Tips on Pumping at Work with an Irregular Schedule
For moms whose jobs aren't the typical 9-5, pumping at work takes a little more planning, relying on coworkers, and ingenuity.
Pumping at work takes a lot of dedication, planning, and well…work. And for moms whose jobs don’t have flexibility or regular break times, it can be downright challenging. Finding a time and place to pump is sometimes easier said than done when you’re a server at the peak of dinner service, an ER nurse in the middle of a 12-hour shift, or a teacher with recess supervision duty.
But a lot of amazing women pump at work with unusual schedules every day. It can be done! Sometimes it just takes a little more planning, a little more relying on coworkers, and a little more ingenuity. We asked our community of working mamas for their best tips and tricks for making pumping at work…work. This is what they had to say:
Whether you’re a hairstylist, police officer, paramedic, teacher, restaurant or retail staff, doctor, nurse, or anyone working an unpredictable schedule, the number one tip from moms who’ve done it before is to be flexible. While ideally you should pump about every three hours that you’re away from baby, to help maintain your breast milk supply on days when that’s not possible, pump whenever and wherever you can, even if it’s just for 10 minutes.
Communicate with your coworkers and managers about pumping during the workday. Sometimes managers will accommodate your schedule, and having coworkers who can cover you for a quick break is incredibly helpful. However, if you’re not lucky enough to have a good support system at work, it’s still important to keep the communication lines open in order to meet your breastfeeding goals.
Invest in a car adaptor and pump in your car immediately before and after work (just not while driving). If you're self-conscious about people potentially seeing you, just bring a cover for extra privacy.
Tips for Teachers
- Pump before school, during lunch and/or recess, and after school. And, if you have a prep time, pump then, too.
- Bring a mini refrigerator for your classroom so you can store your breast milk away from the congested refrigerator in the teachers’ lounge.
- Talk to your administrators to see how they can help accommodate you. You might even find your administrators are willing to help cover your classroom or give you their office for 15 minutes.
- Rely on your coworkers if you can. Most schools are full of moms who understand what you’re going through and are often more than happy to cover your classroom when they have a free moment.
- Make your classroom your pumping space by getting creative with your “pumping in progress” sign. Some teacher moms mentioned hanging a picture of a cow on their locked door to signal to coworkers that they were pumping and to stay out, while also keeping curious students in the dark.
Tips for Nurses, Doctors, and Healthcare Pros
- Arrive a bit early to work and pump in the parking lot right before heading in. This is especially helpful if your shift tends to be unpredictable – like the no-lunch-break, unexpected-patient-emergencies kind of day.
- Take advantage of empty hospital rooms by using them for pump breaks.
- Use the time you would be sitting and charting to pump. It helps to use a hands-free pumping bra.
- Talk to coworkers who have successfully pumped at work to see if they would mind covering your patients for 30 minutes. Oftentimes moms who have been there before are happy to help out a fellow mama.
Investing in helpful supplies like disposable nursing pads to protect your clothing or uniform from unexpected leakage – particularly if you haven’t had a spare moment for a pumping break – and a comfortable nursing and pumping bra for the postpartum support and easy pumping access you deserve can often prove advantageous. These items often provide added comfort during a busy or irregular shift at work, particularly if you're on your feet most of the time.
It may also be helpful to keep a detailed pumping log on hand, so you can conveniently track your pumping sessions in real-time, stay organized, and not skip a beat - or a session! - while balancing pumping with work.
Remember, there are laws in place that protect the rights of working moms in the U.S. and provide them with encouragement to continue breastfeeding. And, depending on which state you live in, you may have additional rights. It’s helpful to brush up on what your rights are, and how to discuss your plan to pump at work with your employer before you head back to work. You can also find helpful resources at medela.us/kin or by clicking the graphic below to see how you can begin advocating for yourself - and other breastfeeding parents! - at your workplace and navigating these conversations with confidence, so you can feed your little one with breast milk for as long as you choose.