Nowadays it is common that mothers would like to continue to breastfeed their babies after returning to work. Pumping at work is certainly possible and can be done if you plan, prepare and execute it properly. Here’s how we can prepare ourselves for pumping at work:
1. Discuss with your employer prior returning to work
You must inform and discuss with your employer that you wish to continue to breastfeed your baby after returning to work. This is because you certainly need a short break to express your breastmilk during working hours. Hence, it is necessary to get a clear understanding and agreement from your superior for the pumping time that you need. The agreement is important to:
i) To avoid any misunderstanding for your absence at your workplace, even it is just for 20-30 minutes
ii) To arrange the urgent work when you need to take the short break for expressing breastmilk
iii) To arrange any meeting and discussion before or after your pumping time
It is common for breastfeeding mothers to continue pumping at work. The communication with your employer is vital. Speak and explain to him/her about your pumping time required in a day and how can you catch up with your work after the pumping time. It is important for your superior to understand your needs and plan.
2. Get a clean and private room
It is not surprise that many organizations have a nursing room for their employees. Firstly, check with your Human Resource Department/superior or colleagues whether there is any nursing room allocated for you to express your breastmilk. If so, just make sure you know how to access to the nursing room such as where to get the key; any booking required; opening / closing time and others.
If there is no nursing room allocated in your workplace, you must check out other rooms (not a toilet) which you can use for expressing your breastmilk without disturbing by others. You must ensure the room is clean and private. Example, meeting room, medical room, interview room or others. Again, check with Human Resource Department / superior or colleagues if you are not sure. Be proactive to get what you need.
3. Find a storage place
You need to ensure your breastmilk stay cool when you are at work. Hence, it will be good if you can store your breastmilk in a refrigerator. If it is a shared refrigerator, you must label your breastmilk bottle / storage bags with your name, date and time that you express the breastmilk. In addition, you may consider putting your breastmilk bottle or storage bags in a food storage / sandwich bag with zipper. This is to ensure your keep your breastmilk safe and clean if it is a shared refrigerator. It is easier for you to recognized and transfer it to the cooler bag before you go home.
If there is no refrigerator in your office, you can get a few Ice packs to helps to cool your breastmilk in the office. Firstly, make sure you place your ice pack flat in the freezer (at home) for 8 hours prior to each use. After you have expressed your breastmilk, place the breastmilk in your cooler bag with the ice pack place on top or side of items to be cooled. For optimum results, place 2 to 3 pieces of ice packs to keep the breastmilk chilled. If you are using this method, you are advice to test it prior returning to work. Different brand of ice packs and cooler bag work differently.
4. Prepare items to bring for pumping at work
You need a few breastfeeding kits when you need to express in the office. Make sure you pack the following before you head on to office:
i. Breast Pump – Bring your manual or electric breast pump with you to express your breastmilk. If you are bringing your electric breast pump with you, please make sure the breast pump is fully charged or bring your power cable with you. It will be quite disturbing if your breast pump runs out of power in the middle of expressing the breastmilk.
ii. Collection Bottle / Storage Bag – Prepare more collection bottles or storage bags with you so that you have enough storage for your breastmilk.
iii. Cooler Bag and Ice Packs – Cooler bag that comes with insulated inner (with padding) is required so that you can keep your breastmilk cooler while you are on the go. Check the size of the cooler bag that you need. Some cooler bag can hold up to 8 standard neck bottles (5oz each) or 8 storage bags (7oz each) and some store less. As Malaysia weather is quite hot and traffic could be busy after working hours, it will be good that you have your ice pack in your cooler bag to keep your breastmilk chilled up. You are advised to keep the electric breast pump separate from the milk, i.e. put them in separate compartments to avoid breastmilk spilling on the electric breast pump.
iv. Nursing Cover / Muslin Cloth – If you are sharing the nursing room with other colleagues, you may want to prepare a nursing cover or muslin cloth so that you can cover your body while expressing the breastmilk. Nursing cover is made of lightweight material that is breathable, hence it is not hot to put on the cover while expressing.
v. Cleaning Brush – If you pump more than 1 time in the office, you may want to bring your cleaning brush to clean the breast pump parts after expressing. All you need is hot water and brush to ensure it is well clean after used.
5. Time it right
If you breastfeed your baby every 4 hours at home, you may want to express it every 4 hours in the office too. This is to help to maintain your breast milk supply and collect enough milk for your baby. If you have a busy schedule or meeting during your pumping time, try to express earlier, says 3 hours instead of waiting till 4 hours where you need to start your meeting.
6. Communication with colleagues
It is not necessary to inform all colleagues about your pumping schedule. However, it will certainly be helpful to inform some of your immediate colleagues while you need to go for your pumping. So that, he/she can help you while you are not at your desk such as picking up your phone call, handling simple queries from superior or even to take down messages on behalf of you. Get understanding from your colleague and seek support from her/him will enhance team work.
In short, pumping at work is not easy but it can be done. All you need to do is to communicate with the relevant parties and seek understanding and support from them. Bring along your breastfeeding kits to the office every day and pump according to your schedule. Pumping at work could be tiring, hence make sure you eat and drink enough water every day. It is important to look after yourself, so that your breastfeeding journey is smooth.
1. “Breastfeeding At Work” Ameda
2. Mindi Stavish “4 Must-Have Products for Breastfeeding Working Mom” Everyday Family
3. “Pumping at work: Tips and mums’ advice” Madela