Obstacles to Pumping at Work and Tips to Overcome Them

If you live in the United States, then you most likely do not have paid parental leave from work. Unfortunately, most working moms need to head back to the office just when they’ve established nursing. Pumping can be a real challenge, but hopefully these tips can help you overcome some paper ruler hands at workobstacles!

Not Enough Time
The Affordable Care Act mandates that employers offer moms “reasonable break time” to express milk for their babies, but the reality of pumping doesn’t always mesh with the demands of a work day. Travel to and from the lactation room can be time consuming, not to mention setting up gear, pumping, and cleanup. Here’s how some moms tackle the time crunch:

  • Lots of extra parts makes pumping quicker and easier. Stephanie L used gallon baggies for all the flanges and bottles and just pulled out a clean “pack” when it was time to pump. She didn’t wash anything at work, and took a bag of dirty parts to wash at home each day. Jenn L snagged the plastic tub from her hospital delivery and kept it under her desk filled with soapy water and used flanges to easily wash at the end of the work day. She used it as a drying rack on her desk overnight! We’ve got you covered with spare flanges, extra bottles, and even spare tubes/valves for personal pumps!
  • If your pumping accommodations are far away (or gross), you could do what Janine J did and pump at your desk using a nursing cover.
  • Even though your pumping time should be time that’s just for you, most women tell us they needed to continue working during their pumping breaks. Moms like Jess W tell us their hands-free pumping bra was essential for multi-tasking. Bras like the Pumpease give moms free hands for checking email or typing reports while pumping.

Not Enough Output 
Pumping is hard work. A breast pump is not cuddly like a baby, and it sure doesn’t sound or smell as lovely as your sweet child. Plus, it’s stressful to know your baby depends on you to express this milk for food! All these factors can make it tricky to pump during the work day. Some tricks to increase output include:

  • Proper flange fit is just as important as baby’s latch! If your areola is getting sucked into the flange along with your nipple, the flange likely too big. If your nipple is getting smooshed along the sides of the flange, the flange is likely too small. You might even have 2 different sized nipples, and that’s totally normal. Ameda makes custom-sized flanges to help you get the best fit and maximize your production.
  • Mom Erin D says the angle of her flanges was important to her pumping output. She used the Pumpin Pals shields for a more comfortable fit and was able to pump enough spare milk to donate 200 ounces to a milk bank! The Pumpin Pals lock in to the flanges that come with your pump and offer a better fit plus the ability to recline while pumping.
  • Research shows us that hands-on pumping can lead to more output. This means rather than keep up with work or facebook during a pumping break, moms can massage their breasts during pumping for a greater yield.
  • A relaxed mom can let down better for the pump. Mom Sharon F used music on her Pandora app to relax while pumping. She’d set a timer in the app, close her eyes, and relax her mind while she pumped for her children.

Invasion of Privacy 
When I was pumping for my first son, I booked the conference room at work and sat against the door. This did not keep my boss from barging into the room while I was pumping! But invasive questions can be just as upsetting for pumping moms. Shannon S works in a Federal building and has to put her pump through the metal detector each morning, and the guard makes comments every, single day. This is a tricky obstacle for sure, but here are some things that have helped other moms:

  • Very descriptive signs for the door. Mom Sarah W warns that “Do Not Disturb” was not explicit enough to keep students and co-workers from barging into her office.
  • Support groups for nursing moms like La Leche League or Breastfeeding USA can be so helpful for venting, validation, and brainstorming. Stephanie F points out that she was not confident enough as a new mom to think of responses to invasive questions like, “Do you have to do it now?” In person or virtual support groups can give you the tools to respond, ignore, or educate as appropriate for your work situation.

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