How to Prepare for Pumping at Work

How to Prepare for Pumping at Work

This is a guest post by my friend and fellow blogger, Brenda Kosciuk! Brenda writes about pregnancy, babies, and toddlers on her blog, Paper Heart Family. She is a teacher with two children and tons of experience pumping at work.

How to Prepare for Pumping at Work

It’s important to prepare for pumping at work long before you begrudgingly step over the threshold into working mama status.

What, just me?

Preparing ahead of time for pumping at work is going to save you a TON of stress and will also help you meet your breastfeeding goals.

When I first became a mom, I was as stressed as they come. I was INSANE.

Thank the Lord I got it together before I went back to teaching because if not, I don’t know if I would have continued breastfeeding.

I was dealing with a baby who decided to reverse-cycle (and therefore hardly slept at night) and I despised leaving her. If I had left all of the pumping preparations and education until the last minute, it might have just put me right over the edge.

Let’s not let that happen to you, ‘kay?

Okay, here’s what you need to do BEFORE returning to work.

Know Breastfeeding And Working Laws

Hopefully you are blessed with an employer that respects a mom’s right to pump at work in order to nourish her baby. However, just in case, you definitely need to be versed on the United States Federal “Break Time For Nursing Mothers” Law.

This law states that employers should:

  • Allow reasonable time for breastfeeding moms to express milk (for the first year of a baby’s life)
  • Provide a private place (not a bathroom)
  • Not require compensation for time spent pumping

Arm yourself with the knowledge that you need. Therefore if your employer gives you a hard time about a pumping location or pumping frequency, you can quickly and easily share the facts. If you continue to have issues with your boss, make sure to talk to your Human Resource office.

You have breastfeeding rights. Make sure to use them.

Secure An Area To Pump At Work

The ideal pumping area will be private and clean. Make sure that you speak with your employer ahead of time so that you can choose a place to pump that is going to be comfortable for you.

Make Sure That Your Employer Understands Your Pumping Needs

Unless your boss has breastfed and pumped before, he or she might not know just how often pumping is required.

When you are away from your baby, ideally you should pump as often as your baby would nurse. Which means that you should be pumping at least every 3 hours while at work.

Make sure that your employer understands that this is what your baby needs from you in order for you to keep nursing.

Take A Pumping Class

If you really want to make sure that pumping and returning to work doesn’t interfere with your ability to continue breastfeeding your baby, I recommend taking a pumping class. Stacey from Milkology will teach you everything that you need to know to pump successfully through her convenient Ultimate Back To Work Pumping Class. It’s on-demand video that will teach you how to pump like a pro.

Keep Your Breastfeeding Goal In Mind

Pumping is definitely not a walk in the park. It’s annoying, and time consuming and unenjoyable. However, if you remember your “why”, it won’t be completely unbearable.

Always remind yourself why it was important for you to breastfeed your baby in the first place, and then set a goal. How long would you like to breastfeed for?

Choose The Perfect Breast Pump For You And Your Situation

There are lots of really good pumps out there, but not every pump is the right pump for every mom.

There are a few things that you need to consider before purchasing the best breast pump for you.


If your insurance will cover a quality, double electric pump for you, then you don’t have to worry about cost. Some insurances give you a specific amount of money to put toward a breast pump.

If this is the case, you likely won’t want to choose one of the more expensive pumps. (Don’t worry, you still have many quality options).


If you plan to be moving around a lot while you’re pumping (in the car, while nursing, while preparing dinner, etc), you should choose a pump that is extremely portable and potentially hands-free.

Pump Volume

If you are going to be pumping within close proximity to other people at work, you will want to choose a quieter model. Check out in-depth reviews of all of the best breast pumps of 2019.

Purchase The Necessary Breast Pump Accessories

Without the right breast pump accessories, you might experience some awkward situations at work (and you don’t need that because pumping at work is ALREADY awkward).

Here’s what you need:

A Battery Pack or A/C Adapter

You never know when you’ll need to pump without electricity or in the car. It’s best to have these inexpensive accessories just in case.

Breast Milk Storage Bottles

Unless you are using breast milk collection cups, you will need some bottles to pump into.

Ice Pack

An ice pack will keep your milk cold on your way home after work. Believe me, you do NOT want to have to throw out your breast milk because it was kept out for too long.

Hands-Free Nursing Bra

Extra Breast Pads

Leaking at home is not fun, but it’s really no big deal. Leaking at work? Horrific. Make sure to always have some extra breast pads stored away in your breast pump bag.

An Extra Set Of Clothing

This way, if you DO end up leaking at work or you spill breast milk on yourself after pumping (don’t laugh, it’s REALLY easy to do), you at least have some clean clothes to change into.

Nipple Cream

If you’re experiencing any friction-related pain, putting some nipple cream on your flanges will help you to avoid that pain.

Hand Sanitizer

Water And Snacks

Extra Set Of Pump Parts

You might even want to purchase an inexpensive manual pump to keep at work. Just in case you leave an essential pump part at home.

Photos Of Your Baby

Looking at photos of your baby while you’re pumping can maximize your letdown, which means MORE MILK.

Start Pumping Before Going Back To Work

There are three main reasons that you would want to start pumping before returning to work.

  1. You want to get to know your pump
  2. You want to start a freezer stash
  3. You want to get your baby used to the bottle

Using your pump for the very first time on your very first day back to work is a recipe for disaster and unnecessary stress.

It took me weeks to figure out how to use my pump in the most efficient way, and to figure out the perfect speed and suction combo for me that would help me to pump milk faster.

When should you start pumping? Start pumping when your baby is around 4 weeks old to have a little freezer stash. How much breast milk should you store before returning to work?

That’s up to you. In my opinion, you don’t need a huge freezer stash, but some moms feel more comfortable with a lot of milk in the freezer as a backup.

Learn How To Encourage A Let Down From Your Pump

Some pumps have a letdown function. It basically simulates your baby’s way of nursing (to suck quickly at first, which signals your baby to letdown, and more slowly later).

While some pumps do this automatically, other pumps require you to push a letdown button. Make sure that you do this step! You can also push it at other times throughout your nursing session to encourage more letdowns.

If your pump does not have a letdown function, you can simply use a higher speed at the beginning of your session, then after your milk has let down, switch to a lower speed. Breast massage and looking at videos or photos of your baby are also effective ways to encourage letdown.

Introduce Your Baby To The Bottle

This was a HUGE mistake on my part.

I loved breastfeeding. I loved that it meant that I could have my baby all to myself. I loved that I was the only person that could feed her.

At about 4 weeks old, my mother-in-law gave her a bottle. And then in the next two months before I returned to work, she gave her 2 more bottles. That’s. It.

Big mistake, like I said.

My baby had an EXTREMELY difficult time adjusting to my return to work. For the first week and a half, the only way that she would sleep at night was if she was latched on.

As you can imagine, that coupled with the exhaustion that was returning to work was torture.

This baby (headstrong she was) NEVER took to the bottle. She drank 3-4 ounces while I was gone for months (and made up for it at night).

So, it’s very important that you introduce your baby to the bottle at about 4 weeks old. Sooner could provide the opposite problem where your baby has nipple confusion or prefers the bottle.

Be consistent, have someone else feed your baby and make sure that you’re using a bottle formulated for breastfed babies.

If your baby is resisting, make sure to be patient and offer again later, and consistently offer from that point until you return to work. Get all of my tips on bottle feeding breast milk.

Develop a Pumping At Work Schedule

When you are deciding how often you should pump while at work,  you need to consider three things.

  • The age of your baby
  • If you are struggling with your milk supply
  • Your work schedule and work hours

As I said before, ideally you will pump as often as your baby nurses.

If that doesn’t seem to be enough in order to pump the same amount that your baby is consuming while you’re gone, consider pumping at home before or after work.Check out these pumping schedule options to decide what’s right for you.

Have A Breast Milk Storage Plan

Knowing how to properly store, freeze, and thaw breast milk is important so that you can avoid bacterial contamination or a decrease in your milk’s nutritional value.

Here are some guidelines for freshly pumped milk:

  1. – Keep at room temperature- freshly expressed milk is good at room temperature (up to 77 degrees) for 4 hours
  2. – Refrigerate- Breast milk is good in the refrigerator for up to 4 days
  3. – Freeze it in quantities of 2-4 ounces (good for 6-12 months)

Frozen breast milk should then be thawed overnight in the refrigerator or by submerging your storage bag or bottle in warm water.

Go Back To Work Mid-Week

My final tip is to plan to return to work mid-week. This way if things don’t go well, you’ll have the weekend to recuperate and figure out your new normal!

Don’t worry, you made it through childbirth and through the first few weeks of new motherhood. You can rock this too.

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