Breastfeeding at Work: Tips for Non-Office Employees
Working moms sometimes struggle with unique challenges when it comes to continuing to provide their baby with breast milk after returning to the workforce. Here's what you need to know if you're a working parent who is employed outside of the traditional office environment.
More Moms are Breastfeeding at Work After Baby
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, many women who return to work after welcoming their newest baby will continue to exclusively breastfeed for up to six months or longer. However, even with the best intentions and realistic breastfeeding goals, working moms often struggle with unique challenges to continue providing breast milk for their baby after returning to the workforce. After all, scheduling time to pump throughout the work day can sometimes be a difficult task – often made even tougher if her employer is unsupportive or doesn’t have specific lactation policies in place.
When working in an office environment, a new mom will typically reserve regular time in her building’s onsite lactation space. Still, she will often have to ensure she has all her necessary pumping supplies with her each day, including her breast pump and kit, milk storage bags, a cooler and ice packs (if a refrigerator is not available), nursing pads, cleaning wipes, and more. As challenging as this routine can be when returning to work at the office, new parents who don’t actually have a “traditional” office area that they work from often encounter a range of additional unique challenges when trying to meet their breastfeeding goals.
Breastfeeding at Work and "Mobile" Workspaces
There are many industries with employees who travel for most of their workday. From road warrior salespeople to delivery drivers, pilots, and flight attendants, pumping breast milk while constantly on the go can be challenging without the right support from your employer. If you find yourself on the list below, you may already know that pumping in the same place consistently while at work is not very common:
- Traveling nurses and home healthcare workers
- Social workers and community service professionals
- Delivery drivers and mail carriers
- Construction workers, architects, contractors, and construction managers
- Agricultural workers
- Corporate event planners, housekeepers, and other hospitality workers
- Traveling salespeople
- Pilots and flight attendants
Whether you’re a hybrid worker who is based remotely but on the go a few days each week or your schedule is 100% travel-based, it’s important to plan ahead so you can continue providing breast milk to your baby as long as you choose and meet your unique breastfeeding goals.
Breastfeeding at Work With Non-Traditional Schedules
Even if you work at the same location each shift, continuing your breastfeeding journey at work when you work a non-traditional schedule that falls outside of the typical 8 or 9 to 5 or 6 can sometimes require extra patience and commitment – as well as sincere support from your employer. This may sound especially familiar if you’re one of the following:
- Doctor, nurse, clinician, or healthcare worker
- Teacher or educational staff
- Retail employee
- Chef, barista, or restaurant staff
- Hair stylist, massage therapist, or esthetician
- Real estate agent
- Personal trainer or fitness professional
- Dentist or dental hygienist
With non-traditional schedules that may differ from week to week while including everything from early mornings to late evenings, weekends, and holidays, having the right resources and tools to support your breastfeeding experience is key. Consider these tips to help encourage a seamless transition back to work after delivering your newest family member:
1. Have Your Pump Bag Ready When You Are
We get it, mama – Proactive preparation is not always something high on tired new parent’s to-do list. That said, there may be no better phrase than “be prepared” for a working mom on the go. A great way to prepare for continuing your breastfeeding journey at work, though, is to organize your pump bag ahead of time. Start by making a list of everything (and we mean everything!) you might need when pumping at work, such as:
- Your breast pump, kit, and charger (if applicable)
- Milk storage bags or other collection containers
- Nursing pads
- An extra bra and top, in case of unexpected leakage
- Portable cooler with ice packs, if no refrigerator is available for storage
- Sanitizing wipes and spray
- Plastic, sealable bag to hold wet or used pump parts
- Water bottle and snacks
- Phone charger, so you can look at all those cute photos and videos of your baby to help encourage let-down when needed
Though the list above isn’t comprehensive – and you’ll soon figure out a routine with your own unique must-haves! – having your pump and breastfeeding essentials easily accessible can help make pumping at work a more seamless and less nerve-wracking experience.
2. Use a Breast Pump Designed for Moms On the Go
Using a lightweight, easily portable breast pump designed specifically for parents who may need a more flexible solution and who may often need to pump on the go can make the back to work transition much easier, no matter what your schedule may be.
Freestyle™ Hands-free is a double-electric wearable breast pump that gives busy parents the flexibility to pump wherever they are and supports totally hands-free multitasking. The portable, compact, and pocket-sized pump is a separate unit, allowing ultra-light collection cups to fit discreetly inside your bra to maximize milk expression without weighing you down. That means no matter where you might be pumping while working or what your schedule, workplace, or profession looks like, you can still have a superior hands-free pumping experience with our smallest and first wearable breast pump.
3. Communicate with Your Employer!
Though discussing things like lactation and pumping at work may feel awkward at first, communicating openly and regularly with your employer can help set everyone’s expectations as soon as you return to work. This can sometimes mean being extra-clear that you intend to continue pumping at work and familiarizing yourself with any existing lactation and parental policies through your company, as well as state and federal laws like the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Break Time for Nursing Mothers law.
Depending on your comfort level, you may wish to request for an HR representative to be part of the conversation as they may be more familiar with what’s available to you as a working and breastfeeding mom. Either way, chatting about the best ways to integrate pumping into your routine once you’ve transitioned back to work can help you feel supported in your return and as a parent.
With a little extra preparation and perseverance, as well as some compromise and flexibility on your employer’s part, continuing your breastfeeding journey after returning to work – no matter what work looks like for you! – can be done. You’ve got this!