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The Joys of Pumping (insert eye roll here)

Posted on November 25 2016

If evolution really works, why do mothers still have only two hands?” - Milton Berle

I love this quote, because it’s so true - we’re doing so much these days. Our roles have morphed exponentially throughout the years, to encompass a real, growing portion of being the bread-winner in the family, whomever that family is made up of. There is so much more to juggle. So much more to manage.

I can’t give you real numbers of what this landscape looks like today, because the last statistics published from the CDC and Pew research was for the year 2011. And you can feel how different things are now than even 5 years ago. But one thing we do know is that the role of mothers and fathers is converging, in almost all ways. You know the exception.

Breastfeeding as a way of nourishing our children has also increased in practice, as we gain more knowledge of the benefits for both Mom and baby.

There are approximately 1 million mothers who go back to work in the United States and choose to pump to maintain their breastfeeding relationships through their transition. Employers are learning the benefits, not only of complying with federal laws that support pumping time for mothers, but also recognizing that breastfeeding is associated with higher productivity and higher employee retention for breastfeeding mothers.

1. Go to the Experts: Talk with Friends Who Have Pumped

  • Pumping is a relatively new thing in our evolution. As more women moved into the workforce, it has become prudent for moms who wanted to provide breastmilk for their children to pump while they were at work.
  • If you don’t personally know anyone who has pumped, try joining a national or local breastfeeding mom’s group on Facebook. Here are some good national ones to get you started, but look for local groups as well.

Working Dairy Queens

Pumping/Nursing Moms

Working Moms Who Make Breastfeeding Work

2. Pre-Empt Your Employer

  • Whether there is an established protocol for pumping Moms where you work, or you’re paving the way for Moms in the future, your boss will be glad to know that you will be contributing directly to the business’s bottom line, productivity, and a more inclusive environment to result in a healthier workforce.
  • For those of us with bosses who don’t “get it”, don’t fret. Since the Federal Law supports* what you’ve committed to, employers are actually expected to provide you a “reasonable amount of time” to pump in a room with a door, which is not the bathroom.*
  • Getting your employer, and co-workers on-board with what they should expect eases transitions for all, and will likely avoid tensions that may be associated with the your mandated “breaks”.

3. Practice Pumping Before Going Back to Work

  • The first days back to work after maternity leave can seem quite challenging, for many reasons. Because there will be much to adjust to, it’s a good idea to already be familiar with your pump of choice before your actual re-entry day.
  • Practice with your pump at least a few times to get comfortable with the suction, the size of the shields/flanges, and if it’s a hand pump, just building up your hand endurance. Practice can really set the pace for a more reliable pumping experience.

4. Introduce and Re-Introduce Baby to Taking a Bottle

  • This may take some experimenting. Asking friends or fellow breastfeeding group members which have worked for them, may save you some time and money. Some bottles are definitely better than others.

5. If You're Able to, Establish a Pumping Schedule at Work

  • Start back to work on a Thursday or Friday, so you can have practice, but get a weekend break to regroup. This is such a simple step, but exponentially helpful, as beginning this new schedule is challenging, and if you can follow up with a three day work week the next week, all the better. If Mama and baby get more time to adjust, it will set everyone up with realistic expectations, and touchstones.
  • It was so helpful for me when I put my pumping breaks on my work calendar because A) I was notified with a reminder “ping” and B) my co-workers knew what to expect and scheduled around them (admittedly not all the time, but it did help to have them there).
  • During the first week back, try to schedule pumping at the same rate you were breastfeeding before going back to work. Was it every hour? Was it every three hours? Keeping this pace at first, again, if you’re able to, will likely alleviate some leaking or engorgement, and set a pattern for pumping regularly.

6. Start a Baby Picture Book/Journal 

  • Probably the hardest part of returning to work for me was leaving my baby in someone else’s care. I missed her terribly, and felt that one of my appendages had been removed. Having her picture not only calmed me, but helped stimulate my milk. I was also able to communicate with her on a daily basis, in this way. I read the journal to her at bedtime (of course she didn’t understand what I was saying, but it helped me feel connected to her).
  • Find quotes that make you feel empowered and connected to the world. Words mean something - find the ones that inspire your heart and mind.

7. Learn Your Logistics

  • There are several different thoughts on the best way to store breastmilk. According to Le Leche League, human milk can be stored at room temperature for up to 10 hours, in a refrigerator for up to 8 days (at the back of the refrigerator versus the door), in a freezer compartment for up to 3 months, and in a deep freezer for up to 6 months. If baby is premature, immune compromised, or seriously ill, the time may need to be more conservative.
  • Pump cleaning varies wildly, but I felt most comfortable washing the shields, and membranes in warm water quickly after each pumping session, tossing them in my bag, and then putting them in the dishwasher overnight.
  • These are fantastic resources for logistical questions - SAVE THEM and refer to them often!

Kelly Mom

Le Leche League

8. Keep in mind, you’re not alone. There are so many Mamas out here who share your feelings, and have gone through what you are going through now. They have answers and/or support, and are truly one of the best parts of your new community.




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