Tips for successful breast-pumping at work

Consumer Reports News: December 22, 2008 04:34 PM

Q: I’m returning to work soon and planning to continue breast-feeding, but I’m nervous about using a breast pump. Any suggestions for making on-the-job pumping easier?

A: Sure. Combining work and using a breast pump can be done and countless women do it daily. Here are tips from moms who’ve been there, and other experts.

  • Get a double electric breast pump. Don’t waste your time single-pumping. “Buy the best, most powerful unit you can afford. Without the right equipment, you’re almost doomed to fail,” says Jeanmarie Ferrara, the mother of a 10-month-old daughter, from Miami.
  • Learn to pump during your maternity leave so you’re familiar with your pump and have the system down by the time you return to work.
  • Don’t psyche yourself out. Pumping at work can be challenging, but if you dwell on the negative, you’ll talk yourself out of it. And don’t feel guilty either. “Most smokers are taking more breaks than I do,” says Hillary Bates, the mom of one from Columbus, Ohio, who has been pumping at work for four months.
  • Pump in a room with a lock on the door, if possible. You’ll need privacy to relax.
  • “Keep to a strict pumping schedule, a set number of times daily for no less than 15 minutes,” says Julie Kupsov, the mother of an 11-month-old, from Farmington Hills, Michigan. If you work in an office that uses electronic calendars, mark off time for your daily pumping breaks. It reduces the chance you’ll have meetings that conflict with your regular pumping time. Going too long between pumping sessions can be uncomfortable.
  • “Use the time you pump to catch up on e-mails or do light reading so you can keep working, too,” says Tracy Baldwin, a new mom from Chicago. “But don’t pump while you’re on the phone with co-workers. It puts them in an awkward position; ‘What’s that noise?’”
  • Bring your baby’s T shirt from home. A photo of your baby is nice, “but it’s the smell that tricks your body into thinking your baby is nearby, which can help with let down,” says Dr. Miriam H. Labbok, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Center for Infant and Young Child Feeding and Care at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
  • Consider skipping the company outing. “A few weeks after I came back from maternity leave, my company had its semi-annual outing to a museum and lobster bay cruise. I couldn’t find a quiet and private place to pump, so I ended up locking myself in the bathroom of the bus we chartered. While it turned into an interesting bonding opportunity with my colleagues (they were painfully aware of what I was doing), I would probably skip out on this type of all-day event if I had to do it all over again,” says Angie Henderson Moncada, the mom of a 12-month-old from Miami Beach, Florida.
  • Keep plenty of ice packs on hand or get a small refrigerator for your office to keep milk cold (and safe for your baby to consume).

Got a pumping tip? Send us your comments and share them with others.

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