If you’re a working mom who is breastfeeding or exclusively pumping to feed your baby, you’re likely preparing to pump in the workplace when you return to your job after maternity leave. After all, breastfeeding and pumping can be difficult journeys for many women, and you don’t want a little thing like being away from your baby for oh, say, nine hours a day to interfere with your ability to provide them with the nutrients they need to grow and develop. However, pumping in the workplace brings with it a whole host of challenges, and many moms stop breastfeeding earlier than they want to simply because pumping at work is too difficult.
Read on for the top five challenges pumping moms face, and tips to help overcome them in order to meet your breastfeeding goals.
Foremost in a pumping mom’s mind is the question of where she can successfully accomplish multiple pumps each day in relative privacy. The law varies on what a breastfeeding mom is entitled to, depending on where she lives and works. Some workplaces make it easy, providing cushy lactation rooms, while other moms find themselves in the parking lot, trying to surreptitiously pump the “liquid gold” without other motorists noticing.
If you’ve got a private office, a dedicated pumping room or even a private restroom, you’ll find your pumping journey much easier. However, if you lack a truly private space, you may need to get creative. Our Ike & Leo Multipurpose Car Seat and Nursing Cover provides you with the comfort and security of a private pumping experience, and protection against accidentally flashing an unsuspecting coworker in the breakroom! Our nursing covers are made of soft, breathable fabric and they go the extra mile by doubling as a cover for a car seat, stroller or shopping cart.
If there’s one thing that can cause a dip in a mom’s milk supply, it’s stress. Going back to work is intrinsically stressful no matter your work situation because you’ll be faced with leaving the baby you’ve spent every waking hour with since their birth – it can be absolutely heart-wrenching. Plus you’ve likely got a lot to get caught up on. If the lack of a private pumping space is on your mind, too, the stress can mount quickly. And as many moms know, stress plus switching to pumping during the workday is a recipe for a declining milk supply.
Try to head off stress before it starts by setting yourself up for pumping success. Plan ahead so you know where you’ll be pumping, and talk with your boss about how your workday might change a bit in order to fit in pumping sessions. (Ideally, you’ll want at least 20-30 minutes every 2-3 hours.)
Stress can also make it difficult for your milk to let-down, meaning you’ll get less when you pump. Many moms say that looking at photos or videos of their babies while they pump gets the oxytocin flowing, thereby lowering stress levels and helping with let-down.
Lugging your pump and accessories to and from work each day is a hassle many a new mom experiences. It doesn’t stop there, though. You’ll also need a cooler or other storage system, snacks for in between pumps and a change of clothes in case you begin leaking milk before you can get to your next pumping session. You can help minimize this last concern by using absorbent breast pads like our leak-proof Ike & Leo Nursing Pads. They’re organic and made from bamboo, meaning they’re incredibly soft while also providing the protection you need. The fabric is breathable and machine-washable, so you can use them over and over.
So you’ve successfully located a semi-private place to pump, you’ve hauled all your equipment in, and now you’ve got to make a plan to keep your pumped milk cold until you can get it home to your fridge or freezer. If you’re lucky enough to have your own mini fridge, this is a no-brainer. However, it gets a little dicey if all you have at your disposal is a shared, possibly germy, refrigerator – or none at all. Luckily, you can find breastmilk cooler bags and ice pack sets that can keep your precious commodity cold for up to twelve hours, no fridge necessary.
Many moms also face difficulty in carving out the necessary time in their daily schedules to accommodate a pumping routine that will keep their supply up and continue to provide the number of ounces baby needs. It’s not simply the logistics of fitting four or more pumping sessions into the day – although that can be fairly tricky in and of itself – it’s the feeling of apprehension that coworkers won’t understand or that they’ll be judgmental – or even resentful – about your altered availability.
On the logistics side, take time at the beginning of each week to spec out your pumping sessions for the remainder of the week, and add them into your schedule. Treat them as non-negotiable meetings and hold yourself accountable for logging all your pumps each day. On the more emotional side of this issue, speak openly to your boss about your needs, and explain to coworkers if you’d like, too. You’ll find the majority of them to be understanding and supportive of your decision. Though you don’t owe an explanation to anyone, it can be helpful to talk about it, especially if you can commiserate with other moms who have been in your shoes.
The ability to breastfeed your baby is a blessing, but it can be a hard-fought battle to pump after you return to work. The above tips can help you troubleshoot common challenges, but every mama’s experience is different. Be kind to yourself while you adjust to returning to work, focus on getting into a new routine and pump, pump, pump that liquid gold. You’ve got this!