Survival Guide: Pumping at Work



Despite supportive workplaces, laws keeping pumping moms out of bathrooms, and the most work-friendly accessories available, returning to work as a new mom can be a struggle for new moms navigating “the pump.”

Pumping at work can mean three to five breaks a day lasting 10-30 minutes depending on both your and your baby’s needs. And it’s a difficult topic to broach at work (much less do it).

Having gone through the process twice now, I realized where I made my life harder the first time around and dramatically improved my pump at work routine the second time around…resulting in less hormonal tears, fewer mastitis scares, and better communication/understanding among my coworkers. Here are my best tips:

Talk About it Before You Leave

I planned on breastfeeding before I was pregnant with my first … but this new mom thought it would be a piece of cake. I never considered the emotional and physical toll it can have on your body, even 6-8 weeks after giving birth. Because of this, I never told my coworkers/boss I was planning to breastfeed. This lack of planning led to harder (read: more hormonal) conversations after I got back from maternity leave about how often I needed to take breaks, and how I could schedule my day.

The second time around I had several conversations with my supervisor, boss and the office manager about pumping at work. I was the first person at my company to breastfeed and came back to a room outfitted for pumping. More so, for any off-site meetings, the office manager had my back and would ask where I could pump prior to the meeting … complete with an adorable little sign.

Don’t Be Afraid to Talk About “It”

It’s so easy to say “I need a break” or “just give me 10 minutes” and be vague about why you need the time. However, what I realized with Baby #1, is that just because pumping is always on your mind, it’s not always on your coworkers’ radar. By clearly stating to coworkers, “I’ll be pumping at that time”, or even just putting it on my calendar, I had less pushback for meeting times because it wasn’t just a random break that could be moved, etc. 

Be Firm and Educate

Sometimes, talking about “it” doesn’t always work, and I’ve had my fair share of comments from well-meaning people who simply don’t understand the process. (I won’t judge them because I was that person four years ago)… I did find a lot of success using Baby #2 as an education method (i.e. “Yes, I do need my room right now because I need to pump at the same time every day.” or  “No, breastfeeding is supply and demand, I cannot just pump ‘more’ later.”) This helped clear up confusion for people who don’t live in the world, and also made me feel like I didn’t have to hide that part of my life.

pumping at work
Photo Credit: Molly Smith

Know What Works for You

I read all the things before going back to work as a pumping mama. From the best pumps, hands-free bras, power foods and pictures of babies. Each mom is an individual. I needed all the water, cosmic brownies and ten minutes of The Office to have a successful pump session. (Really…more power to the moms that can pump and conference call at the same time … I’m not one of them.)

Be Supportive

A few months after I had stopped pumping, another coworker came back from maternity leave and began pumping. It’s amazing just how much I had forgotten the trials and errors I had experienced just months beforehand, but I used it as an opportunity to bond with my coworker and be there for any concerns/frustrations she had about pumping in the office. 

Working moms! What are your best pumping at work stories? Tell me in the comments!

(P.S. Want to see our favorite nursing rooms around Columbus?)