Many moms who are teachers worry about how to go back to work after having a baby. Not only do new mothers have the stress of figuring out how they will get their milk expressed, but also know that they will be away from their child for eight hours or more. This article is meant to provide tips and tricks for breastfeeding teachers who are returning to work in order to make it easier!
Any mother who is returning to work while breastfeeding will encounter some similar situations and challenges. However, breastfeeding teachers encounter unique issues when returning – and in this post, we’ll be sharing some of the best tricks and tips for breastfeeding and pumping as an educator.
Although I have never experienced being a teacher while breastfeeding myself, I have worked with many mothers who have over the years. I’ve gathered their experiences, along with my own research, to make this is as thorough as possible.
New to breastfeeding? Need help with pumping? Make sure you check out one of our online breastfeeding classes! Our “Back-to-Work Breastfeeding” mini-course will be released soon, so make sure you get don’t the wait list here.
Challenges You Might Encounter
I don’t like focusing on the negative, but I do think it’s important to be aware of some of the common challenges new moms run into as breastfeeding educators. Don’t worry – I’ll provide solutions 🙂
- Not enough break time – or break time that is on the same schedule as your child
- Difficulty finding a private place to pump
- Inconveniencing co-workers
- Finding a good place to store milk
- Maintaining milk supply when pumping isn’t easy or even possible
- Lack of support at work
- People not following through on committments to help you
Get a Good Pump
Make sure you invest in a good breast pump. You will be pumping a lot, and while you could use a manual pump, since you are going to pumping a lot (and often on a tight schedule), having a pump that is as efficient as possible.
Definitely check with your insurance for breast pump coverage. I love the Spectra S2 pump, however, it’s really big and not easy to transport around. I’m not sure it’s ideal for teachers.
Pumps like the Medela Freestyle Flex™ or the BabyBuddha Pump are fantastic options. They are small, quiet, and portable, and you can easily pump with them throughout the day. I’m personally the biggest fan of the BabyBuddha due to it’s price point and how efficient/quiet it is. You can get one for 10% off with my code TBM10 if your insurance doesn’t cover it.
You can also hack the BabyBuddha to work with Freemie Cups to make it into a hands-free pump. Here is a video I made showing you how:
Other teachers do like pumps like the Willow or the Elvie. Willow occasionally has discounts for teachers. However, I don’t find them to be as comfortable or efficient (and insurance doesn’t usually cover them). However, there are some mamas that swear by them!
Another important tip for a breastfeeding teacher is to have a good breastmilk pump bag. This will allow you to carry your milk in an insulated, leak proof container and keep it fresh! It can be helpful to have something that has all your supplies in one spot, especially if might be pumping at different places and can’t just leave your pump setup (which most teachers won’t be able to).
Here are some of the best cooler bags out there!
Teacher Pumping Schedule
You also want to have a good pumping schedule for when you’re at work. This can be difficult because it will depend on your school’s policy of how often teachers are allowed to take breaks – so that is something important to discuss early in your pregnancy!
Some schools allow teachers to take a 20-minute break every three hours, which means that you would need to pump for about an hour and 45 minutes.
By law, employers are required to allow you an adequate amount of time to express milk and a private place (that is NOT a bathroom) to do so. UNFORTUNATELY, the law applies to “for most hourly wage-earning and some salaried employees (nonexempt workers)”teachers are salaried – not paid by the hour – so they aren’t protected by this. With that said, some states have additional protections in place that help teachers, so make sure you are aware of what – if any – protections your state has enacted.
A lot of teachers find it hard to even take breaks that are long enough to pump, especially if their baby’s typical feeding schedule is off from when they can take breaks at work. This might take some time to figure out, and it may require that you pump as you go to and from work, during planning periods, and lunch.
While it’s beneficial to pump for shorter periods of time more frequently, that’s not always possible as a teacher. You can try to pump for longer periods of time (similar to a power pumping session) during the breaks you do have that are a bit longer.
It is really difficult to come up with an “ideal” schedule to share with you all, just because all school schedules are different, and if you are an elementary school teacher, that is going to be different than a high school teacher.
I would suggest looking at all the times where you might possibly have break time and see if you can squeeze in some pumping. Even if you can’t get a full session, some is better than none. Even if you can sneak off and hand express, that can be beneficial.
I would definitely try and nurse or pump as close to dropping your child off at daycare as possible, during lunch time, any recess that you aren’t outside for, and planning periods. If you can fit in another pump session, that would be ideal, too. Make sure you advocate for yourself and don’t feel guilty! You have every right to be able to express breast milk for your child for as long as you want, too.
Making Pumping as Efficient as Possible
Even when you do have breaks, you might be needing to spend them working, grading papers, etc. Teachers have so much to do and every break is valuable.
I strongly recommend getting a good-quality pumping bra – you can check out some of our favorites here. This can make it a lot easier to have your hands-free. You may want to consider one of the hands-free pumping options I mentioned above.
One of the best things you can do for pump output is to incorporate compressions, though, again, this might be hard when you are trying to work at the same time. I really love the Lilu Massaging Pumping Bra (TBM10 for 10% off). It does compressions for you, hands-free! If you have a hands-free pump, you could even try and put a Lavie Lactation Massager in your bra as you pump for some extra massage (get one for 10% off with the code TBM10).
If you are allowed to have small appliances in your office or classroom, you could invest in a small refrigerator so you can save time running back and forth between the teacher’s lounge and your classroom.
Using the “Fridge Method” can help save you some time as well. You can place your pump parts in the fridge in between pump sessions and just clean them at the end of the day. If you don’t have access to a fridge, pump wipes can be really helpful for cleaning them off quickly.
You can also use a pitcher method for storing your milk all in one place and then dividing it up at the end of the day. Since breast milk can be at room temperature for 4-6 hours, you can put it in an insulated container or pitcher without putting it in the fridge right away. If you store the pitcher in the fridge, once you’ve cooled one of your bottles of freshly pumped milk, you can mix them together and just the same bottle over and over again.
Get on the Same Page with Co-Workers
While there’s no way to know for sure what type of schedule is going to be ideal for you, it can be a good idea to get a schedule pre-approved by your principal.
A lot of educators report feeling guilty having to rely on their co-workers to watch their classrooms while they are pumping. Some co-workers might be annoyed, but if you talk with them upfront about what you might need, it can make things a lot easier. You can also offer to help them in other ways that might be helpful to them.
I would be very clear about why you need to express breast milk and why it’s important for you to be able to regularly express while at work. Helping them understand the benefits of breastfeeding can be helpful, too. It’s important to be clear about your intentions but willing to listen to their questions and concerns as well as you work out a plan.
Keep Your Daily Routine Consistent
Try and keep your daily routine as consistent as possible, especially with the people that are possibly helping you. If you have other teachers or paras helping you out, you can request that they let you know if they are going to not be at school for one reason or another so you can find an alternative.
Obviously, somedays you will just have to pump whenever you can. For instance, if you are on a field trip or visiting another school, your circumstances might change. But just remember – no matter where you are, advocate for yourself. The last thing you want is to end up with clogged ducts or mastitis after you’ve been on an all day field trip!
Eat and Drink Enough
It’s so important to make sure you are eating and drinking enough. When you are at school, do your best to make sure you have a nutritious lunch and snacks throughout the day. While you don’t need to worry about drinking gallons of milk, make sure you have a water bottle on hand to help you out.
If you need some ideas for some yummy recipes and snacks that are designed for breastfeeding mothers, make sure you check out our Breastfeeding Meal Plan. So many great ideas!
Breast Milk Storage at Work
Make sure that you are storing your breastmilk properly! This will ensure that the quality of the milk remains high as possible while reducing waste – some ways in which a breastfeeding teacher can do this is by using BPA free storage bottles, bags, or ice packs. You can check out some of our favorite storage bags here.
You also want to make sure that your breastmilk is kept at the right temperature while you are away from baby. Some ways in which a breastfeeding teacher can do this would be by using an electric cooler, ice packs or having access to a refrigerator and freezer on site. You can probably use the break room fridge, but it may get pretty full, depending on how many teachers are using it. You may want to talk to your administration about the possibility of having a mini fridge in your classroom.
Another tip for returning back to work as a breastfeeding teacher is to take the necessary steps while at work in order to minimize stress. You can do this by taking breaks, eating healthy and getting enough sleep – all of these things will help your breastfeeding process run smoothly! Try and get as much help as possible in the classroom as well!
Advice from Other Moms
Here is some advice from some other teacher mamas:
“1. Advocate for yourself. Lack of subs is not an excuse to not allow you to pump when you need to.
2. Keep extra sets of parts at school in case you forget something, or something breaks.
3. Use medela quick wipes to clean parts in between if you’re not close to a sink. Or store your parts in the fridge in between pumps.
4. Buy a hands-free pumping bra to work while you’re pumping, scroll through pics of your babe, or eat a snack!5. Keep pump storage bags at school in case you forget a lid to a bottle”
“I’m a teacher as well. My son turned 1 in September, so I had a few weeks of pumping at work. I stored up a ton of milk over the summer so I only had to pump at lunch.”
“Pump at prep. Then nurse as soon as you pick baby up. If you have some stored you should be able to make it to a year. You got this!”
“I pump on my way to work and back.”
“My principal allows me to pump as many times as I need to. Of course, I try to only during breaks but I have someone watch my kids during recess, conference time and during their nap time are the times I pump at times even during lunch.”
Please share your advice for returning to work after childbirth. As a breastfeeding professional, I get asked this question all the time and would love to hear what you’ve found helpful on your journey back into the workplace as well. What are some of the challenges that you faced? Did you have any tricks or tactics up your sleeve that helped solve them? We want to know! Share with us in the comments below – we would love to read about how others managed their return-to-work transition so they can benefit from it too!