Ask the Experts: Pumping at work

I'm heading back to work and planning to pump. How can I set myself up for success? 

A: You’re a mom who packs up your pump when you head to work so your baby can continue to have the very best nourishment. Bravo! Here are some tips to make it a win-win-win: for you, your baby and your employer.

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.

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

  • Lactation programs are cost-effective, showing a $3:1 return on investment.
  • One-day absences to care for sick children occur more than twice as often for mothers of formula-fed infants.
  • Breastfeeding lowers insurance claims for businesses. One study showed that for every 1,000 babies not breastfed, there were more than 2,000 extra physician visits, 212 extra hospitalization days and 609 extra prescriptions to treat just three common childhood illnesses.

Meet with your employer.
It’s important to explain your need to have regularly scheduled pumping sessions to your employer. When you do, remember that the Affordable Care Act is on your side! This health care law stipulates that an employer must provide the time and space for pumping moms. For details and an explanation of your rights as a nursing mother, visit the Department of Labor’s website.

Create a schedule.
Plan your pumping schedule to replicate your baby’s nursing times, so your body gets the necessary signals to continue producing milk. Avoid skipping sessions, which can signal your body to produce less milk.

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

Be flexible, but don’t neglect your breasts.
Consider your employer’s needs as well as your own. Even if you have only a few minutes, pump anyway (if at all possible) to avoid skipping a session. Regular stimulation is more important for your body’s response than duration. (Besides, if you don’t pump, you’ll become uncomfortable as your breasts fill with milk.) Pumping takes extra effort, especially at work—but it’s worth it for your baby, for you and even for your employer.

—Gina Ciagne, vice president, global relations at Lansinoh and certified lactation counselor


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