Maintaining Breastfeeding While Working
Maintaining breastfeeding while working, it is possible to do! Your baby grows in your belly. You imagine her size and what she is hearing. You dream of what her face will look like and how it will feel to hold her in your arms. Your feet swell and your sense of smell too. You feel the texture of her new clothes as you fold them tenderly. You lovingly prepare her bed, her diapers and the little places she will play.
You assemble basinets, cribs, pack and plays, high chairs, rockers, changing tables and strollers until your fingertips ache. You sign up for childbirth classes and breastfeeding classes and you dream about returning to work. You wonder how hard is it to maintain breastfeeding while working?
This dream about maintaining breastfeeding while working is adjacent to, above, and below all the other soft dreams of your baby. Work. Work dreams. Dreams of function. Dreams of practicality. Dreams of pumps and breakrooms, calendars and planning.
A Quick Rant
I want to pretend that we live in a forward thinking, realistic country, that recognizes that we are a country that is made up of families. That the families need support to be productive and to contribute to the economy and culture. But, in America, we value work. Work above family. Our policies don’t support motherhood, or fatherhood all that well.
So, you dream of the future because you must. Because you thought of not working and remembered that you would starve or, at the very least, be anxious and uncomfortable.
(Please excuse this ENTIRE blog if you were really looking forward to going back to work- AND, if you were – right on. I applaud you. I am not so well adjusted)
I like work. I really do. In fact, I need it and yearn for it after several full days of family time. BUT, in my heart I believe a mother should have the support and security to be one on one with her baby for the first year of the baby’s life.
It will take time for such a dream to be realized and in the meantime, there is work and maintaining breastfeeding while working. So, take a deep breath and accept that you must plan for it now so you can worry less later.
So, there it is. You will be having a baby and when that baby is still very small you will go back to work.
You can maintain your bond to your baby and breastfeed while working. The most obvious and brave way to do so is to pump your breastmilk for your baby.
I call it brave, because it is. It’s brave to pull yourself out of your day every few hours and put the work into pumping, then storing your milk, then transporting it home to your baby. It means more work for you. It’s a real act of love to straddle the world of work and the world of motherhood in this way.
I’ve been fighting with the tendency for all of us to plan for returning to work before we have met our baby. But, I have come to terms with the fact that it is human nature to plan like this and so lets embrace it.
Maintaining breastfeeding while working means you will want to find a good pump. One that has a good vacuum. One that can be transported easily. One that has the capacity to plug into your car for power, or take batteries. One that is comfortable for you. One that has breast flanges that fit to YOUR breast. (Flanges are the part of the pump that fit onto your breast and around your nipple- flanges are generally sized per the diameter of your nipple in millimeters). Perhaps one with a “closed” system- that is where the bottle or pumping mechanism will never allow milk to enter the tubing. One that is covered by insurance. Or one that you love, that isn’t covered but you can put on your birth registry. Maintaining breastfeeding while working means that you will need a good strong pump that fits you properly and has a good vacuum.
The list of pumps and their qualities is so vast and deserves its own blog. So, I will try for a brief overview. I’ll start with lowest tech to highest tech methods of removing your breastmilk while working.
Breastfeeding at Work
If you have someone who can bring your baby to you then do that! Some work places have onsite nurseries. Some places of work will be great about you taking your break with your baby. This is a lovely option to maintain breastfeeding while working – if it is doable in your situation. In order to maintain breastfeeding while working, however, you will need to ensure that when you are home and nursing or working and nursing – you are achieving a good latch. Click here for 3 Tips For a Successful Latch.
This is where you use your hands to remove your milk.
Pros: Costs nothing, using your hands to express your milk is researched and reported to empty your breasts more fully, can get things “flowing” quicker, needs no electricity, can be done anywhere, empowering.
Cons: Some people report that it takes longer than electric pumps and can be messy.Working full time and purely using hand expression to maintain breastfeeding while working may be too much of a challenge.
Of note: If you use an electric or manual breast pump -Hand expression of your milk should be used in conjunction. If you follow up your pump session with hand expression it can increase your milk supply and it will certainly allow you to remove a lot more milk from your breasts.
This is a pump that is not electric and uses your hands to work the vacuum back and forth or in and out – depending on its design.
Pros: cheap, quiet, more “hands on”, transportable, low tech, excellent when there is no electricity. I had a friend that was a seasonal worker and worked in a plant nursery where all she had was one of those portable toilets with no electricity. She used her manual pump and felt so grateful for its low-tech ability.
Cons: Time consuming, can feel “inefficient”, may feel less powerful. Not necessarily the choice for exclusive pumping. Using only a manual pump may prove challenging for maintaining breastfeeding while working.
One handed, changeable flanges, alternate finger placement will change quality of suck.
Assembly instruction video:
Avent manual pump
One handed, need to remove petal to change flange size, repeatedly squeeze lever like a hand break on a bike, petal flanges are soft and slightly cushioned.
How to assemble video:
One handed. Adjustable flanges. Hand must squeeze into a fist around handle. Reports of hand/wrist fatigue.
Video on use:
Hakaa and Zerlar
Very portable and simple. Silicone. Work by attaching, squeezing body of collection container.
Nice video on uses:
Double Electric Pumps – Retail
Small, Lightweight, closed system, flexible and soft, vacuum and cycle is adjustable separately, high suction, one size fits all flange. This would be an excellent pump for maintaining breastfeeding while working.
Video on what makes this pump different from others:
Medela Pump in Style
5 speed settings, adjustable flanges, open system, plugs in to car adapter, battery pack available, designed for “several times a day” use. Check vacuum is strong enough to maintain your supply. Many mothers use this pump for maintaining breastfeeding while working
How to use video:
Has stimulation and expression phase, 9 preset suction level modes, multiple flange sizes open system, has a rechargeable battery, lightweight, designed for “several times a day use”, reports of suction building slowly and fading fast – supply maintenance could be an issue if used during full time employment.
How to use video:
Quiet, two phases: stimulation and expression, connects with Medela app, rechargeable battery, 2 pumping rhythms, lightweight, company claims: hospital grade performance, open system, multiple flange sizes.
How to Use:
Ameda Purely Yours
7 flange sizes, vacuum suck cycle can be independently adjusted, closed system, doesn’t specify whether it’s for occasional use but some report that the suctions is not strong enough to maintain a supply when all week, multiple times a day.
How to Use Video:
Spectra 9 plus
2 flange sizes-more can be ordered, use: 1-2 x a day, closed system, multiple modes, rechargeable battery.
How to Use:
Rechargeable, closed system, can be used for exclusive pumping (only pumping – no breastfeeding), 3 main flange sizes with additional “massager inserts” that can be ordered and will further change the flange size, suction strong and adjustable, sucks per minute are adjustable.
How to Use:
Like S2 but requires a wall adaptor. My friend with twins swears that this pump was the best for maintaining breastfeeding while working.
How to Use video:
Many settings, beware of their online “check if you qualify for pump through insurance”- you may get unintentionally charged for a pump, 1 flange size, 2 more flange sizes can be ordered, can be used for exclusive pumping, closed system, rechargeable battery, lightweight, quiet.
How to Use:
How to assemble:
4 flange sizes, multiple pump settings, “massage inserts” that can be placed in flange for more comfort, closet system, quiet, can work off batteries, does not fit well into hands free bras.
How to Use:
Freemie electric pump
A unique system that slides into your bra and collects milk into a cup within your bra, the cups that collect the milk are not meant to be placed in fridge or dishwasher, the cups contain flanges within them – 2 sizes available, freemie has a pump (electric and manual) to connect to their unique cups or you can buy the “cups” that connect to your own pump. This pump – may be one of the top for maintaining breastfeeding while working, purely because it is a stress reducer in that you can pump discreetly in front of anyone without them knowing you are doing it.
How to Use by a breastfeeding mom:
3 flanges (none that are large), two suction modes, Loud, hands free not possible, low vacuum – may lead to supply issues.
Getting Your Pump
If you want to maintain breastfeeding while working you will need to obtain a pump!If you have insurance you can call your insurance company and ask what they cover. If they have a range – jot them down, then look at this list to decide what you like. They may then give you phone numbers to your local DME (Durable Medical Equipment) supplier. You can then call each one and figure out which one carries the one you want. Often they will deliver to your home or you can pick it up in their store. This whole process may also be handled by your lactation consultant at the hospital you deliver – I would inquire to be sure.
If you want to skip these steps I have had some friends highly recommend aeroflow as a company. They will call your insurance company and figure out what you are eligible for then find the pump for you. https://aeroflowbreastpumps.com
To maintain breastfeeding while working you will need to store your milk. You can store your milk in bottles and you can store your milk in bags. You may pump into bottles then take the milk you pumped and pour them into bags. I suggest you make “little meals” of milk to store. About 2 ounces are good to freeze or refrigerate so that you don’t waste your milk. If you prep a 6-ounce bottle for your babe and she only drinks half-you should toss it in an hour. That will make you so sad.
When you are at work you can use the work fridge. If they are cool – pop that milk proudly in plain sight. Or, put it in your lunch bag in the fridge. Refrain from freezing it at work. Then you will be partially thawing on your ride home. Alternatively, if no fridge is available, buy yourself a good cooler with excellent ice packs and put your milk in there. Label your milk. Put the date on them so that you can use up your oldest before it goes bad.
Safe storage of milk is essentially as follows: Just remember the number 4.
4 months in freezer
4 days in fridge
4 hours at room temperature.
That is for milk that hasn’t been drank from already (meaning that there is no baby saliva in it – that changes the storage guidelines).
That is a general storage guideline. There are nuances. If you like nuance, then read the following and refer to it when you need to.
Also…(From the Medela company):
Your Pumping SPACE
You may be a teacher, a nurse, a lawyer, a waitress, a caregiver, a delivery driver. You could be so many things. In order to maintain breastfeeding while working -you need a space to pump your milk. Here are the laws on it : (The following was taken from the Department of Labor website)
Employers are required to provide “reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk.” Employers are also required to provide “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.”
The FLSA requirement of break time for nursing mothers to express breast milk does not preempt State laws that provide greater protections to employees (for example, providing compensated break time, providing break time for exempt employees, or providing break time beyond 1 year after the child’s birth).
Time and Location of Breaks
Employers are required to provide a reasonable amount of break time to express milk as frequently as needed by the nursing mother. The frequency of breaks needed to express milk as well as the duration of each break will likely vary.
A bathroom, even if private, is not a permissible location under the Act. The location provided must be functional as a space for expressing breast milk. If the space is not dedicated to the nursing mother’s use, it must be available when needed in order to meet the statutory requirement. A space temporarily created or converted into a space for expressing milk or made available when needed by the nursing mother is sufficient provided that the space is shielded from view, and free from any intrusion from co-workers and the public.
Coverage and Compensation
Only employees who are not exempt from section 7, which includes the FLSA’s overtime pay requirements, are entitled to breaks to express milk. While employers are not required under the FLSA to provide breaks to nursing mothers who are exempt from the requirements of Section 7, they may be obligated to provide such breaks under State laws.
Employers with fewer than 50 employees are not subject to the FLSA break time requirement if compliance with the provision would impose an undue hardship. Whether compliance would be an undue hardship is determined by looking at the difficulty or expense of compliance for a specific employer in comparison to the size, financial resources, nature, and structure of the employer’s business. All employees who work for the covered employer, regardless of work site, are counted when determining whether this exemption may apply.
Employers are not required under the FLSA to compensate nursing mothers for breaks taken for the purpose of expressing milk. However, where employers already provide compensated breaks, an employee who uses that break time to express milk must be compensated in the same way that other employees are compensated for break time. In addition, the FLSA’s general requirement that the employee must be completely relieved from duty or else the time must be compensated as work time applies. See WHD Fact Sheet #22, Hours Worked under the FLSA .
FLSA Prohibitions on Retaliation
Section 15(a)(3) of the FLSA states that it is a violation for any person to “discharge or in any other manner discriminate against any employee because such employee has filed any complaint or instituted or caused to be instituted any proceeding under or related to this Act, or has testified or is about to testify in any such proceeding, or has served or is about to serve on an industry committee.”
Employees are protected regardless of whether the complaint is made orally or in writing. Complaints made to the Wage and Hour Division are protected, and most courts have ruled that internal complaints to an employer are also protected.
Any employee who is “discharged or in any other manner discriminated against” because, for instance, he or she has filed a complaint or cooperated in an investigation, may file a retaliation complaint with the Wage and Hour Division or may file a private cause of action seeking appropriate remedies including, but not limited to, employment, reinstatement, lost wages and an additional equal amount as liquidated damages.
For additional information, visit our Wage and Hour Division Website: http://www.wagehour.dol.gov and/or call our toll-free information and helpline, available 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in your time zone, 1-866-4USWAGE (1-866-487-9243).
This publication is for general information and is not to be considered in the same light as official statements of position contained in the regulations.
Maintaining breastfeeding while working is a goal for many people in the US, such people fought to make the above rules into law. However, When it boils down to it you may not have these things (fight for it if you don’t). While you are fighting for it you may have a bathroom, a closet or your car. Shitty options. That is the reality. If you are in your car – there are covers you can wear to help keep prying eyes from your milk expression. And, there are adapters for power through the car.
The bathroom. Ugh. It’s very noisy and the person next to you will just have to wonder what was making that weird noise in the stall next door. The car and the bathroom are most limiting when you need to set the bottles down – no good surface area – high risk for spilling milk (Don’t cry over spilled milk- that phrase must have come from a mother spilling breast milk- had to). Figure out your usable surface before you start If you have a precarious handling area.
If you have an office or closet that you can use but isn’t yours then think of making or buying a sign that says: Pumping in Progress – Please Do Not Disturb. That will surely keep people away.
Tips, Tricks and Gear
As well as an IBCLC I am also a labor and delivery nurse and it wasn’t always easy to maintain breastfeeding while working.To leave someone’s side while they were about to push a baby into the world – and relax to pump for my baby was a challenge. We all have stress at work so we need ways to reconnect to our babies when we are pumping our milk for them. You can:
- Bring your baby’s clothing and take deep breaths of her delicious smell.
- Put a photo of your baby in your pumping bag.
- Make a voice recording of your baby and listen
- Watch a home video of your baby.
A nurse who has her baby’s photo in her pumping bag (interestingly – she is also pumping milk with a freemie pump in this picture – no one would ever know).
Honestly, when exposed to these things most mothers find it irresistible – milk begins to pour out. Maintaining breastfeeding while working is made so much easier when you can find sensory ways to reconnect to your baby while you are at work.
I also found that a hugely useful item is the hands-free pumping bra. You can eat, type and pump at the same time. Some say you can cut holes out of a tight sports bra also. Of note- you can get hands free with the Freemie pump as well. I don’t know how I would have succeeded with maintaining breastfeeding while working without one of these hands free bras. I would go into a room, chart, and eat and pump thanks to this product.
Many people swear by the Kiinde system. Maintaining breastfeeding while working can mean convenience. Many people don’t want to pump into bottles, pour the milk into bags, then pour the milk BACK into bottles again. This system eliminates some of those steps.
People like this because it is storage bags that you can twist a nipple directly onto, it has a warmer and it can serve as storage for pureed baby food later.
Maintaining breastfeeding while working when working means traveling. The following was taken from childrenmd.org. You can check the website out at childrensmd.org
10 Tips for Flying with Breast Milk
I’ve heard many a horror-story about flying with breast milk, from security agents who forced moms to dump out milk, to broken bottles. I’ve also made a few mistakes myself, once causing me to throw out several days of expressed milk. I’ve taken countless business trips while breastfeeding my four children, and these are my tips for successful traveling with breast milk.
- Your breast pump does not count as a “carry on” item because it is a “medical device.” So bring your regular carry on luggage, but be prepared to explain several times that your pump is a medical device. Your breast milk cooler does count as a carry-on.
- Bring a good water-tight cooler, plenty of ice packs, and all your empty bottles or breast milk storage bags. Your freezer packs and breast milk storage containers may be more than 3 oz. Declare them at security, even when they are empty. Ask the TSA agent to change into clean gloves before he/she inspects them. After security, consider sealing your cooler with duct tape.
- When you book your hotel, be sure to ask for a room with a freezer. Sometimes you can turn the thermostat to the coldest setting on a hotel mini-fridge and it will be cold enough to freeze breast milk. If you do not have a freezer in your room, ask at the hotel desk to have your breast milk cooler stored in the hotel freezer. I have done this many times and always been accommodated without questions. It does mean that every time you pump you have to carry your fresh milk down to the hotel desk, ask for your cooler, put your milk in, and have the cooler returned to the freezer.
- When you are flying home, you will need plenty of ice packs to keep your milk frozen through the duration of your trip. I never have enough, so I stop at a Starbucks once I get through security and ask them to fill my cooler with ice. They have always obliged. Another option is to buy dry ice for your cooler, which you will be permitted to take through security if you explain that it is for breast milk.
- You may fly with an unlimited quantity of breast milk, per TSA rules.
- When going through security, always declare your breast milk. If your milk is frozen solid, the TSA agents don’t have to do any special tests. They just visually inspect the milk. Be sure to request that the TSA agent put on clean gloves before touching your cooler. If your milk is thawed or in a semi-solid state, the TSA agent will have to do a special test on each bag or bottle where they wipe the bottle with a piece of paper and put the paper in a machine that tests for explosives.
- If you need to pump in an airport, ask if there is a breastfeeding lounge or baby care area. If not, find a family restroom with an outlet.
- It is possible to mail/ship breast milk, which is useful if you are on a long trip away from your baby and need to get some milk home for baby. Shipping breast milk is much more expensive than flying with it. You can ship breast milk on dry ice via FedEx. Dry ice, a Styrofoam cooler, and a box for shipping can be purchased locally and possibly delivered to your hotel. Search Google for a local supplier. The dry ice is so cold that it can make plastic breast milk storage bags or bottles very brittle, and they can break in shipping. It is best to seal your breast milk bottles in zip-lock bags and then pad them with crumpled up newspaper inside your cooler of dry ice. You can print out a FedEx shipping label online. I have heard of people shipping breast milk on regular ice via overnight US mail. The US Postal Service does not permit dry ice in the mail. Although this is a much cheaper option, there is real risk that your milk will thaw en route.
- These recommendations may not apply to international travel. If you are flying internationally, contact the consulate of your destination country to determine their regulations.
- Be sure to check out the official TSA guidelines for traveling with breast milk.
When You are Home
When you are home it is a lot easier to maintain breastfeeding while working. Primarily you want to run to your loving baby and shower her with all your time and attention. Breastfeed on demand and make sure your latch feels comfortable. Enjoy all the holds for breastfeeding. Click here for tips on holds: http://roothomebreastfeedingri.com/breastfeeding-holds-you-may-not-have-thought-of/
That is all for now. Maintaining breastfeeding while working is possible, you can do it! You can love your baby, feed your baby, remain bonded to your baby and still work. Working is just another way you care for your baby and your family. Feel proud of yourself, you are a dynamic and capable mother. Being all these people, playing all these roles is quite an accomplishment. Take the time , when you can, to acknowledge all that you are accomplishing.
If you have any comments – or tips to share – I would gratefully hear them. Thank you for visiting!
AIMEE QUIGLEY RN, IBCLC
Aimee Quigley started her working life teaching yoga in the LA area in 1999 after training with Bikram Yoga College. She then trained with Atma Vikasa in India and taught yoga in England and Colorado until 2005. She became fascinated with crafting yoga for individuals with specific needs and began training as a Yoga Therapist in 2003. She completed her training by becoming a Registered Nurse in 2011. She has worked as a labor and delivery nurse ever since and became an IBCLC in 2015. She has a dedicated yoga practice and feels she has a strong base of knowledge in Yoga and Medicine to apply a unique approach to wellness. Maintaining breastfeeding while working is of particular interest to Aimee. She loves helping mothers and babies, good food, travelling, tattoos, music and feminism.
Root is a business born out of a desire to support you on your journey with your baby and to support you as a mother and as a woman. It is also about discovering who you are, what you need and how to give yourself what you need to feel rooted to what matters most. We want you to feel sustained on your journey. Bring your questions, your fears and your hopes so that we can work through what it is that matters most. In home lactation visits are available as well as breastfeeding classes and Yoga Therapy. Reach out for what you need and root your being in motherhood now.
Aimee Quigley RN, IBCLC
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