Let’s cut to the chase: pumping at work is one activity that makes this whole parenting thing feel seriously real. Get milk out of breast wasn’t something you may have previously thought to put on your To-Do list for the day. Yet, here you sit, breast pump in hand, ready to take on your workday like it’s nobody’s business. You go, mama.
The problem is, it is somebody’s business: yours. Pumping can be super stressful in itself. Pumping at work? Um… seriously?
As wild as your new life may feel, pumping means you can divide up responsibilities with other caregivers. Getting your pump on in a way that feels comfortable to you can make the transition back to work that much smoother.
We’re going to take you through the hows, the whens, and the what-to-uses.
In this article: 📝
- How much should I be pumping at work?
- Do employers have to allow time to pump?
- How long can I legally pump at work?
- When can I stop pumping at work?
- Pumping at work tips
How much should I be pumping at work?
Time-wise, think 15-minute sessions, every 3 hours. This can get more infrequent as solids hit the picture.
There are two considerations here:
Consideration #1: Ensuring that your baby has enough breast milk on tap when they need it.
Consideration #2: Communicating to your body that it has to keep the taps flowing. Our bodies are pretty smart that way. The more we feed, the more our bodies produce milk. If you pump/feed more, your body should produce more.
(BTW: Don’t stress if this isn’t happening as an exact science. There are all sorts of factors that disrupt this pattern. If you’ve been through a growth spurt period, for example, you may have found that your not-so-little-one is more demanding than usual. The result is you might not be as stocked as you’d like to be. Honestly, when it comes to our bodies, think rough guidelines rather than rules.)
Quantity-wise, it’s a little more complicated, and dependent on your baby’s age and specific needs.
For newborns, think about an ounce an hour. For babies that are between 6 weeks and 6 months old, consider upping this slightly—by about half an ounce for every pump. (Of course, not all of this has to be done at work, but it may help you plan out your unique feeding schedule.)
One interesting thing that you might start noticing is a phenomenon called reverse cycling. Essentially, this means that your baby has become a nocturnal feeder, getting the bulk of their nutrition in at night rather than in the day. This may be as simple as wanting you around at feeding times. Yup, you’re the best dinner date they can imagine.
Do employers have to allow time to pump?
Is there some sort of pump at work law? As in, can you get fired for pumping at work? What are your rights and responsibilities when it comes to pumping at work?
Here’s the deal: YOU ABSOLUTELY HAVE RIGHTS, not only to pump but to pump in a comfortable, private space. You do not have to be relegated to a bathroom stall. You do not have to sneak around and hide the fact that you’re pumping at work. You have the right to pump, mama.
Here’s what the rules say:
The US Affordable Care Act ‘require(s) employers to provide “reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk.”’
So there you have it. Don’t suffer in silence. You are totally entitled to do what you need to do to feed your child.
Ahead of time, chat to your boss (and colleagues, if necessary) about:
- Finding the best spot in your workplace.
- Setting up a schedule so that everyone is in the loop.
- Whether you are compensated for break times. (While employers aren’t required to pay you for the time you spend pumping at work, the rules are quite nuanced around this. If you’re using your regular break to pump, and that break is a paid break, then, yes, you should be compensated. Either way, you may want to work these things out ahead of time so that you don’t get hit with surprises down the line.)
How long can I legally pump at work?
In the United States, the right to pump at work applies to mamas for a year after their babies are born. If you’re not in the US, double-check to see if the same rule applies to your location.
When can I stop pumping at work?
You may be pleased to know that you won’t be pumping for all eternity. Pumping at work is but a blip on the radar of the parenting journey.
So, again, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach here. This is all about you and your family’s journey. But here’s some guidance that could help:
The guidelines from the CDC recommend breast milk for the first year of your baby’s life—but this may mean all sorts of things for you. Maybe, after a year, you start to decrease the pumping but stick with breastfeeding for a while. Maybe you keep pumping for longer. Maybe you do neither. There’s no one right answer here. Provided the nutrition of you and your baby are taken care of, you do what works for you.
Pumping at work tips
And now down to the how-tos. Here are some practical tips for pumping at work:
Here’s how to find the best breast pump for your needs
Straight outta the book of Things Nobody Tells You About Motherhood, there are different types of breast pumps. They’re loosely divided into:
- Electric. Fast, efficient, and the double-electric version lets you do both breasts at once.
- Battery-operated. While a little slower than their electric counterparts, they’re portable and convenient for anytime-anywhere pumping
- Manual. The most cost-effective of the options, they require quite a bit of work to get the supply you need. Plus side is that they’re really easy to carry around with you.
Choose the pump that works best for your needs, budget, and workplace setup. When making your decision, think efficiency, noise, portability.
Here’s how to store breast milk at work
And then, of course, you have to store that breast milk, and you’re going to need some equipment to do so.
So, yes, there’s a bunch of paraphernalia that comes with pumping at work—beyond finding the perfect pump. Once that milk is pumped, you’ll need bottles or storage bags to store it securely. Once it’s stored, you’ll then need some sort of refrigeration to keep things cool—both for while you’re at work and for your commute to and from. The more planning you do in advance, the easier it’s all going to be.
One last tip: a change of clothes for you. Leaks happen.
Happy pumping, mama! Look at you go.