Breastfeeding and Pumping Schedule for a Working Mom: My Experience

I breastfeed my daughter at home as much as possible but of course, I pump at work. Before going back to work, I tried to find out what kind of breastfeeding and pumping schedule I’d need as a working mom.  I also wanted to know how many times I should pump at work. While I was on maternity leave, I also figured out a pumping schedule to build a stash. But I used a lot of it up when my daughter went through a growth spurt, so I also came up with a schedule for working moms to build a stash. The bottom line is, I’ve done a lot of research and trial and error to find what works best for me and want to share what I’ve learned with you!

Breastfeeding and pumping schedule for a working mom

How many times should I pump at work?

To maintain milk supply while away from your baby, you should pump every three hours while you are apart. This means you should add up your commute to work, your total time at work, and your commute back home. 

Ok but what does that mean? Let’s go through a few examples of how many times I should pump at work. 

How many times should I pump at work? Example #1: Meg, the full time worker

This one is based on me and my schedule. Meg (that’s me) has a 30 minute commute to work. She works for 8 hours and has a 1 hour lunch break, then a 30 minute drive home. Meg is away from her baby for a total of 10 hours (0.5+8+1+0.5=10 hours). 

Pumping every 3 hours means Meg will pump 3 times at work. 

How many times should I pump at work? Example #2: Stacey, the part time worker. 

Stacy has a 45 minute commute, works for 6 hours plus a 30 minute lunch break, and another 45 minute commute home. Stacey is away from her baby for a total of 8 hours (0.75+6+0.5+0.75= 8 hours).

Pumping every 3 hours means Stacey should pump 3 times at work. I rounded up in this case. Stacy may find that she can get by with just 2 pumping sessions as she goes back to work. But every mom’s milk supply is different, so I suggest starting with more pumping sessions and dropping a session if it isn’t needed.

How many times should I pump at work? Example #3: Michelle, with the long work day

Michelle has a 60 minute commute to work, works for 10 hours, including her lunch break, and then a 60 minute commute home.

Michelle is away from her baby for 12 hours, meaning she should pump 4 times at work (1+10+1= 12 hours).

But wait! Do I need to make up the time I spend pumping at work?

It depends on the specifics! Talk with your employer about your individual situation. In general, if you are entitled to a break, you can pump during that break and not need to make up the time. If you spend additional time pumping outside your breaks, then you will probably need to work to make up for that time.

Can I work while I pump? 

Possibly! Think about your job, come up with some ideas, then talk to your employer. Do consider that it is somewhat difficult to work and pump. Practice at home to get a feel for it and see how much the bottles and tubing get in your way. Some moms prefer to relax, read, or look at pictures of their babies during their pumping sessions because they produce more milk that way. 

If you have your own office, you can simply close and lock your door while pumping. If you go to a different room to pump, ask if you can borrow a laptop to keep working. A laptop desk like this one gives you a place to put your pump and still have a space to work. 

Think about other things you can do while sitting down. Any kind of writing, like record keeping, is great. Did your boss ask you to read reports or documents to catch up on stuff that happened during your maternity leave? Do you have a report to write and you could start on the outline? Personally, I get a lot of work done during pumping sessions because no one interrupts me! 

Breastfeeding and pumping schedule for a working mom

So let’s get into the nitty gritty of the breastfeeding and pumping schedule for a working mom. I’ll assume three pumping sessions. 

Option A: General breastfeeding and pumping schedule for working mom

  • Breastfeed baby before work at t=0
  • Get ready for work, commute, and work, then pump at t= 3 hours
  • Keep working until t=6 hours, then pump
  • Pump again at t=9 hours
  • Go home and nurse your baby on demand as needed

I’ll use my schedule as an example again. I get up at 6am and feed my baby. When I get to work, I pump again at 9am, 12pm, and 3pm. I get home around 5:30 and nurse my baby for the rest of the evening. 

If you don’t need to wake your baby up in the morning, substitute a pumping session. If you have to wake your baby up to take them to daycare, then definitely nurse them! You could also consider pumping in the car on the way to or from work, depending on your schedule – more on that later.

Option B: Not getting enough milk? Try this breastfeeding and pumping schedule for working moms

It’s basically the same as Option A, but add a pumping session either at the beginning or end of the day. Now that I have a good stash built up, this is what I typically do. 

Add either one of the two italicized sections:

  • Breastfeed and pump at t= 0
    • You can do one and then the other, or try to pump one side while nursing your baby on the other side
  • Get ready for work, commute, and work, then pump at t= 3 hours
  • Keep working until t=6 hours, then pump
  • Pump again at t=9 hours
  • Go home and nurse your baby on demand as needed
  • Pump immediately before bed

I personally prefer pumping right before bed. I sleep better since my breasts are emptier. But try different options and find what works best for you. The key thing is that the more milk you remove from your breasts, the more your body will make! It may take several days for your milk production to increase, so be consistent with pumping and be patient. 

Option C: A working mom’s breastfeeding and pumping schedule to build a stash 

I started with Option A, the first breastfeeding and pumping schedule above, but I just wasn’t getting enough milk for my baby, especially when she went through a growth spurt. I depleted my stash and needed more milk to build it back up. So I pump more frequently to keep my supply up. Moms who don’t want to pump more can supplement with formula too, of course.

Coming up with a breastfeeding and pumping schedule for a working mom would be a lot easier with a time turner!
Having a time turner would make this a lot easier!
  • Breastfeed and pump at t= 0
    • You can do one and then the other, or try to pump one side while nursing your baby on the other side
  • Get ready for work, commute, and work, then pump at t= 3 hours
  • Keep working until t=6 hours, then pump
  • Pump again at t=9 hours
  • Go home and nurse your baby on demand as needed
  • Pump immediately before you go to bed 

This is what my schedule looked like when I realized I needed to build my stash back up. I wake up at 6 and start pumping. My daughter wakes up somewhere between 6 and 7. When she does, I nurse her. Sometimes I will pump while I nurse her, but it can be challenging to not get her tangled up in the tubing or stop her from grabbing the bottles! 

Anyways, then I go to work and pump at 9am, 12pm, and 3pm, then nurse my daughter during the evening. Once she’s asleep, I pump again before bed. I’ve found I actually sleep better with this method because I don’t wake up with my breasts feeling as full in the morning. 

Again, experiment and find what works for you. This schedule adds 2 pumping sessions, compared to Schedule A. Maybe you only need to add one to get the milk you need. The key is simply pumping more frequently to stimulate your body to produce more milk. 

With this schedule, I actually built up a stash! I depleted mine quite a bit just using Schedule A! Now I stick with B to maintain, since I’ve got a decent stash.

Alternate pumping schedules to build a stash

If the timing or logistics of Schedule C doesn’t work for you, or you need more milk, here are some other options of pumping schedules to build a stash.

Pump after your baby nurses on weekend mornings. Even after my baby nurses on the weekend, I pump to get a little more milk and build up my freezer stash. Typically, I pump for 30 minutes. Most likely, your baby will have drunk most of the milk, but you will stimulate your breasts to make more by pumping them until they are fully empty.

Power pump at night or on weekends. Some moms have good results doing what is called a power pump. They pump for 20 minutes, take a 10 minute break and pump for another 20 minutes. I recommend queuing up a movie, a snack, and a drink. 

General tips for pumping schedules to build a stash

Remember,  the more milk that is removed from your breasts, the more milk your body will make. It doesn’t matter if it is the baby or the pump that removes the milk! The more consistent your pumping schedule, the more consistent your milk production will be. So, pumping frequently and consistently will help you build a stash.

 If you have the opportunity to pump another time during the work day, during your commute, or whatever, it will all help with your milk production! I added a few tips about pumping in the car towards the bottom of this post. 

What does pumping at work look like? 

My employer has been very helpful in making a nice “mom room. ”  We actually have 4 women with babies born with within a month of each other even though we are a small company. Before maternity leave, we didn’t have a space. But we worked with Human Resources and we now have a small room that used to be a storage closet for pumping. It has a chair, cabinet for storage, a mini fridge, a small laptop desk, and plenty of power outlets. The door locks and even says “occupied “when locked.

My colleagues know I have to go to the “mom room” throughout the day. So a few minutes before 9:00, 12:00, and 3:00, I wrap up what I’m doing, take my laptop and head to the mom room. 

Once there, I set up my pump, and pump for about 30 minutes. I use a hands free pumping bra.  If my schedule allows, I’ll pump for a full 30 minutes, otherwise I’ll stop after about 20 minutes to get cleaned up and put everything away. Personally, I find my milk is still flowing after around 20-25 minutes of pumping, no matter what settings I use on my pump. Your mileage may vary, so find out how long it will take to fully empty your breasts with your pump to figure out the best schedule for you! 

But pumping at work takes too long! 

I’ve come up with a number of tips to make my pumping sessions quicker.

First, I prep all my equipment before I leave for work. I put the bottles together with the flanges and valves. So all I have to do when it’s pumping time is plug my pump in and plug the tubes into the back of the bottles. 

Between pumping sessions, I leave my pump set up so I don’t need to plug it in again or untangle the tubing. 

Pumping directly into bags may help reduce cleanup time too. Most breast pumps have adapters for attaching the bags directly to your flanges. This accessory lets you pump directly with your S2 into bags. And this highly-rated kit that lets you pump directly with your PISA into bags

Try massaging your breasts to fully express all the milk and speed up your pumping sessions.

Many women find that watching looking at pictures or watching videos of their babies help them have quicker pumping sessions or produce more milk.

Cleaning Pump Parts During the Work Day

Moms who pump at work have several different options for handling the bottles and flanges between pumping sessions. 

Of course, washing your bottles and other parts that are exposed to milk between sessions is the most hygienic and cheapest way to go, but it does take time, and your workplace may not have the best place for washing up.

You can also bring one set of parts for each pumping session. This does mean washing more dishes once you get home, but you can order extra parts relatively cheaply on Amazon. They may even be covered by your HSA or FSA account, if you have one. 

You can also sanitize your parts with breast pump cleaning wipes between sessions. These are also a great option if you travel for work. Medela also makes a pump cleaning spray that you can use with paper towels. 

Finally, you could store the breast shields and flanges in a sealable bag in a fridge or cooler between pumping sessions. All moms may not have access to a fridge at work.

Consider pumping in the car

If you need to add more pumping sessions, but don’t have the time at work or at home, consider pumping on your commute to work. Depending on the length of your commute, it could give you another 15-30 minutes of pumping. 

I have pumped in the car, both as a driver and passenger. It was a little intimidating at first, but it worked out just fine. 

If you have the Medela PISA, it comes with a power adapter that plugs into your car’s cigar lighter. It also has a battery pack, allowing you to use eight AA batteries to power your pump. If you use the Spectra S2, you can buy a power adapter for your car or a rechargeable battery bank

Conclusions: Breastfeeding and Pumping Schedule for a Working Mom

To sum things up, pump every 3 hours that you are away from your baby. If you aren’t getting enough milk, add more pumping sessions or increase the length of your pumping sessions. Check out the suggested breastfeeding and pumping schedule for a working mom, and modify them so the times and details work best for you. Think about how you’ll handle your dirty pump flanges, valves,  and bottles at work, and how you will store the milk you pump at work. Most importantly of all, stay relaxed, and work with your employer to have a positive pumping experience at work. 

Let me know about your pumping schedule as a working mom in the comments. What has and hasn’t worked for you?

Related posts:

Check out my Review of the Medela PISA vs the Spectra S2 breast pumps. It also includes tips for getting more milk during your pumping sessions.

Bored while pumping? Check out 15 Things to do While Breastfeeding or Pumping

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