40 Ways to Support Pumping Moms (At Home and At Work)

March 28th, 2013 by Dionna | 4 Comments
Posted in Breastfeeding/Lactivism, Compassionate Advocacy, Feed with Love and Respect, natural parenting

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“Breastfeeding is an unequalled way of providing ideal food
for the healthy growth and development of infants.”1

Code Name: Mama - 40 Ways to Support Pumping Moms

Human breastmilk is the standard form of nutrition for human babies. “Each species’ milk has specific qualities that insure the survival of the young in a particular environment.”2 Hence, formula, which is normally based on cow’s milk, is not standard nutrition for human babies. Formula is, in fact, at the bottom of the list of recommended forms of sustenance for babies. That list looks like this:

  1. Breastmilk directly from the infant’s mother’s breast;
  2. Expressed breastmilk from the infant’s mother;
  3. Breastmilk from a healthy wet nurse or human milk bank (donor milk);
  4. Formula.

The World Health Organization (the WHO) specifically says:

The vast majority of mothers can and should breastfeed, just as the vast majority of infants can and should be breastfed. Only under exceptional circumstances can a mother’s milk be considered unsuitable for her infant. For those few health situations where infants cannot, or should not, be breastfed, the choice of the best
alternative – expressed breast milk from an infant’s own mother, breast milk from a healthy wet-nurse or a human-milk bank, or a breast-milk substitute fed with a cup, which is a safer method than a feeding bottle and teat – depends on individual circumstances.3

The WHO urges all mothers to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months “to achieve optimal growth, development and health.”4 But many mothers have to return to work or have other commitments that may prevent them from exclusively nursing directly from the breast. In that case, the next best thing is to pump breastmilk.

As any pumping mama can tell you, pumping is hard work. Not only are moms breastfeeding and tending to the needs of their baby while also pumping milk to stockpile (or, alternatively, pumping breastmilk to feed baby via an alternative method), but they may have to continue pumping for months, day and night, to ensure their baby’s breastmilk needs are met.

Just as breastfeeding mothers need the support of friends and family, so too do pumping mothers. But the circle of support for pumping mothers should extend to include their employers and coworkers. No mother should be made to feel inconvenient or shamed for pumping during working hours.

Below are ways that family, friends, coworkers and employers can support mothers who pump breastmilk, along with a ton of resources for you and the pumping mom in your life.

I’ve split the ideas into three sections: 1) Safeguard the Breastfeeding Relationship; 2) Create a Pumping-Friendly Work Environment; and 3) Keep Mama Healthy and Happy.

How have you supported a mama who pumps breastmilk for her child?

Code Name: Mama - 40 Ways Family, Friends, Employers and Coworkers Can Support Pumping Moms

Safeguard the Breastfeeding Relationship

  1. Learn about the benefits of pumping to mama and baby. Breastmilk is the biological norm for feeding babies. As Kellymom.com points out, “breastmilk itself is irreplaceable. When faced with providing breastmilk, or not, then whenever possible it should be breastmilk regardless of the method of delivery.” Whether the mom in your life is exclusively pumping (“EP’ing”) or pumping and nursing at the breast, one of your biggest roles is to support her in getting breastmilk to her child. Breastmilk is incredible stuff. For more on why all babies should get breastmilk, read 101 Reasons to Breastfeed Your Child, What Breastmilk Tastes Like Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4, and What should I know about infant formula?.
  2. Help her get set up for success. Purchase or rent a hospital grade pump, if possible. Your insurance may pay for it. Help her find flanges that fit her breasts properly, good storage bags that don’t leak, a container to keep her milk fresh while traveling, and bottles (or another alternative feeding method) that will not hinder her breastfeeding relationship. If something about the flanges, pump, or other equipment is not working, help her explore her options. For more on what supplies she might need, check out Tools for Feeding: Alternative Feeding Methods – Bottles & More, Links: Milk expression tips & pump information, 5 Ways to Tell if Your Breast Pump Flanges Fit, Are you using the right size flange?, Hands-free pumping, and Pumping & Employment.
  3. Help her find options for supplementing with donor milk, if she needs to. There are benefits and risks to both informal milk sharing and supplementing with formula. PhD in Parenting has an informational post about this, you can also find information about donor breastmilk at Kellymom, Human Milk 4 Human Babies, Eats on Feets, and the Human Milk Banking Association of North America.
  4. Fully support her breastfeeding relationship, if she’s not exclusively pumping. Be sure she’s getting plenty of time to nurse when she’s at home with her little one. And unless mom indicates otherwise, please find other ways to bond than by giving baby a bottle when mom is at home. Check out 50 Ways Dads Can Bond with Babies (Without Giving Them a Bottle).
  5. Ask her what she needs to succeed. She may love all of the ideas on this list. Or they may not resonate with her. Ask the pumping mom in your life how you can help her succeed. At the very least, your inquiry will help her know you support her.
  6. Support her for as long as she wants to pump. Every day that baby gets breastmilk is a good day. Help mom set goals (3 months, 6 months, a year, 2 years), and then continue to find ways to support her.
  7. Listen to her. Let her lament her sorrows or losses. Let her rage about how hard pumping is. Let her vent, and then help her stay strong to meet her goals.
  8. Research working mom La Leche League meetings. Help mom – while she is pregnant – find groups of friends who will understand what she is going through and support her throughout her pumping journey.
  9. Help baby cuddle, nurse, or otherwise love mom when she’s pumping. Baby will be thankful for mom’s pumping more than anyone, so let baby see how integral the pump is to mama’s milk.
  10. Code Name: Mama - 40 Ways Family, Friends, Employers and Coworkers Can Support Pumping Moms

    Create a Pumping-Friendly Work Environment

  11. Research your state’s pumping laws. Many states have laws in place specifically protecting pumping at work. There is also a federal law related to pumping, which is subject to certain restrictions (employer size, etc.). You can see if your state has a pumping law and read more about the federal pumping law at BreastfeedingLaw.com and the US Department of Labor.
  12. Educate yourself about the benefits to employers and employees of establishing a lactation program. “A lactation program is one of the easiest ways for a company to get a good return on an investment in its workforce. Once established, it is also one of the most highly used, highly valued programs for working parents.”5 Some measurable benefits include:
    • “cost savings of $3 per $1 invested in breastfeeding support
    • less illness among the breastfed children of employees
    • reduced absenteeism to care for ill children
    • lower health care costs (an average of $400 per baby over the first year)
    • improved employee productivity
    • higher morale and greater loyalty
    • improved ability to attract and retain valuable employees
    • family-friendly image in the community”6

    The number of corporate lactation programs continues to grow as employers recognize the benefits of reduced health care costs and absenteeism, increased retention and employee morale, and an enhanced corporate image. The presence of worksite lactation programs is part of the criteria used in the rating of Working Mother Magazine’s 100 Best Companies for Working Mothers each year. While breastfeeding support programs are traditionally viewed as a work-life benefit, it is important to recognize the impact of improved health outcomes for infant and mother and the correlated reduction in overall health care costs for employers. As the introduction of breastfeeding education as a component of prenatal care programs rises, employers are increasingly forging a link between their work-life and health benefits.7

    For more on the benefits to both employers and employees of lactation programs, read The Business Case for Breastfeeding (and related guides), Workplace Breastfeeding Support from the United States Breastfeeding Committee, Building Breastfeeding-Friendly Communities in Wisconsin, and Work-Family Information for State Legislators.

  13. Help her do a trial run before she really goes back to work. Return to work slowly, both to give baby a chance to adjust to her caregivers, and to give mom a chance to work into a pumping schedule. WorkandPump.com has several tips for mom’s first days back at work. Also see Kellymom.com’s links on Working and Pumping Tips.
  14. pumping mom

  15. Help mom secure a private, secure, comfortable area to pump in at work. If there is no company-wide policy established that allows pumping and sets aside dedicated space for pumping mothers, work to implement one. And don’t wait until mom goes back to work to discuss details, set the wheels in motion while she’s still pregnant. For more resources, see Pumping 9 to 5, Breastfeeding While Working, Pumping in the Bathroom Is Like Putting a Blanket Over Your Head, and My Guide to Working and Breastfeeding.
  16. Afford mom regular, unhurried breaks to pump. Once mom has returned to work, her milk production is primarily driven by supply and demand – the more she pumps and nurses at the breast, the better established her supply is. Pumping moms need to have regularly scheduled breaks so that they can both maintain their supply and so that they will not be uncomfortably engorged. For more information on the need for regular breaks, see How does milk production work?, Establishing and maintaining milk supply when baby is not breastfeeding, and I’m not pumping enough milk. What can I do?
  17. Encourage her to block out pumping time on her work calendar. Related to the tip above, help mom remember to pump by putting it on her calendar. Having regular pumping “appointments” can help pumping seem like less of an “extra task” for some moms.
  18. Make sure she has storage space for her milk. Talk to the mom about where she’d like to store her milk. Does she need room to put milk in the office refrigerator or freezer? Does she have her own carrying case, but she needs room to store extra ice packs? Make space for her.
  19. 40 Ways to Support Pumping Moms (At Home and At Work)

  20. Look into a hands free pumping bra. A hands free pumping bra can be a life saver – not only can mom have her hands free for other tasks while pumping at work, but she can also use it to pump in the car – saving time, too. Check out the Snugabell Pumpease that benefits The Best for Babes Foundation, pictured on the right. 100% of all donations we receive for our Pumping Pixie art (see below) will go to purchase Best for Babes Pumpease pumps for mothers staying at domestic violence shelters!
  21. Encourage moms to have baby spend time at work. There are many reasons to let moms bring babies to work with them.
    • “Employees voluntarily return to work earlier after a baby’s birth.
    • Workplace morale, employee retention and long-term productivity are higher.
    • It enhances parent-child bonding, allows more mothers to breastfeed for longer and gives new parents and babies a built-in social network.”8

    Interested in creating a program? Check out the resources at Babies-at-Work Program.

  22. Talk to her while she pumps. If, after asking mom, you find out she doesn’t want to be alone while pumping, keep her company! Help her feel normal and supported.
  23. Keep Mama Healthy and Happy

    40 Ways to Support Pumping Mamas from Code Name: Mama

  24. Leave notes of encouragement on her pump. The idea for this post was born out of a story told by a friend. She was visiting a school within her district and needed to pump. She saw another mother’s pump in the room they gave her to pump in. Smiling, she left a post it note on the stranger’s pump, encouraging her and telling her how awesome she was for pumping. She signed it the “Dairy Fairy.” I love the idea of leaving notes for pumping mamas – anonymous or not. I asked my friend, Destany of They Are All of Me,9 if she would sketch an image of a fairy.

    We decided the fairy needed to have a breast pump, and her wand needed to be milky. Destany designed and drew the sweetest fairy, and our friend – (a pumping mama!) – Shannon of The Artful Mama, dubbed her the “Pumping Pixie.”

    40 Ways to Support Pumping Mamas from Code Name: Mama

    There are two versions of the Pumping Pixie. The first one (above) has a pump in one hand and a star-tipped wand in the other. The second image (below) shows our pixie with a hands-free pumping bra and a breast-tipped wand – perfect for midwives, Lactation Consultants, and other lactivists in your life to hand out! They both say “Milky Blessings from the Pumping Pixie. For parenting and pumping support visit NaturalParentsNetwork.com.” There are color and black and white versions of both.

    We have created several PDF files so that you can share the Pumping Pixie with a pumping mama in your life. Each version of the Pumping Pixie is available 6 per page; you can print them (as many times as you’d like!) on cardstock or another heavy paper to cut up into small cards to slip into pump bags (add your encouraging note to personalize them!). There is also a PDF that you can turn into a door hanger (see an example below; 2 door hangers per page) so that you can turn any office or room into a pumping-friendly environment.

    We have not set a price for these PDFs, but we do request a voluntary donation.

    100% of all donations will go to purchase Best for Babes Pumpease hands free pumps from Snugabell for moms at domestic violence shelters.

    To donate, please click on the Paypal button below (you’ll need to sign into your Paypal account) and send your donation to Dionna {at} CodeNameMama {dot} com. Please mark your donation as personal. Please specify which PDF you would like:

    1. Hand-out cards – color – pump NOT in use
    2. Hand-out cards – black and white – pump NOT in use
    3. Hand-out cards – color- pump IN USE
    4. Hand-out cards – black and white – pump IN USE
    5. Door hanger – color – pump NOT in use
    6. Door hanger – black and white – pump NOT in use
    7. Door hanger – color – pump IN USE
    8. Door hanger – black and white – pump IN USE

    Official PayPal Seal

  25. Help her de-stress. Stress can be a milk inhibitor, so give her some extra support for as long as she pumps.
  26. Wash her pump parts and pack them up for her. Hands down this was the most popular response when I asked my readers how people could support pumping moms. The last thing a pumping mom wants to do at the end of the day is to wash her pump parts. Lighten her load by doing that for her for as long as she pumps.
  27. Offer her some reading material. Moms should relax while they are pumping, so encourage mom to set her work down and pick up some light reading. Get her a copy of The Milk Memos: How Real Moms Learned to Mix Business with Babies — and How You Can, Too or Exclusively Pumping Breast Milk: A Guide to Providing Expressed Breast Milk for Your Baby.
  28. 40 Ways to Support Pumping Mamas from Code Name: Mama

  29. Gift her with a “do not disturb” sign or other decal she can hang on the lactation room door. If you love the Pumping Pixie, you can download another PDF and cut it up into “do not disturb” signs. Make sure no one walks in on her while she’s pumping.
  30. Make her a milk-boosting treat. Galactagogues are natural foods and herbs that can boost milk production. You can learn more about galactagogues at Kellymom.com. And here is my favorite milk-boosting recipe – oatmeal cookies.
  31. Give her a recently worn outfit and pictures of her baby to keep in her pumping bag. Having reminders of baby can help mom get mentally and physically prepared to pump. Besides, what mother does not want to see and smell her baby?!
  32. Help her stay hydrated. Don’t let mom get so busy that she forgets to drink plenty of fluids (Kellymom.com says to “drink to thirst”). The best drink, of course, is water. But I also love my New Born herbal loose leaf tea blend from Phoenix Herb Company.
  33. Celebrate pumping milestones together. Mark the fact that pumping is a very worthy, yet time consuming and sometimes emotionally difficult, effort. Celebrate small chunks at a time with something – even if it’s a simple “milk shake” date.
  34. Follow her lead. Joke if she jokes, be empathetic if she cries, be a sounding board if she needs one. Sometimes she might need a cheerleader, other times she might need someone to commiserate with on how hard it is to pump every day.
  35. Keep her healthy. Illness can also decrease milk production, so make sure she is eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of rest and exercise, and finding balance in her life.
  36. Create a relaxing music CD to listen to while she pumps. Give her a couple of different options – one with relaxing music, one with some of her favorite upbeat tunes.
  37. Send her photos of her babies throughout the day or encouraging text messages about what the children are doing. If you are the baby’s caregiver while mom is at work, help her stay connected through technology. Send pictures and text messages, leave her a voicemail with baby happily cooing. Let her know she is loved.
  38. Help make her comfortable while she pumps. Does she need a fan? A light? A snack? Just like partners can help breastfeeding moms, they can also help and support pumping moms.
  39. Give her practical help. Mom will need your help, especially in the newborn days, and even moreso if she’s pumping with more than one child. Not sure what to do? Here are 20 Ways to Help Parents of Newborns (and many of these can apply to pumping moms, no matter how old baby is!).
  40. Consider getting duplicate pumping supplies. Duplicates can help so that mom is not lugging everything to and from work, and so you and/or mom are not washing after every pumping session.
  41. If she wants to pump in public, support her. This is her call to make, and if she’s awesome enough to do it, more power to her. For one mama’s journey with pumping in public, read Pumping in Public: Riding the Rails.
  42. Keep a journal for mom to write notes to her baby while pumping.
  43. Make sure all of her pumped milk is used. Don’t waste a single drop! Even if the milk turns before her little one can drink it, you can save it for other purposes. (Curious? Check out 58 Medicinal, Cosmetic, and Other Alternative Uses for Breastmilk.)
  44. Record baby’s happy sounds. Whether baby is breastfeeding or bottle nursing, record him when he’s getting ready to nurse and as he’s nursing. Mom can listen and feel connected with baby while pumping.
  45. Tell her she’s a champion. Because she is!


Photo Credit 1: Regan House Photo

Photo Credit 2: Wayan Vota

Photo Credit 3: dianaschnuth

Photo Credit 4: Julia of A Little Bit of All of It

Photo Credit 5: Shannon of The Artful Mama

4 Responses to:
"40 Ways to Support Pumping Moms (At Home and At Work)"

  1. Charise@I Thought I Knew Mama   ithoughtiknewma

    This is such a great resource! Sharing!

  2. Excellent list!!!

    While I love your Pumping Pixie idea, I’d also like to mention how much it meant to me when women who saw me washing my pump parts in the office restroom made positive, supportive comments. Even a simple, “You go, Mama!” could make my day. :-)

    A less everyday form of support is for pumping moms who are in the hospital. My only experience with this came when my son was 11 months old and I stepped on a sewing needle that broke off in my foot. I had to wait about 7 hours for surgery. During this time I argued with several nurses and doctors about their policy that I could not have food or water JUST IN CASE they needed to give me general anesthetic. (They didn’t; local was fine for this procedure.) Some of them actually told me I could stop nursing now because my baby was eating solids–like I could just cut him off cold turkey right now AND miraculously not need hydration or nourishment for a bodily function already in progress! The only support I got was from a nurse who came in while I was using my manual pump and (as she discreetly stepped back around the curtain to give me privacy) said, “That’s a great idea: It will bring your stress down, and you’ll have milk for your baby if we have to give you anything that makes your milk unsafe.” She was so right about the stress–I was surprised how much pumping helped me relax.

  3. What a great list! And I love the Pumping Pixie :)

    Sharing and pinning :)

  4. Lisa Nelson   squishablebaby

    This is very close to my heart. First and foremost, I hate pumping. I really do. It’s a very difficult thing to do. Despite that, there are so many reasons why I should do it – and that’s the reason I do it.

    I do not work out of the home, but there are tough feeding situations that make pumping a necessary evil – for a while at least.

    Thanks so much for this post!

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