In A Perfect World, Your Workday Would Revolve Around Your Pumping Schedule. Here’s A Pumping Plan For The REAL World

The Scouts don’t have a monopoly on the motto “be prepared”: for working moms who pump, it’s our mantra, too. But even the best-laid plans can go awry. When you’re squeezing pumping sessions between projects and meetings in your already busy workday, it’s not always going to go smoothly. Flexibility and a solid backup plan are crucial. Here are strategies to help you map out a schedule… and then adapt that schedule when obstacles inevitably pop up.

Best-Case Scenario

During maternity leave, you and your baby will find your own natural rhythm and routine. You’ll learn what times of day your baby prefers to nurse, or at least how often she gets hungry. On workdays, if you can, nurse your baby as close to when you leave for work and as soon after you get home. In those hours apart, plan to pump at the same times or intervals when your baby would typically feed. When you first go back to work, that probably means pumping every three hours or so. Depending on your average workday, consider scheduling your first pumping session while you check emails in the morning, another over lunch, and a final one during an afternoon conference call or break.

Next-Case Scenario

A consistent schedule is helpful for your supply, your routine and managing expectations among your coworkers, but a little flexibility is a-okay. If you can’t schedule your pumping sessions at the same time every workday, here’s the next best approach. Think about the number of times your baby usually feeds while you’re gone. Try to build that same number of pumping sessions into your day and space them out as evenly as you can. If they can’t be evenly distributed, you may get more or less than a full feeding’s worth of milk each session. But your total volume pumped should add up to about the same amount your baby would typically take in, replenishing your stockpile and keeping your supply consistent.

Worst-Case Scenario

When unexpected meetings or crazy deadlines upend your schedule, don’t panic: Occasionally skipping a pumping session won’t completely throw off your supply. In the first few months, try not to go more than five to six hours without pumping (though for many moms, that’s way too infrequently). Squeeze in a quick pumping session when you need one, and don’t risk discomfort (or worse, mastitis) just to log some extra time at your desk. A short session is better than nothing—you’ll get some milk to store for your baby and relieve some of the discomfort if you’ve gone too long without expelling milk. If things get dire (engorgement! leakage!), speak up and ask for break. The law is on your side. [Read our guide to your rights in the workplace for more information.] You can still get work done, answer emails, jot notes and stay on task while pumping. If at all possible, though, take those 20 minutes to clear your mind—planning and maintaining your pumping schedule can be stressful, and being thrown off can be really overwhelming. You deserve a few minutes to recenter yourself while you’re juggling two full-time jobs at once.


Returning to work—and making pumping work for you once you’re back at the office—is no easy feat. We’re here to help make it a little easier. Get in touch with our team of moms to find out which breast pump will best support your pumping strategy in your workplace.