Pumping at work can be super stressful. It can also be a total lifesaver. Here’s all you need to know about how to pump at work.
The problem is, it is somebody’s business: yours. Pumping can be super stressful in itself. Pumping at work? Um… seriously?
Let’s cut to the chase: pumping at work is one activity that makes this whole parenting thing feel seriously real.
We’re going to take you through the hows, the whens, and the what-to-uses of pumping at work.
In this article: 📝
- How do you pump in an office?
- How often should I pump at work?
- Are there any pumping at work laws?
- How long am I allowed to pump at work?
- When should I stop pumping at work?
- Pumping at work tips
How do you pump in an office?
First off, let’s go for the biggest “how”: just how do you pump in an office?
“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, pump in hand, ready to take on your workday like it’s nobody’s business. You go, mama.
The problem is, pumping at work is somebody’s business: yours.
Pumping can be super stressful in itself. And pumping at work? That’s a whole other level.
As wild as your new life may feel, pumping at work means you can divide up responsibilities with other caregivers.
That way, you can “get your pump on” in a way that feels comfortable so you can make the transition back to work that much smoother.
Essentially, there are three things to consider when pumping at work.
Ahead of time, chat to your boss (and colleagues, if necessary) about:
1. Finding a safe place for pumping while at work
A comfortable and private place to pump at work is well within your rights as a breastfeeding working mom.
According to the US Affordable Care Act, you’re entitled to “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.”.
You can even request a breastfeeding sign for the office space ‒ a simple breast pumping sign for work can help both you and others feel more comfortable.
2. Arrange a pumping schedule at work
Setting up a back-to-work pumping schedule so that everyone is in the loop.
Roughly, pumping at work could take 15 minutes per session, every three hours.
So speaking with your employer to set a reasonable (and flexible) pumping schedule at work is a must.
It’s about setting reasonable expectations for both your employer and you as a breastfeeding, working mom.
3. Ask your employer about whether you’re paid for pump breaks
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 as your pump break, 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 while pumping at work.
While you’re asking your employer about pump breaks, you should also ask about how many pumping breaks at work you’re allowed to take, and how long are pumping breaks at work.
If you feel these aren’t long enough for you, speak up.
How often should I pump at work?
Wondering how often to pump at work?
Well, time-wise, think 15-minute sessions, every 3 hours as a breastfeeding and pumping schedule for working moms.
However, pumping at work can get more infrequent as baby starts eating solids.
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 can make you feel as though you’re not pumping enough at work.
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, pumping at work can be a little more complicated, and dependent on your baby’s age and specific needs.
For newborns, think about an ounce an hour.
(Of course, not all of this has to be pumping at work, but it may help you plan out your unique working mom pumping 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.
How many times can I pump at work?
If you’re wondering how often to pump at work, this is a talk you’ll have to have with your employer.
For an eight-hour working day, around 3 pump breaks of 15 minutes each is reasonable.
But exactly how many pumping breaks at work you’re entitled to is dependent on your employer ‒ including whether they pay you for those pump breaks.
➡️ You might also be interested in: 11 Tips for Working Moms
Are there any pumping at work laws?
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 have pump breaks 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.
Can I get fired for pumping at work?
No. According to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (the part about Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issues), you are protected and cannot be fired for pumping at work.
But you also have an obligation to speak to your employer about any additional support or pump breaks to support your role as a breastfeeding, working mom.
That’s why speaking with your employer about a reasonable pumping at work schedule is so important.
Do you get paid for pumping at work?
Not necessarily. It depends on your employer.
If they don’t pay for non-pumping breaks, they likely won’t pay for pump breaks.
While they do have to grant you time for breaks while pumping at work, they are not obliged to pay you for them.
How long am I allowed to 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.
Is pumping at work considered a break?
No. As a breastfeeding working mom, you’re entitled to a new set of pump breaks.
These don’t count as your ‘standard’ breaks for coffee, bathroom breaks, or breaks for meals.
When should 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 when it comes to pumping breast milk at work.
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 while at work, 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 and baby.
Pumping at work tips
And now down to the how-tos. Here are some practical tips for pumping at work:
What’s the best breast pump for working moms?
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 ‒ great for efficient pumping at work.
- Battery-operated: While a little slower than their electric counterparts, they’re portable and convenient for anytime-anywhere pumping, ideal for breast pumping at workplaces that are a little tight on space.
- 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 while pumping at work.
Choose the pump that works best for your needs, budget, and workplace setup.
When making your decision, think efficiency, noise, portability.
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.
If your workplace doesn’t have a refrigerator, you could invest in a smaller fridge to store just a couple of bottles at a time.
Can I pump at my desk at work?
It depends. This is a slightly tricky area, because while you can choose to pump at your desk, you might not get the privacy you want.
And while we’re all about freeing moms to breastfeed and pump pretty much wherever and whenever, not every space is they same.
Pumping at your desk does mean that you’re free to do a little working during those 15-minute pump breaks, and means that you’re not confined to a (sometimes stuffy) space.
However, not everyone is comfortable with pumping at work, so it’s worth having a conversation about it with your employer and your colleagues.
What pumping at work supplies will I need?
There are a few necessities while pumping at work:
- Breast pump: Whether you choose to go electric, battery-operated, or manual is up to you.
- Milk storage: You’ll need somewhere to put your milk after you’ve expressed it ‒ bags or bottles, your choice!
- Somewhere cool to keep your expressed milk: Whether you choose to store it in the work fridge (clearly labeled, of course!), in a cooler bag, or in your own mini-fridge, you’ll need somewhere to store your breast milk at work.
- Breast pump cleaning supplies: It’s up to you how many pump cleaning supplies you bring with you to work ‒ it depends on whether you want to fully clean your breast pump parts in the office or if you just want to quickly sterilize them with wipes.
- Cloths and wipes: For quick and easy mopping up once the job is done.
And here are some other pumping at work supplies that might just make things a little easier, but aren’t totally necessary:
- A bag for your pump: This makes it easier to carry your pump while at work, particularly if you have to go to a specific room or if you’re after some privacy while pumping at work.
- Extra pump parts: In case something breaks, or if you don’t want to wash your pump parts while in the workplace.
- Nursing or pumping bra: This is particularly handy if you want to pump at your desk ‒ no need to lift your whole bra or expose your whole breast. Now you can multitask and pump while working, hands-free!
- Spare top: Just in case of any spillages!
How to clean pump parts at work
Cleaning pump parts at work is much like cleaning them at home ‒ following the CDC advice is a great source for guidance.
Here’s your step-by-step on how to clean pump parts at work:
- Wash your hands before pumping for 20 seconds, with soap and water.
- Put your pump together, making sure it’s all clear and not moldy.
- Have a quick clean with a disinfectant wipe (it should already be clean from the last time you used it, but it’s better to be safe than sorry!).
- Get to pumping at work!
- Store your expressed milk.
- Clean the area with a disinfectant.
- Disassemble your breast pump and rinse it with warm water, to get rid of any residue.
- Wash each individual part of your breast pump (taking care if using an electronic or battery-operated pump)
- If washing by hand, use a separate washbasin to avoid contamination, fill with hot water (not scalding) and add soap, then scrub each part individually, then rinse them off and dry.
- If washing using a dishwasher, put each pump part in securely (for smaller parts, use a closed-top basket or mesh laundry bag so they don’t go missing). Set the cycle on a hot water and hot dryer setting. When dry, remove the pump parts.
- Disinfect the washbasin after each use.
How to store breast pump parts at work
Got all the pump parts for pumping at work but not sure where to put them?
Our mamas on Peanut recommend a dedicated breast pump bag for easy pump part storage.
When it comes to pumping at work, the more planning you do in advance, the easier it’s all going to be.
Happy pumping, mama! Look at you go.
🍼 More from The 411:
When to Start Pumping
A Guide to Exclusive Pumping
All You Need to Know About Nipple Pumping
Caffeine and Breastfeeding: What to Know
Breastfeeding in Public: Tips & Advice
Your Breasts After Breastfeeding: What’s Normal?
World Breastfeeding Week: When It is & How to Celebrate
What is the Best Breastfeeding Diet?
What is Power Pumping and Does it Work?
How to Warm Up Breast Milk Safely
Best Nipple Shields for Breastfeeding Mamas
When to Tell Work You’re Pregnant (and How)
66 Best Nursing Clothes & Clothing for Breastfeeding Moms