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Making It Work

Pumping at the Office

From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 17 No. 1, January-February 2000, pp 22-24

We provide articles from our publications from previous years for reference for our Leaders and members. Readers are cautioned to remember that research and medical information change over time.

"Making It Work" is a regular feature of the magazine NEW BEGINNINGS, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of NEW BEGINNINGS to help mothers who wish to combine breastfeeding and working. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's lifestyle. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.

Situation

I'll be returning to work in a couple of months after giving birth to my first child. I want to continue to breastfeed but am worried about the logistics of pumping milk during the day at work. I work in an office cubicle in an open area. I do not see any electrical outlets in our women's restroom. I have a one-half hour lunch break and a short break (less than ten minutes) each morning and afternoon. How have others found both the time to pump as well as a private, comfortable place in which to pump?

Response

I've worked and breastfed two children, and while making it all work may not be easy, it certainly is worth it! I know mothers who pump in their cubicles. They use a filing cabinet to make the cube opening smaller and stretch a sheet to cover the opening while pumping. A baby toy on top of the filing cabinet is a visual aid to remind coworkers that you are pumping. With a hands-free kit, a large shirt to keep yourself covered, and a quality pump which purrs quietly, you can continue working, take a few minutes to catch up on personal matters or reading, or simply meditate and think about your baby.

Once they are aware of the many benefits to supporting working, breastfeeding mothers, many companies are happy to arrange a small pumping area. The answer might be as simple as putting a lock on a conference room door, using a supervisor's office, or setting up a corner of a storage room with a comfortable chair. Your company also might direct you for support and ideas to other mothers in your company who successfully pumped.

Joylyn Fowler
Huntington Beach CA USA

Response

Have you talked to your supervisor or human resources department about a place to pump? Don't assume there isn't a place. My company has Mother's Rooms in several buildings, yet one woman was pumping in her car because she didn't know about the rooms. Even if there isn't a room specifically set aside for this purpose, there may have been another mother who has pumped and worked out all the details for you. If you are a trailblazer at your company, don't be afraid. You could be surprised at how willing some people are to accommodate a nursing mother. My male boss has been wonderful this time around! I was so scared to make waves with my first baby and did not end up with a good pumping environment.

To pump quickly, buy extra pump parts such as flanges, valves, and membranes so that you don't have to wash equipment during the day. I bring my parts to work as fully assembled as possible. I leave the hoses attached to the pump and the power pack too! All I have to do is attach bottles to flanges and flanges to hoses and I'm set. After I pump, I throw the "dirty dishes" in a plastic bag to take home to wash later and attach a new set for my next pumping session. I can pump in just under 15 minutes with this system and, if needed, could cut it shorter.

Marie L. Hughes
Fremont CA USA

Response

Many firms, both large and small, are now providing women with a place to either nurse their babies or pump. In many states, it is the law. I work in a large firm that provides a small windowless room with electricity and a large comfortable couch for mothers who are pumping. This room is also used for storage, so it is not a waste of space for the company. I pumped twice a day for 15-20 minutes at a time. I also regularly pumped first thing in the morning before my son woke up, and a couple of extra times on the weekends to ensure that there was always a little extra milk in case my supply dropped or the baby's demand increased.

Explain to your supervisor that breast milk will keep your child healthy, thereby reducing your need for days off. Since your total break time is so short, maybe you could divide it up differently. See what works best for you. Some women at my job felt more comfortable pumping three times a day at work, and they divided their time accordingly. Pumping breast milk for your child will make working outside the home a little easier because you will know that you are providing the best nutrition there is for your child.

Lisa J. Matelle
Brooklyn NY USA

Response

I recently returned to work after having a baby, and I worried too about where I would pump. My workplace consists of all cubicles, no offices, and only a few conference rooms. My suggestion is to get a car adapter for your pump, pull your car up to a secluded spot in the parking lot (or find one in the neighborhood, as I had to do), put on your favorite radio station, roll down the windows (or crank up the air conditioning or heat), and relax! At first, this idea struck me as crazy. It seemed like a hassle to leave the building. I thought it would take too much time. I was afraid people would walk by and see me. And I imagined that it would be physically uncomfortable. In fact, it turned out to be great. I always have a private place to pump, and I don't have to worry about reserving a room or being interrupted. Also, being physically outside of the office helped me relax more, and with a double pump, the door-to-door time is usually 15 minutes or less. The bonus is that I return to work refreshed and clear-headed after stepping away from the intensity for a few minutes. Good luck!

Miriam Fein-Cole
Lexington MA USA

Response

Visit your workplace and scout around for conference rooms, janitor's closets (sounds silly but they have sinks and outlets and are usually not used during the day), shower rooms - use your imagination. I sent an email to the primary users of a shower room and to other pregnant women in our building, asking their opinion on some changes to the room. With everyone's input, we asked for a bench, an extra shower curtain dividing the space (so someone could pump on one side while others showered on the other), and a multi-prong electrical outlet. Our request emphasized making the room multi-functional for showering, pumping (milk), and changing. We also asked them to install outlets in the handicap stalls in the bathrooms on other floors. Our company fulfilled the requests with no arguments!

To streamline the procedure, use a double electric pump. Insurers are beginning to cover the cost, especially if you provide a letter or prescription from your doctor indicating your need for the pump to supply your baby with breast milk. My routine was to carry the pump in a bag with a cooler and with the cord unwound on top. I had three sets of flanges that I would pre-assemble with the bottles. I used a new set at each pumping session. I didn't take the pump out of the bag. Instead, I'd just plug it in, attach the flanges to the tubes and then to me, and turn it on. Meanwhile I'd read, do paperwork, eat, or massage my breasts if I felt things were going too slowly. Cleaning up consisted of unplugging, pooling the milk, capping the bottles, putting them in the cooler, and zipping up. I left my equipment there for the day, either in the corner or under the chair. A coworker washed her flanges by placing them in a bowl of soapy hot water and letting them soak till after dinner when she swished them around, rinsed them with hot water, and let them air dry. I wore loose untucked shirts that I could just lift to attach the flanges. This saved time and kept me covered in case people walked in. The whole procedure took as little as ten minutes. When I could, I would pump a little longer because I usually got a second let-down at 12-15 minutes. Good luck.

Jodie Lucci
Hooksett NH USA

Response

I went back to work full-time when my daughter was just six weeks old and have been able to successfully breastfeed her exclusively. Following are some things that I found helpful.

I didn't ask my boss for permission to pump my breasts at work. I told him it was something that I had to do. I found that being assertivel eft no room for anyone to question what I was doing; it was just matter of fact. Because I share an office with two other workers (one of whom is a man), I found an unused office that was being used as a storage room and claimed it as my breast pumping room. I pull my chair in there, prop my feet up on a box, and pump away! I have found that calling to check on my daughter before I pump and reading childcare books while I pump helps my milk let down. I make up the time I miss from work by coming in a little early in the morning and leaving a few minutes late.

I started with a small, battery-operated breast pump but found that was not strong or fast enough for regular long-term use. Buying a bigger, more expensive pump was actually cheaper than it would have been to rent a pump for four months. The time and energy it has saved me has been well worth the expense. I can pump both breasts in less than fifteen minutes when I have it on the highest speed and the strongest suction setting. I also purchased the hands-free pumping kit, which has been a real plus. Some nursing bras have loops in them that accommodate the hands-free kit, but I was able to adapt my other bras by sewing elastic bands into them.

My job requires me to make visits to the homes of my clients, so I am out of the office two days a month. On these days, I pump my breasts in my car. I had the rear windows tinted and got an adapter so I can plug my breast pump into the cigarette lighter. I get in the back seat, turn on some relaxing music, and read a good book while I pump. By wearing a nursing top with a jacket or sweater, anyone who happens to see me just thinks I am taking a reading break!

I hope these suggestions are helpful to others who have to pump their breasts at work.

Laura Davis
Athens GA USA

Last updated Thursday, October 19, 2006 by njb.
Page last edited .


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