When I went back to work as a television journalist after having my first baby, I realised I was a bit of a pioneer. As I entered, breast pump in hand, I knew that no other employee had ever set foot in our office with such a contraption. It would be an education for me, and my colleagues. Here are my top-shelf tips to get you prepped for pumping at work.
First things first – my ultimate piece of advice is to do what works for your family. Don’t feel the pressure to pump at work – but if you have the support you need, it’s a great way to continue your breastfeeding journey with your bub. So, if your maternity leave is drawing to a close, here’s what you need to be thinking about if you’re going to express breastmilk at work.
Assess how much your baby is feeding
This obviously depends on your baby’s age, and your own individual situation. Try and keep some notes on how many feeds your baby is having during the time that you’ll be at work. You’ll need to express the same amount of times that you would be feeding your baby, to ensure you keep up your supply. And of course, if you store that milk correctly, it can be used to feed your baby later on. If you’re unsure, get some information from a lactation consultant.
Talk to your employer
There are a few things you’ll need to make sure you’re comfortable expressing breastmilk at work. When I returned to work, I simply let my colleagues know that there would be times that I’d be in the tea room, pumping milk. I preferred to have private time to do this, so I just popped a sign on the door asking that I not be disturbed for 10 minutes while I expressed.
If you can, negotiate with your employer so you can start back on a Thursday or Friday for your first week back. It will just give both you and your baby the chance to test the waters for a couple of days, before launching into your new breastfeeding relationship.
You’ll need to make sure you have somewhere to store your breastmilk once you’ve finished pumping, and the best place is the workplace fridge.
Have a chat to your employer, and make sure they understand what support you’ll need, including a suitable room (not a toilet). Make sure that you explain to your employer that you’re able to work pumping sessions around when you’d usually have a break. If your employer isn’t sure how they can support you, the Australian Breastfeeding Association has prepared some great information on breastfeeding friendly workplaces.
Talk to your colleagues
Be open about what you’re doing, and why perhaps you need some privacy in the tea room throughout the day. I worked with a few men who had never had any interaction with breastfeeding or pumping, so take the time to give them a bit of an education. It will mean you’re both more comfortable.
Create a pumping kit
Any mum who has expressed breastmilk will tell you the more relaxed you are, the better the milk will flow. Workplaces can be high stress environments, so it’s really important that you can create a calm place for your to express. Here are my pumping kit essentials:
- An efficient breast pump. This may be a manual or electric model, depending on your preference, but you’ll need to get familiar with it prior to returning to work. Use it for a few weeks before returning so you get the hang of it, and so you can see how long it takes you to express. The key is to find a pump that is comfortable, and efficient so you can make the most of the time you have. Ardo has a brilliant range of pumps, that support both single and double pumping. You can adjust both the vacuum and the cycle settings and they have even won an award for quietest breast pump on the market! They are designed to help you breastfeed for longer, and are really easy to use.
- A muslin cloth or blanket. If you’re going to be expressing in a tea room, there may be other people around, and it can be a little tricky to get yourself positioned correctly for pumping. So you can use this cloth to give yourself a little privacy while you’re getting going.
- A picture of your baby. You know how the mere sound of your baby crying can force an instant milk let-down? The same can work when your baby isn’t around, but you look at their picture. It can be enough to trigger a let-down response and help your milk flow (and, of course, it never hurts to stare at picture of your gorgeous baby!).
- Storage containers. You can pump directly into bottles, and store your milk in your own specially-designed cooler bag, or you can use pre-sterilised freezer bags and pop them into the work freezer. Just set a reminder on your phone to take them home – I arrived home many times cursing that I’d left my milk in the fridge at work!
Remember that every breastfeeding relationship is unique, and it may take a while for you and your baby to adjust. If things aren’t working for you and your family, have a chat to your employer and a lactation consultant, because it’s important you feel comfortable and supported. And if you’re on the lookout for the perfect pump, take a look at the Ardo range.
(This is a sponsored post for Ardo)