, such as storage closets, office filing rooms or interview rooms. The room you establish may not have locks on the doors, so think about making a sign to hang on the door to let your coworkers know you’re in a pumping session.

If your private space isn’t working for you, speak up. Keep talking with your employer about what is and isn’t working and see if there are other solutions to help improve your pumping experience at work.

Stick to a regular pumping schedule

“To maintain your baby’s milk supply, you should pump at the same times you would feed your baby at home,” Kimberly said. “Don’t wait until your breasts are full to pump. Typically, breastfed babies need to feed every two to four hours, and most babies breastfeed around eight to 12 times in a 24-hour period. This could mean you need to pump at work as often as four times a day.”

Bring along a photo or video of your baby to help your milk flow while pumping at work. Give yourself enough time during your breaks to get to and from your pumping place, to wash your hands and equipment.

Consider cold storage options

Your breast milk is food, and it needs to be kept cold. If you are pumping at work, speak with your employer about keeping your milk in the employee refrigerator. If, for some reason, your coworkers have an issue with you storing your breast milk in the communal refrigerator, ask your employer if you can keep a mini fridge at your desk. Otherwise, a cooler with an ice pack will do. You will need to use a cooler with ice packs to transport your milk to and from work.

To keep track of your breast milk, label your bottles with the date you expressed the milk.

For healthy, full-term babies, breast milk can be kept at room temperature for up to four hours. If the refrigerator is 40 degrees or colder, you can store your breast milk in the fridge for up to five days. If the freezer is zero degrees or colder, you can freeze breast milk for up to 12 months, but fewer than six months is best.

Once frozen, you can store thawed breast milk for up to two hours at room temperature or 24 hours in the refrigerator. Do not refreeze thawed breast milk.

For more tips on breastfeeding when returning to work, find breastfeeding support at Touro.