6 Steps to Make Pumping at Work Suck Less

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Returning to work after maternity leave is hard. To be away from your baby all day is tough stuff. Add to all of that the logistics of pumping milk at work and it’s enough to make any mama tear up—or break down. (Blame it on the hormones!)

To the rescue: Danielle Ritter, a certified lactation counselor and Mamava’s Director of National Accounts. Ritter is a first-time mom who exclusively pumped for 14 months. Here she shares her top six tips for setting up a pumping routine at work that really works.

Know where you’re going to pump.

Square away your lactation space with your manager before your maternity leave. (And know your workplace lactation rights before you do!)  Ritter recommends visiting the space to learn what you don’t know before you need it. Where exactly is the space? Does it require a key or an access code? Do other people have access to this space? (If so, you’ll need a “Do Not Disturb” sign). Pay close attention to small details that can make a big difference—like the temperature of the room and the proximity to where you work. “Pumping at work can feel awkward, especially for first-time moms, so the more you can do to prepare in advance, the better,” says Ritter.

Pump for the future.

Many moms will want to start pumping when their baby is three to five weeks old to establish an inventory.  Generally, your baby needs 1 to 1.5 ounces of milk for every hour you’ll be away, so calculate the hours you’ll be gone to help you plan. If you’re an over-producer able to store gallons of milk in the freezer, that’s great, but it may not be necessary for all moms. “We’ve got a stockpile mentality in this country, but you only need to be one day ahead of your baby,” says Ritter. So breathe a sigh of relief, because what you pump in one day at work should be enough to feed your baby the next day.

Practice packing your pump bag.

To simplify your life, keep all your pumping parts together in your pump bag and practice packing it before you need it. Flanges? Check. Back-flow protectors? Check. Duck valves? Check. Pack any items that make pumping more comfortable, like nipple balm, nursing pads, or an extra layer for chilly lactation spaces.  If you don’t have access to a refrigerator at work, invest in a sturdy, hard-bottomed cooler that won’t tip or leak. “Don’t forget to stash some treats for yourself in your pump bag like your favorite candy or some calming essential oils,” says Ritter. “You deserve it.”

Make your pump breaks non-negotiable.

Schedule your pump breaks in your work calendar and stick to them. Adding them as “pumping” or “lactation space” in your work calendar normalizes this very normal thing you need to do. But sometimes things get busy and your work situation can’t be flexible. “Don’t sweat it,” says Ritter. “If you miss one, just try to make it up as soon as possible so you can get back on track with your regular pumping schedule.”

Consider clean-up.

In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued formal guidelines for pumping that recommend cleaning after every pump session. A portable washing kit you can leave at work—like Boon Trip Travel Drying Rack, which comes with a drying rack and bottle brushes—can be a big help with this. If you don’t have easy access to water, use a sanitizing spray like Medela’s Quick Clean Breast Pump & Accessory Sanitizer. Many moms still swear by the shortcut of simply rinsing and storing their pump parts in a zip-top bag (or thermal lunch box) in the fridge between pumping sessions. “In an ideal world, you could sanitize your pump parts after every pump,” says Ritter. “But it’s a mom-hack that lots of moms do.”

Set up your evening routine.

Once you’re home (and have sated the hungry masses), your first priority is dealing with your milk—whether that’s freezing it or putting it into bottles for the next day. Later, after the babe’s asleep, wash and sanitize your pump and pump supplies and then pack them up again for tomorrow. Don’t forget the candy!

Mamava designs solutions to empower breastfeeding and pumping mamas on the go, like our freestanding lactation pods, Mamava’s lactation space locator app, and other helpful resources.


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