Making the Pump Work at Work: 6 Tips for Returning To Work After Maternity Leave

By Gina Ciagne

Congratulations! You’re a mom who's heading back to work, breast pump packed, after a few weeks or months spent at home with your newborn. Here are some tips to make it a win-win-win situation for you, your baby and your employer.

1. Make a connection. Every breastfeeding mother has a story about what worked for her when she returned to work. If you know other women who have pumped at work, talk to them about their experiences and solutions to any challenges they may have had. You can also connect with other mothers on breastfeeding message boards.

2. Find time to pump. Plan your pumping schedule to replicate your baby’s nursing times, so that your body gets the necessary signals to continue producing milk. Avoid skipping sessions, as this signals your body to produce less milk.  

3. Be flexible, but don’t neglect your breasts. Consider your employer’s needs, as well as your own. Even if you only have a few minutes, still pump and don’t skip a session, if at all possible.
It will be uncomfortable as your breasts fill with milk, and regular stimulation is more important for your body’s response than pumping time. However, a drained breast will replenish more milk, so ideally pump until your breasts are noticeably less full. Set aside time if your schedule is unpredictable, or be creative about when you pump. For instance, it's possible to read or eat lunch while pumping especially when using a hands-free pumping bra.

4. Find a private place to pump. It’s important to pump without disruption, so that the necessary hormones are released for let-down. Having a lactation room at work is ideal, but other options are a private office or storage room that can lock. Avoid using the bathroom, as it’s not a sanitary place to pump.

5. Discuss the situation with your employer. It’s important to explain your need to have regularly scheduled pumping sessions to your employer. And remember, The Affordable Care Act is on your side! This healthcare law stipulates that an employer must provide the time and space for pumping moms.  And, by the way, it specifically points out that the “space” should not be a bathroom. For more details, you can visit The Department of Labor’s website.

6. Know your facts. Hopefully, you won’t run into any obstacles with your employer.  But if you do, the following facts can help you make a convincing argument to gain support. A study published by the United States Breastfeeding Committee states: 

  • Lactation programs are cost-effective, showing a $3:1 return on investment.
  • Breastfeeding lowers insurance claims for businesses. One study showed that for every 1,000 babies not breastfed, there were over 2,000 extra physician visits, 212 extra hospitalization days, and 609 extra prescriptions to treat just three common childhood illnesses.
  • Overall, by supporting lactation at work, employers can reduce turnover, lower recruitment and training costs, cut rates of absenteeism, boost morale and productivity, and decrease health care costs.

We know that pumping takes extra effort, especially at work. But it can be worth it for your baby, for you and even for your employer!

Gina Ciagne, Lansinoh’s Global Vice President, Healthcare Relations is a nationally recognized expert on breastfeeding.

18th c. image of breast-pump and nipple-shields, Pierre Dionis, via Creative Commons