There were times during my son’s first year of life that I felt like I’d welcomed not one, but two new members to our family: our baby and my breast pump. I returned to full-time work when he was 16 weeks old and I pumped milk for him at my office until he was 11 months old.
Three times a day, I would close my office door and set up my little machine to express milk for my baby. I don’t know how many hours I spent hooked up to that gizmo but it was enough that I got really efficient at the whole process. I won’t say it was the best part of being a working mother (happy hour on a day when daddy could do pick-up takes that title) but it doesn’t have to be a chore either.
The biggest piece of advice I would give any mom returning to the workplace with plans to pump is to know your rights. Under the Affordable Care Act, all employers must provide reasonable breaks and a private space (other than a bathroom) for mothers to express milk. Click here for a fact sheet about the rules from the US Department of Labor. Talk with HR before you return from leave to work out the details of how this will work with your particular job.
Also, practice pumping at home so you know about how long you’ll need for breaks and work with your job to structure them into your day. Check out the space they’ll give you to pump and ask if you can alter it to make it more comfortable. Sure, shelling out your own money for a lamp and a back support pillow might seem like a drag, but you’re going to spending a lot of time in there so it’s worth the investment. And make sure both HR and your supervisor are clued in to your needs as you return and as they change over time. Communication is key for any working mother!
Here are a few other practical things to pick up to help with pumping at work: