Mom to Mom: Tips For Pumping at Work

Baby boy drinking milk bottle

The idea of pumping breast milk at work can be daunting for many new moms, but it doesn’t have to be. With a little bit of preparation and appropriate support from employers and colleagues, pumping, while most likely nobody’s idea of a good time, is feasible for many women. We have lots of experienced moms at KinderCare headquarters, and we wanted to share our tips for pumping at work.

  • Before you go back to work, contact your HR department and make sure that there is a private, quiet and clean place to pump ready when you get back. By law, most employers must 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.” Read more details on legal rights for nursing women here.
  • Make sure you have access to a refrigerator to store your pumped milk in or bring an insulated cooler with ice packs. You will also need access to a sink where you can wash your equipment. Another alternative is sanitizer bags, which work in the microwave and sanitize bottles and pump accessories using steam.
  • Block time on your schedule and commit to taking time to pump. Talk to your manager about the time you will need to pump, and let co-workers know if appropriate (for example, if others may need to know where you are and when you’ll return).
  • Get to know any scheduling conflicts with the workplace pumping room schedule. You may need to coordinate with other people who are using the room.
  • Double check your pump every night to make sure you have all the attachments, battery, AC adapter, and bottles or milk storage bags.
  • You can get plastic storage bags to pump directly into that you can seal and transfer to the refrigerator or freezer. Don’t forget to write the date on them. Talk to your childcare provider about any other information that needs to be labeled on the milk storage bags or bottles.
  • Make sure you have extra bottles or bags, since your milk supply might fluctuate from day to day.
  • To avoid embarrassing leaks, nursing pads are a must. There are many varieties of disposable and washable pads. Try a few kinds and see what is most comfortable for you.
  • Bring a small towel and/or disinfectant wipes to clean up any drips.
  • Avoid wearing white tops in case of leaks. Prints and patterns are best for hiding drips. There’s no need to buy special nursing clothing, just wear clothes that make it easy and comfortable to access for pumping, such as button-down shirts.
  • Many moms like to look at pictures or photos of their baby to stimulate the let-down reflex. Other moms bring magazines or a phone or tablet and enjoy some downtime with a relaxing read.
  • Don’t worry if your supply varies from day to day, this is normal. Also, keep in mind that the amount you pump doesn’t necessarily tell you how much milk your baby gets when nursing. Babies usually can get the milk much more efficiently than a pump.

Breast Milk Storage Guidelines

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, breast milk should be stored as follows:

  • Freshly expressed breast milk can remain at room temperature for up to 4 hours.
  • Use refrigerated milk within 48 hours.
  • Freeze milk if it will not be used within 24 hours. Frozen milk is good for at least 3 months. Some experts say it is good for 3-6 months if it is kept in a 0-degree F freezer. Some sources, including the CDC with a reference to the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, states that breast milk can be stored in a chest or upright deep freezer at -4 degrees F for 6-12 months.
  • Store milk at the back of the freezer, never in the freezer door.
  • Make sure to label the milk with the date you pumped or froze it.
  • Thaw milk in the refrigerator or you can thaw it by swirling in a bowl of warm water (do not shake!)  Shaking bottles could degrade the nutritional components of the milk.
  • Do not refreeze thawed milk.

Tips for Pumping During Business Travel

  • The latest TSA rules for traveling with breast milk and ice packs can be found here.
  • Many airports have a nursing moms’ room where you can pump; look up this information on the airport website before you go. At worst, usually you can find a restroom that has a bench and outlet.
  • You will need to think through when and where you will pump during business trips. Obviously, this will vary greatly depending on your job and where you travel. Try to stick to about the same schedule as normal, but if you miss a pumping session or two, don’t panic! You can always get back on track when you get home after a short trip. Start by looking at your schedule for possible breaks or down time that you can escape to your hotel or another private room.
  • If you’re visiting another office, you will need to ask someone where you can pump. This can be awkward, but most people are understanding, especially fellow moms!
  • If your hotel has a mini-bar, you may be able to remove some of the contents to store your milk while you’re there. Most motels and hotels have ice buckets and ice machines you can use to keep your pumped milk from spoiling. If you are going to be away for an extended trip, you can freeze your milk and ship it overnight via FedEx or the US Postal Service. (Keep in mind that if it thaws in transit, it should be used within 24 hours).

More breastfeeding and pumping resources:

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