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Location, Location, Location
In addition to the breast pump itself (see "Which Pump Is Best for You?" below), perhaps the most important aspect of pumping at work is finding a place to do it. In a perfect world, you'd have your own office with a door that locked, a mini-fridge and a comfy chair, but even without these perks, you can find a place to pump. You just might have to be a little creative.
If possible, take a tour through your workplace before you go on maternity leave to find a suitable space; if you've already had your baby, pay a visit before you return to work. If the only private spot is the bathroom, see if you can bring in a comfortable chair so you don't have to sit on a toilet. Also make sure the area is as hygienic as possible (antibacterial wipes come in handy here), and check that your pump has a battery converter, since you probably won't have access to an electrical outlet, advises Kirsten Berggren, a certified lactation counselor and the author of Working Without Weaning: A Working Mother's Guide to Breastfeeding (Hale Publishing). Other ideas:
Create a space Are there folding screens or cornered-off cubicles you can use? What about a storage closet? If you play music to disguise the hum of the pump, no one will know what you're up to.
Use your jalopy You can easily pump in your car by parking in a private spot and taking advantage of a few well-placed sun shades.
Ask around Did any of your co-workers face the same pumping-at-work conundrum? Be sure to ask for their tips.
And, perhaps most important, don't be afraid to ask your employer for help in finding--or creating--a space. "Be upfront and tell your boss what you'll be doing," advises Jennifer Bowen Hicks, editor of Hirkani's Daughters: Women Who Scale Modern Mountains to Combine Breastfeeding and Working (La Leche League International). "This gives him a chance to be on board and support the employees." Companies that support breastfeeding help improve their image, Hicks adds; pro-breastfeeding plans and family-friendly policies make great PR, which can in turn bring new business and attract high-quality employees.
The first days back
For many working moms, the first week back is the hardest emotionally--you've never had to leave your baby before! Speak with your employer about ways to make the transition smoother. Maybe day 1 can be on a Thursday, or see if you can work a few half days starting back.
For a typical eight-hour workday, La Leche League suggests that you nurse right before you leave for work; pump in the morning, at lunch and at midafternoon; and breastfeed your baby when you get home (the morning and after-work nursing sessions are in addition to any others your baby might want). Breast milk remains fresh at room temperature for 10 hours, but experts nevertheless recommend storing it in a refrigerator or a small cooler with ice packs.
Be sure to bring these items with you when you head back to the office:
Your trusty pump, preferably one with a carrying bag to make transport easy.
Bottles or bags for storing your milk.
Nursing pads to hide embarrassing leaks.
An extra shirt to change into in case you make a mess when pumping.
A "hands free" helper Easy Expression makes a bustier that fits over your bra and enables you to pump sans hands. Visit easyexpressionproducts.com.
Breast pump wipes Medela Quick Clean Wipes let you clean both pump and parts on the spot. (Otherwise, rinsing well after each use and washing with soap and hot water at the end of the day is fine.) Visit medela.com.
Photos of your baby to encourage your body to release oxytocin, the "hormone of love" that helps you relax and also stimulates milk letdown.
And, of course, bring your positive attitude. "Going back to work and continuing to breastfeed takes some organization and planning," Hicks says. "Yes, it's going to feel tedious sometimes, but it really doesn't take that much time out of your life, and the benefits to your baby will last her a lifetime."