Pumping breast milk at work doesn’t have to be embarrassing

You’ve heard it before: “Breast is best.” And most moms agree. In fact, 74 percent breastfeed their baby initially. But if you plan to return to work, keeping it up by using a breast pump can be tricky. Statistics bear that out: Only 43 percent of moms still nurse or pump by the time their child is 6 months old (50 percent is the goal, according to Healthy People 2010, the government’s health initiative).

Only 21 percent of moms make it to the year mark.

Having a supportive workplace helps make pumping at work easier. But that’s only the beginning. Read on for more tricks from moms who’ve been there and other expert advice that can prime you for pumping success.

  • Don’t psyche yourself out

    Pumping and working can be challenging, but if you dwell on the negative, you’ll talk yourself out of it. And don’t feel guilty either for being away from your desk. “Most smokers are taking more breaks than I do,” says Hillary Bates, the mom of a 6-month-old, who has been pumping at work for four months.

  • Get a double electric breast pump

    “Buy the best, most powerful double pump you can afford. Without the right equipment, you’re almost doomed to fail,” says Jeanmarie Ferrara, the mother of a 10-month-old daughter. Single pumping can take up to three times as long as double pumping. Pump in a room with a lock on the door. You’ll need privacy to relax. It’s a must.

  • Keep to a strict pumping schedule

    . Going too long between pumping sessions can be uncomfortable. So set aside 15-minute chunks of time several times daily. “If you work in an office that uses electronic calendars, mark off time for your daily pumping breaks,” says Julie Kupsov, the mother of an 11-month-old. “It reduces the time you have meetings scheduled over your regular pumping time.”

    “Use pumping time to catch up on e-mails or do light reading so you can keep working, too,” says new mom Tracy Baldwin. “But don’t pump while you’re on the phone with co-workers. It puts them in an awkward position: ‘What’s that noise?'”

  • Bring your baby’s T-shirt from home.

    A photo of your baby is nice, “but it’s the smell that tricks your body into thinking your baby is nearby, which can help with let-down,” says Dr. Miriam H. Labbok, director of the Center for Infant and Young Child Feeding and Care at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

  • Keep plenty of ice packs on hand or get a small refrigerator for your office to keep milk cold (and safe for your baby to consume). And store pump parts properly, too. To play it safe, if you don’t have time to wash breast pump parts between sessions during the day with soap and water, put them unwashed in a closed plastic bag such as a Ziploc and store them in the small refrigerator or in the office fridge in something that isn’t see-through, such as a brown paper bag or a lunch bag if you want to keep things private. Refrigeration will help prevent the pumping parts from becoming a bacteria breeding ground.

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