How to Prepare For Pumping at Work

Breast Milk pumped at work
Photo © Jamie Grill/Getty Images

If you are going to work after having a baby, you have probably thought about how you will integrate pumping or feeding your baby during work hours into your schedule. Maybe you know other employees who have already been successful at making this work, or maybe you will be a trailblazer at your job. Either way, there are things that you can do to make your life a bit simpler when it comes to pumping.

You should try to have as much of this ready before going back to work. And once you are back at work, it’s important to lay this stuff out the night before. It can be all too easy to forget something and nothing is worse than getting to work, only to realize that you only have one of your flanges. If you are using a hand expression technique, your list would obviously be a bit shorter.

  1. Learn about pumping. What I mean here is that you should learn about the process of how to pump, how to get the most breast milk possible, and how to safely store your milk. Take a breastfeeding specific class. The tiny bit that you’re given in childbirth class is nice, but it can’t beat some dedicated time to breastfeeding. Want to take that up a notch further? Look for a breastfeeding and working class. Many lactation consultants and hospitals offer these types of classes. This is a great way to increase your specific knowledge and ask targeted questions.
  1. Prepare for pumping. You will need some equipment. If you intend to use a breast pump, at a minimum, you will need:

    You may also want to have some other items to help you, including:

    • Breast pump (with attachments and power source)
    • Storage for breast milk (bags or bottles)
    • Cold storage (cooler or refrigerator)
    • Something to clean your pump parts

    Here are some examples of things to make life easier:

    • Hands-free pumping bra
    • Picture of your baby
    • Something to aid in relaxation
  1. Learn about hand expression. A recent study showed that many women are able to get just as much milk using hand expression techniques as the fancy pumps. While this may not be something that you want to do, learning how to use hand expression might save you if you ever find yourself in a situation listed above.
  2. Get your space ready. This can mean finding a place to pump, store your supplies, and sit comfortably. Some employees choose to work while pumping, while others find that relaxing and leaving work behind is more conducive to making more milk faster. This might be something that works on with trial and error.

Breastfeeding is considered the optimal way to feed your baby. Major medical organizations have all made recommendations for breastfeeding, including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Since the AAP issues the guidelines for pediatricians in the United States, we will talk about their guidelines.

They start by saying that exclusive breastfeeding, meaning only breast milk via breast or other method (e.g. cup or bottle) is to be given in the first six months of your baby’s life.

After that point, solid foods are introduced as complementary to breast milk. They recommend that breastfeeding continues at least until your baby is 1-year-old and may continue as long after that as mutually desired.

One of the issues with this policy is that it does not address the hardships that many women have, particularly as they reenter the workforce after having the baby. This is where protections from the Affordable Care Act’s Break Time for Nursing Mothers comes into play. This provision provides protections for the mother who wishes to pump breast milk or feed her baby during working hours. It provides for adequate breaks and time to feed or pump as well as sets some minimum standards for where an employee can be asked to pump. For example, it is illegal to ask or require that you pump milk in a bathroom.

The preparation that you put into your prep work to go back to work can help you be more comfortable while working and pumping. It can increase your confidence and help to make you successful in meeting your goals.


American Academy of Pediatrics. (2012). Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics, 129(3), e827-841. doi: 10.1542/peds.2011-3552
Becker, G. E., Smith, H. A., & Cooney, F. (2015). Methods of milk expression for lactating women. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 2, Cd006170. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD006170.pub4

Continue Reading