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Breast pumping at work 101: What to know + how to prepare

By packing everything you need in advance and knowing when and how long to pump, you'll find a schedule that works best for you.

Breast pumping at work 101: What to know + how to prepare

For new moms, returning to a regular routine can be hectic after a baby arrives, especially if you're deciding to pump at work.. However, there are several things you can do to help ease the transition back to work as pumping dictates your schedule.

Here are key tips to keep in mind:

Pack like a pro

Consider getting a breast pump bag to easily store your pump and all of its accessories. You can choose from extremely convenient totes and backpacks to find the perfect pumping bag. Some even have insulated areas to help store your breast milk for a few hours after pumping, but coolers are also available to safely keep breastmilk cool.

Once you have the perfect bag, create a Back To Work Pumping Checklist to follow while packing every night. This will help you remember to pack each piece you'll need during the day, such as the tubing and ice packs.

Assemble each part prior to packing it to save time during pumping breaks, and remember to charge the batteries. Take extra parts or a backup pump to keep in your car or office in case you forget something.

Plan your outfits

To make sure you're always dressed comfortably to quickly pump at a moment's notice, consider wearing your nursing bra all day to help make things easier. Just remember your nipple pads. Plus, you can always wear loose fitting shirts or button downs that make it easy to place the breast shield without totally undressing.

It's also beneficial to have a nursing cover or large scarf to provide you with some instant privacy if you can't find a 100% secluded area to pump. If you have trouble pumping away from your child, bring their photo or an article of their clothing with you to help increase milk flow.

Plan out the logistics

Before pumping at work, practice at home to gain experience with quickly and easily expressing milk. Keep track of what times you pump and how long your pumping sessions last, so you can schedule your pumping breaks on your work calendar.

This can be helpful so coworkers won't schedule meetings around those times. Don't be afraid to have conversations with your employer before your maternity leave, to ensure that they are ready to properly support your transition and understand your needs.

Mamas have the right to a private breast pumping room at work, but if you find yourself needing to pump in a different public location, you can whip out your phone and use the pumpspotting app to find a location nearby.

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers must provide a private, functional space for the use of expressing breast milk by an employee, although the design of the lactation room isn't specified. Many employers aren't always aware of what moms need, so before you head out on maternity leave, suggest for them to include things that you might need.

If you feel nervous about making this request, back it up with a few resources that state that facts about what's essential for women to pump at work. Think: a sink in the nursing room to give you the ability to wash your pump parts and milk storage containers or a private stall.

Nursing rooms should include a fridge for storing your milk until the end of the day, but if you don't have these resources available, use a cooler to keep your milk chilled. If you don't have access to a sink, it's good to take an extra set of breast pump accessories on hand.

Breast pump wipes can be used to wipe milk out of your pump parts until you can make it home to properly sanitize your equipment. Otherwise, place items that came into contact with expressed milk in plastic bags and store them with your breast milk until you can clean them.

Your routine doesn't have to drastically change while breastfeeding or pumping. By packing everything you need in advance and knowing when and how long to pump, you'll find a schedule that works best for you.

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    Tips parents need to know about poor air quality and caring for kids with asthma

    There are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

    When wildfires struck the West Coast in September 2020, there was a lot for parents to worry about. For parents of children with asthma, though, the danger could be even greater. "There are more than 400 toxins that are present in wildfire smoke. That can activate the immune system in ways that aren't helpful by both causing an inflammatory response and distracting the immune system from fighting infection," says Amy Oro, MD, a pediatrician at Stanford Children's Health. "When smoke enters into the lungs, it causes irritation and muscle spasms of the smooth muscle that is around the small breathing tubes in the lungs. This can lead to difficulty with breathing and wheezing. It's really difficult on the lungs."

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    According to Oro, a HEPA filter is your best bet to effectively clean pollutants from the air. Many homes are equipped with a built-in HEPA filter in their air conditioning systems, but you can also get a canister filter. Oro says her family (her husband and children all suffer from asthma) also made use of a hack from the New York Times and built their own filter by duct taping a HEPA furnace filter to the front of a box fan. "It was pretty disgusting what we accumulated in the first 20 hours in our fan," she says.

    Avoid letting your child play outside or overly exert themselves in open air.

    "Unfortunately, cloth masks don't do very much [to protect you from the smoke pollution]," Oro says. "You really need an N95 mask, and most of those have been allocated toward essential workers." To keep at-risk children safer, Oro recommends avoiding brisk exercise outdoors. Instead, set up an indoor obstacle course or challenge your family to jumping jacks periodically to keep everyone moving safely.

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    "COVID-19 can have a lot of the same symptoms—dry cough, sore throat, shortness of breath and chest pain could overlap. But what COVID and other viruses generally cause are fever, chills, vomiting, diarrhea and body aches. Those would tell you it's not just smoke exposure," Oro says. When a child has been exposed to smoke, they often complain of a "scrape" in their throat, burning eyes, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain or wheezing. If the child has asthma, parents should watch for a flare of symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing or a tight sensation in their chest.

    Unfortunately, not much is known about long-term exposure to wildfire smoke on a healthy or compromised immune system, but elevated levels of air pollution have been associated with increased COVID-19 rates. That's because whenever there's an issue with your immune system, it distracts your immune system from fighting infections and you have a harder time fighting off viruses. Limiting your exposure to wildfire smoke is your best bet to keep immune systems strong.

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    Most importantly, don't panic.

    In some cases, social distancing and distance learning due to COVID may be helping to keep sensitive groups like children with asthma safer. Oro says wildfires in past years have generally resulted in more ER visits for children, but the most recent fires haven't seen the same results. "A lot of what we've seen is that the smoke really adversely affects adults, especially older adults over 65," Oro says. "Children tend to be really resilient."

    This article was sponsored by Stanford Children's Health. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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    Sand play set

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    Water play set

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    $100

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    $75

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    "The only pressure for me now is I have to live to be, like, 107, you know? No pressure!"

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