Pump Breast Milk at Work: 4 Tips and More

Pump Breast Milk at Work: 4 Tips and More
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Let’s be real here, pumping isn’t glamorous at all. We can try to make it so with shiny pump accessories and celebrity-backed hashtags, but it’s not glamorous. It’s awkward and uncomfortable and time-consuming, but we do it. We do it because we’re mothers and our children need nourishment. We do it because we’re mothers who also work. We do it because we choose to; because we have to; because we want to; because it is our right to.

If you choose to pump at work, your employer has to allow you to. Not only do they have to allow you to pump, they have to give you the time and privacy to be able to do so comfortably.

I pump in a teeny supply-closet sized room with a chair and a cooler that is dubbed the Quiet Room. It’s (thankfully) quite separate from the main room of cubicles and offices so there isn’t a big spectacle anytime someone needs to use it. It’s not a luxurious space, but it serves its purpose and it meets the legal requirements.


Pumping breast milk at work laws:

Employers are required to provide a reasonable amount of break time and a space to express milk as frequently as needed for up to one year following the birth of your child. The frequency and duration of your pumping breaks are dependent on your needs. The space provided by your employer cannot be a bathroom, and it must be shielded from view and free from intrusion by coworkers or the public.

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.


Now that we got the legal stuff out of the way, here are a few things to keep in mind to make your pumping experience at work as successful as possible:

1. If you share a pump room with other expressing moms, make a schedule and stick to it. 
I share my Quiet Room with one other mom at the moment and possibly one more in the coming weeks. I pump every three hours for 15-20 minutes depending on my let down (and level of distraction. whoopsy!). I use the Quiet Room at 9 a.m., 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. every day I’m in the office, which is much more consistent than my pumping routine outside of the office. To avoid scheduling conflicts and arguments over who needs to use the room first / most, I’ve made a schedule that is tacked to the door. And whether you have a large room or a teeny supply-closet sized room, you don’t want to share it. Awkward silence with uncomfortable eye contact while you’re both strapped into milking machines sounds bad; very, very bad.

2. Bring pictures of your baby with you
Numerous studies have shown that women who look at pictures of their babies while expressing breast milk produce more in a single sitting than mothers who don’t. But really, it’s not like you need a reason to look at your bundle of adorableness, amIright?!

3. Work while you pump
Depending on the type of work you do, and if your employer doesn’t offer paid break times, you may be able to work while you pump. 90 percent of my job is done on a computer, so sometimes I bring my laptop (sometimes my tablet) into the Quiet Room with me. I knock out some of the miscellaneous tasks I usually don’t have time to get to and call it a win.

4. Or don’t work while you pump
Hell, you’re a mom. You may even be a single mom. You are Superwoman. But sometimes even Superwoman needs a break. Take your fifteen minutes (or 20 or 10) to clear your head. Zone the eff out and don’t think about anything. Don’t think about the laundry, about the presentation due next week, about everything you need to do. Don’t do anything except relax and let yourself be responsibility free for a few minutes.

Pumping breast milk at the office isn’t glamorous, but it is your decision to do so and also your right. Make your life a little easier and less hectic by knowing what those rights are and following the tips above.

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26 thoughts on “Pump Breast Milk at Work: 4 Tips and More”

  • I love your tips. When I was in the military it was kinda difficult to pump but even then they allowed me to do it. I would go into one of the offices and pump. A lot of people don’t know that their employers do have to allow them time to do it.

    • That’s so true. I read a study by the CDC that close 40% of breastfeeding moms who work feared their job security if they took breaks to pump. That’s just an insanely high number to me. Moms have to know they are protected in this kind of situation. Thank you for your service and for being an awesome mom!

  • you brought back some memories with this post. I pumped for both of my kids for a year each (longer with my second) and its nice to have rules in place. great tips for new moms who are unsure

  • I’ve never had to pump at work (because of the timing of our babies), but I’m SO glad to hear that there are great rules in place for employers to follow to make it work for pumping moms. Good for you to keep at it too!

  • Every mom has to know her rights to feel comfortable to make her decisions or her pumping. It is true that it is not glamorous, but it does give you a moment to clear your head .

  • I have to admit I hated pumping at work. I was lucky that I have my own office with a door but it was still a chore lugging it to work every day and then trying to find time around my meetings to do it. These are great suggestions and I hope other mothers have an easier time managing it.

  • This is really helpful. I didn’t know about those laws. A lot of moms work outside of the home nowadays so it’s good that they have some protection when it comes to pumping.

  • This is great advice for new or soon to be mothers. I’m so glad the law requires that employers provide the space and time for breast feeding mothers to pump milk. Thank you for sharing.

  • Good for you! I loved my pump! I took it everywhere with me! And the next baby I have i’ll be pumping at work as well

  • I never had to pump at work – I never pumped much period since I was home, but I give you SO much credit. This takes a lot of work and patience. When I did pump, I definitely found the pictures of baby to help. Great tips for moms who are looking for info on this. 🙂

    • If you ever find yourself in that situation again, you have legal standing to take your bump breaks. The employer doesn’t have to pay you for the breaks, but they have to give it to you and your job can not be in jeaopardy for doing so. Contact the department of labor if you feel your employer is witholding your legal rights. I’m so sorry that happened to you.

  • These are great tips! I was an exclusive pumper for 5 months and pumped at work for 3 of those months…it was hard. I totally agree about the picture of the baby – that helped me a ton!

    • I exclusively pumped up until just this past week (8 months) and it has been an exhausting journey. Some days it was easier To pump at work because I didn’t have to take care of a baby and find time to pump, and other days it was so much harder with all day meetings and traveling on business. Only a working, EPing mom knows that struggle!

  • I will share this with friends. I stayed home and never pumped. My oldest had a bottle twice, and my youngest never had one! My best friend pumped for a year and I admire her so much. If I was working away from home, I know that mine would have had formula. Pumping just was not for me.

  • My DIL is starting to wean now, but she does still nurse in the late afternoon (after work). She was an expert at finding ways to pump at work too when she was nursing full time. 😉

  • I’m fortunate to work at a location where we have a wonderful room sit up for mom’s who are breastfeeding. There are magazines to read and refreshments to drink. I proud that we do that for breastfeeding mothers.

  • I’m a soon to be grandma of twins…my daughter is in the military half a country a way….I will be passing these great tips along to her, as she will be pumping as well once she returns to duty….I’m so glad these laws exist to protect nursing moms in the workplace….I had my first child in the military 30 years ago, and although was allowed to pump on break, it was awkward and rushed. Things have definitely changed for the better!

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