No matter what type of job you have, if you go back to work after having your baby, it should be possible for you to take time to pump your breast milk. You can talk with your employer about why breastfeeding is important, why pumping is necessary, and how you plan to fit pumping into your work schedule. Pumping while away from your baby on the same schedule that he or she breastfed before returning work ensures that you keep up your milk supply to meet your baby's needs. If you are staying home to care for your baby, having an effective pump at home is also helpful. You can use it to help relieve engorgement, especially when your milk supply first comes in, or for when you need to be away from your baby for any amount of time, such as an evening out with your partner. If you have to temporarily take medication that may harm your baby, you can pump and discard your milk during this time.
Prepare for pumping before you go back to work. Let your employer know that you are breastfeeding and explain that, when you're away from your baby, you will need to take breaks throughout the day to pump your milk to give to your baby at a later time. Ask where you can pump at work, and make sure it is a private, clean, quiet area. Also make sure you have somewhere to store the milk. Discuss how you plan to fit pumping into your workday. You can offer to work out a different schedule, such as coming in earlier or leaving a little later each day to make up for any lost work time, if this comes up as an issue. If your day care is close by to your job, you may be able to arrange to breastfeed your baby during work time. Make sure to discuss the benefits of breastfeeding with your employer, especially that breastfeeding mothers miss fewer days from work. If your direct supervisor cannot help you with your needs, you should be able to go to your Human Resources department to make sure you are accommodated.
Some mothers start pumping and storing their milk ahead of the time they will be returning to work in order to have a supply available for the first week when they are separated from the baby. The number of times you will need to pump your milk depends on the length of time you are away from your baby. But, it is usually not best to go for more than three hours without removing some milk from your breasts. If you are leaving a very young baby who eats very often, you may have to pump your milk more often at first so that your breasts do not become uncomfortable or leak.
Expressing milk through pumping is a learned skill that's both physical and psychological. It takes about the same time as breastfeeding, unless you are using a "double" automatic breast pump. The let-down reflex is important during pumping in order to express a good amount of milk. If you are having problems getting your milk to "let-down" at the start of pumping, you may find it helpful to have a picture of your baby close-by. You also can try other things to stimulate the let-down reflex, like applying a warm, moist compress to the breast, gently massaging the breasts, or just sitting quietly and thinking of a relaxing setting. Try to clear your head of stressful thoughts. Use a comfortable chair or pillows. Once you begin expressing your milk, think about your baby.
It is best to wash your hands before pumping your breast milk and to make sure the table or area where you are pumping is also clean. Each time you are done pumping, it is best to thoroughly wash your pumping equipment with soap and water and let it air dry. This helps prevent germs from getting into the breast milk.