Going Back to WorkHow to prepare for going back to work as a breastfeeding mother

To say going back to work post-baby is an adjustment is a major understatement. To shift from meeting the demands of one tiny, adorable boss to meeting those of your adult-sized, not-quite-as-cute customers, clients and colleagues is, well, hard. With that massive change on the horizon, a little prep and planning goes a long way. Here are the answers to all of those questions you’ve been losing sleep about, so you can reduce stress and focus on kicking a** as a working, pumping mom.

Q: What are my rights? How do I make sure my team knows I need time to pump?

A: Start by looking up federal and state breastfeeding laws so you can arm yourself with info on the break time and accommodations you’re entitled to (ahem, nasty bathrooms are not allowed). Consult your employee handbook or HR team for company-specific policies. And even if it feels awkward, have a quick, matter-of-fact talk with your boss and immediate team members to set expectations upfront. For extra encouragement, find a colleague who has been in your shoes and ask them how they approached the situation.

Q: How can I make sure I have everything I need to pump? What if I forget something?

A: To prevent A.M. scrambling, prep the night before. Wash your pump parts, pack your bag and defrost milk if needed. Do a double check to make sure you have everything you need (and want)—your pump power cord, tubing, a hands-free pumping bra, nursing cover, storage bottles, extra parts. Unfortunately, even with the best routines in place, there will come a day that you forget a part or piece. Nip stress in the bud by outlining an emergency backup plan before that inevitable day pops up, and make sure your husband is just as well-versed on your pump and pumping essentials as you are so he can assist when necessary. Extra tip: Stash a few pictures of your baby in your work bag. The visual can help with letdown and milk production—and remind you of why you’re working so hard.

Q: There’s no way I can get away from my work multiple times a day. How can I fit in my pump sessions?

A: First things first, make time. Block off pump sessions on your work calendar, as you would for a meeting, to help you and your team schedule around those important breaks. (The word “break” is kind of funny here. Pumping is work too!) Also, if pumping three times a day while at work just isn’t going to happen for you, try to pump twice for longer periods of time, and then work in one last session at night after your baby is asleep. Another way to squeeze in some sessions: pump during your commute. Hook your pump to a battery pack, car adaptor or power inverter, and throw a nursing cover over your top (and under your seatbelt). You may get some funny looks in traffic, but hey, you’re taking care of business AND baby. And it goes without saying, but please drive safely.

Q: How can I possibly set everything up, pump, store my milk and clean my parts during my super-short break time?

A: Keep everything you need in one spot so when it’s time to pump, you can quickly grab and go. Make your life easier by using quick-clean wipes and steam bags you can pop in the microwave to disinfect parts—or keep your parts in a cooler or fridge between pumps so you can wait until you’re home to wash them. As with anything, support is so helpful. Chat with other moms at your company about their pumping experiences. They can give you valuable insight into whether there is a shared schedule for who uses the mother’s room when, where to store your milk and how they make it all work. Also, remember that you’ll get some practice at home while starting your freezer stash, so you’ll be closer to pro status than you think by the time you go back to work.

The first few days back at work might be tough, but soon, you’ll have your pumping routine down to a science. Download our Workplace Bill of Rights to make having those tough conversations with your boss a little bit easier.