Many new mums want to return to work, but they also want to give their baby the benefits breastfeeding can offer. With a bit of careful planning, pumping at work and breastfeeding can be done easily.
Pumping at work
Even if you have a supportive employer, you may be concerned about the cultural aspects of breast pumping at work. Will your co-workers understand your unexpected short breaks? Will you be able to find the privacy you require? The good news is: if you are prepared to explain your needs in a calm and constructive way, all of these concerns can be addressed.
Here are a few tips to make it easier for you to keep breastfeeding your baby while keeping your career on track. There are a lot of breast pumps on the market. Medela offers a variety of pumps with a range of features, depending on your needs and lifestyle. You can check out the full range here.
Here are a few things to consider when choosing a breast pump:
- How long will you be feeding breast milk to your baby? If you want to give your baby breast milk once you go back to work, you will need to pump more often than while on maternity leave.
- How often do you need to pump? We recommend that you pump as often as your baby would feed, which is about three to four times during a full workday, depending on how long you are separated from your baby.
- Where will you pump? For a relaxed and more efficient pumping experience, find somewhere where you can pump in private whilst at work. Ideally you should get a light, portable and quiet breast pump that enables you to pump milk in a variety of locations: at college or university, at work, at home or elsewhere.
- How much time do you have for a pumping session? By using a pump that lets you express milk from both breasts at once you can cut the time you need for pumping in half. Plus you will get more milk in the bottle, you will have an extra milk ejection reflex and the pumped milk will have a higher fat content. Using a double pump is the best way to drain your breasts and it supports milk production.
Deciding where to pump
Depending on where you live, most employers are expected to provide reasonable accommodation for breastfeeding mums to pump breast milk during the workday. Ask your employer about the availability of lactation rooms or a private area or office you can use. You should not have to pump in a toilet cubicle. Most employers will happily accommodate your needs to pump breast milk, especially if you can help by suggesting easy ways to fit it into the workday.
Storing breast milk at work
Breast milk can be stored in bags or bottles in the work refrigerator or freezer. Just make sure the milk is clearly labelled as breast milk to avoid any misunderstandings! If you do not feel comfortable with this, you can also bring your own cool bag to work and keep the breast milk cool with ice packs.
Some people at work might notice, but if you are relaxed and casual about it, they will understand. Perhaps you can put a picture of your baby and their name on the cool bag. If you have the choice, it is always best to refrigerate your breast milk instead of freezing it, especially if you know you are going to use it in the next few days. If you want to know more about how long you can store breast milk, check out this link.
Talking to colleagues about breast pumping
If you are new to breastfeeding, you may be concerned about how your colleagues will react. In most cases, this is a non-issue. Do not treat the breast pump as a burden or something to apologise for. If anyone asks, just tell them why you are pumping and keep the conversation light. Thank your colleagues for their help while you were gone on maternity leave and let them know how much you appreciate being in a supportive environment. Plus, it is in your work’s and colleagues’ best interests as well, since healthier and more intelligent babies turn into healthier and more intelligent people, which helps benefit the economy and puts less demand on our healthcare system. So feel proud about what you are doing!
Working mums have to balance the demands of home and family and the expectations of their employer. Fortunately, returning to work as a breastfeeding mum is now easier than ever. With just a few small modifications to your daily routine and the right tools, such as breast pumps and storage bottles, you can keep working while still nourishing your baby with breast milk.