Back-to-School Breastfeeding: Pumping in Your Classroom


 
Let’s face it: the necessary task of breast pumping isn’t exactly fun for any woman in any profession. But most don’t understand the unique challenges that face teachers. When the workplace population is comprised of 90% children, adult needs can often be pushed to the back burner. Students want their teachers to be available ALL OF THE TIME and it’s not always (or ever?) appropriate to discuss what you’re doing behind that closed door. Believe me, I’m not one to shy away from telling the truth, but I really didn’t want to have a discussion with my 15-year-old male students involving the words “breasts” and “pump,” see what I mean? There is a line of professionalism and authority that each teacher must draw; crossing it is often a tough call. Add to this the idea of working on a set schedule, with class changes and extremely-short lunch breaks, planning periods that may or may not be available each day, field trips, and unplanned interruptions that are the nature of the job, and pumping can be quite a stressful feat! But with the correct preparation, YOU CAN DO IT.

Check out my Best Pumping Accessories post for even more info on what I found useful!

I pumped for an entire school year and breastfed my son until he was 18 months old (he weaned himself at that time–too soon for me!). Here’s what worked for me (with a few tips from other teacher-mamas, too):

1)Time is limited; get a fridge for your classroom so you don’t have to spend time walking to another location. Plus, you can control the temperature and what’s happening with your precious milk! Keep it behind or under your desk so no students mess with it.

2) Get a blackout curtain and a sign for your door. Placing a small sign over the keyhole of my door prevented more walk-ins than a big sign. Mine said “Mama at work! Do not enter. :)” I made sure that the appropriate staff knew what the sign meant.

3) The pumping schedule that ended up working best for me was to pump in the morning before students came in (I had common planning time). I would pump until they were literally knocking on my door, waiting for me to open it. Later on, I’d try and nurse before I left the house. In the afternoon, I’d pump at lunch and/or during my planning period, then fly home at the end of the day so I could nurse as soon as I got to the baby.

Jacqie Parsons, a teacher and owner of Jacqie Q Photography, had a similar experience: “I pumped right before the kids came in, at planning/lunch (sometimes twice in there if supply was dipping), and then sent my end-of-the-day students to another teacher at dismissal time so I could pump at the end of the day. The schedule was either [7:30, 10:00, 12:00 and 3:20] or [7:30, 12:00, 3:20.]”

4) Be up front and open with administrators and other teachers. Thankfully, I had a supportive staff, and at the beginning, teachers would cover me during their planning periods if I needed to leave class to pump (my planning period was every-other-day, not every day). Coworkers will be your biggest help. Be honest and don’t be embarrassed. You aren’t the first lactating woman in the world!

5) Keep it simple. I would pump into the same bottles all day, just transferring the milk to a bigger water bottle (I like Klean Kanteen stainless steel bottles for safety & durability). That way, I could give the full bottle of milk to the caregiver and have only three bottles to wash at a time (the large one and the two pumping bottles).

During the day, keep the bottles and parts assembled in the mini-fridge in your classroom (but take off the part that touches your breast so it doesn’t get cold!). This sounds gross, but it’s perfectly fine to keep re-using the pump without washing in-between. Just be sure to wash everything when you get home! *LIFESAVER TIP* I had a second set of parts for my pump in case I was in a rush and hadn’t gotten time to clean the pump from the day before.

6) Be Prepared. Keep extra breast pads and burp cloths/prefolds in your bag. You never know when you’ll need them! Extra cloths are great for wiping off your pump parts and cleaning up minor spills. Also be sure to check out my list of Best Pumping Accessories for other must-haves.

7) It’s YOUR time. With a course load of material to cover and a stack of papers to grade, it may be tempting to use pumping time to get in a little extra work. DON’T DO IT. This is your time and your baby’s time. Pumping isn’t just a physical reaction, there is a mental connection, too. Think about your baby. Do something you enjoy, like read a gratuitously-cheesy novel, visit your friends via Facebook, play an online game, or listen to music. Give yourself something to look forward to!

8) Know Your Rights. Review recent federal legislature about break time for nursing mothers and review your state laws, as well.

9)Eat & Drink! This is the fun one, but, oh, so easy to forget! Bring a large water bottle with you every day and be sure to drink all of it! Something that helped my supply was to eat oatmeal for breakfast every day (sweet or savory) and keep my desk stocked with snacks like energy bars, nuts, and lactation cookies.

10) Relax, relax, relax! Just typing this list brought me back to the stress I felt heading into a new school year with a new baby. Keep in mind that so many women have been in your shoes and so many men understand the process of new parenthood, too. Abbie Walston, writer at Farmer’s Daughter, remembers: ” All the women in my department had nursed their babies, and some of them had pumped at work. Many of the dads had wives who nursed and pumped, so it was something we could all talk about together without embarrassment. That helped a lot!” (You can also read Abbie’s Top 5 Pumping Tips on the Bravado site.) Now is the time to get comfortable with your body and respect the amazing things it can (and will!) do!

Find Out More: In her book, Why Great Teachers Quit, author Katy Farber provides a list of ways schools can help support breastfeeding moms.
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Please add your experiences and tips in the comments!

This post is included in the Green Moms Back to School Carnival on Mindful Momma.

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32 Responses to Back-to-School Breastfeeding: Pumping in Your Classroom

  1. Elizabeth August 3, 2012 at 6:01 pm #

    Love this! I work at a small private school, but not in the classroom. However, as children are very inquisitive I have had the pleasure of educating them about pumping and why women do it. It has led to several interesting conversations.

    • Emily F. May 24, 2014 at 3:30 pm #

      Unfortunately, I did not have a supportive administration or team. One team member was supportive, two indifferent, and our leader didn’t want to do anything she thought was extra to help me. Knowing the law isn’t enough if the law doesn’t support you. My admin had already gone to HR and knew what she coukd get away with. In Texas, there is no law that supports pumping time. I was told I could pump before work, during my lunch, and afterschool. I was told I could pump during my planning only if my team was okay with me missing planning. When I missed planning I was left out of things, comments were made, and I was treated like I wasn’t part of the team. I’ve never met a teacher who had the problems I had and other schools in the same district were having 7 and 8 teachers all pumping that year and found ways to give breaks. So although these are good tips, if your administration does not support you it really all goes out the window.

  2. Joann August 3, 2012 at 9:02 pm #

    I made a sign with a picture of a cow. :)

    Whenever my middle schoolers would ask questions, I just explained that I fed my son human milk and that I was taking care of getting milk for him. I never gave more details than that other than answering questions about why I didn’t give my son formula. I never needed to since many of my students had mothers who were nursing younger siblings and were quick to educate their peers.

  3. Michele August 20, 2012 at 9:38 am #

    These are great tips! When I was pumping for my daughter I worked in a bank so it was easier to take breaks when I needed to, but I am now a teacher and TTC#2 so these tips are great. Only one problem… we are not allowed to have fridges in the classroom (or coffee makers or any other “power suck”) so I’ll do what I did at the bank and bring a soft-sided cooler to keep in the main fridge to store the milk that has already been pumped. I also pumped into 9 oz (Evenflo cheapies) bottles during the day (I had an oversupply so the 5 oz bottles were sometimes too small for one session) and brought 4 bottles. It is okay to pump on top of cold milk as well if you bring larger bottles to pump into. The warm milk goes in slowly so it’s okay to mix temperatures that way. Hope that helps someone!

    • HealthfulMama August 20, 2012 at 12:36 pm #

      Oh, good point about the bigger bottles, Michele! I eventually had to use 9 oz glass bottles and poured them into a bigger bottle, too. You’re right: the mixing is fine. And I’ve heard of women using coolers with ice packs that worked just as well as a fridge. I just liked having my own space for my lunch and my baby’s meals :)

  4. Alexa Mason August 22, 2012 at 1:58 pm #

    This is a great post. Just shared it on Twitter. Great, great tips!

    • HealthfulMama August 22, 2012 at 2:20 pm #

      Thanks for the share! Much appreciated! :)

  5. Erin August 22, 2012 at 5:42 pm #

    These are awesome suggestions! I pumped for my daughter in my middle school classroom for an entire school year plus the first few months of the subsequent year (stopped pumping at 15 months, still nursing today at 25 months). It is definitely a setting that presents a unique set of challenges for pumping mamas! I think your tips pretty much cover everything a pumping mama would need to be successful.

    Some things that I found helpful as well:

    My school did not allow fridges in our rooms (our building was very old and circuits were constantly being blown – thankfully we have a new buliding now!). I used a “fridge to go” cooler bag – I think it was made by Playtex. You actually put the whole bag (empty) into the freezer, and the bag itself acts as both ice pack and insulated bag. I added extra mini ice packs to be safe. It kept my milk cool from my first pumping session in the morning to the time I dropped it off at her sitter’s right after school, so about 8 hours. If I had time to get to the teacher’s lounge, I’d even leave the bag in the fridge (but I didn’t always have even a few minutes to get down to the lounge!).

    I think having 2 sets of pump parts is TOTALLY necessary! Either to have as backup or if, like me, you don’t have access to a fridge to keep your pump parts in. I pumped twice a day at school, and I’d use one set the first time, toss the dirty ones in my take-home bag, then use the new clean set for the second round. Another option are those pump wipes. They’re pricey, but you can cut them in half and still clean your pump parts just fine!

    You don’t have any time flexibility in a school, so be ready to MOVE MOVE MOVE as soon as that last kid gets out the door. I found a hands-free pumping bra to be absolutely indispensible!!! I used the Medela Easy Expressions bustier, and found it to be the best option for a very large-busted mama. I tried some others and they just weren’t wide enough. Also, don’t wear complicated clothing. I stuck with looser tops that I could quickly pull up. Don’t mess around with buttons and hoopla.

    Lastly, I think this a given with any pumping mama, but GET A GOOD, DOUBLE ELECTRIC PUMP!!! You have to pump both at the same time when you’re that time crunched. Spend the money, mamas!! I loved my Hygeia Enjoye (and even though its parts aren’t as easy to find in stores, all Medela parts work with it!). And learn how to hand express for those times you REALLY space out and forget your whole pump (or it breaks down, or or or!!!).

    Thanks so much for posting this – I’ve heard SO many teachers say that pumping was “impossible” as a teacher, and most of them didn’t even attempt it because they found it such a daunting challenge. It is by no means easy, but it IS possible. :)

    • HealthfulMama August 22, 2012 at 6:44 pm #

      Thanks for your additions, Erin! Yes, a hands-free bra is something that I didn’t mention, but was included in the list provided by Healthy Home Magazine (that I linked in the post). I think I tried using the hands-free accessories that came with my pump for about two weeks, and thankfully, I found a bra that made the task sooooo much easier!

      Good point about getting a reliable pump, too. That makes all the difference. It’s WORTH THE MONEY.

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  7. Katie April 25, 2013 at 12:42 pm #

    I’m not actually a teacher yet, but I’ll be student teaching this Fall. My baby will be 7 months old when I start student teaching. Do you think the school will allow me to pump and how could I do this with another teacher in the room?

    • HealthfulMama April 25, 2013 at 1:02 pm #

      Hi Katie! First, being a student-teacher is a bit like indentured servitude, except worse, because YOU’RE PAYING to be an unpaid, full-time teacher. Good luck! It’s fun at the beginning, but then you realize you’re selling your soul each day for “the experience.” ;) Secondly, the school HAS to let you pump. I’d touch base with the school nurse, your mentor teacher, and someone in administration before you are there on a full time basis. It will be tough, because you won’t have an established relationship with the school, but I’m sure you’re not the first person who’s had to pump! Seven months is a good age, too, because you can probably get away with pumping a little less than you would have at the beginning. Maybe you can work out pumping BEFORE school, then somewhere at lunch. I know a few people who pumped in their car, where it was quiet and private. I didn’t have the option of having a place to park that wouldn’t have teenagers walking by, but it could be a good option. Best of luck! Let me know how it works out for you! :)

    • HealthfulMama April 25, 2013 at 1:04 pm #

      I also wanted to add that if you’re met with any resistance, let the natural health/birth/breastfeeding community know and we’ll take care of it!

  8. Hannah June 4, 2013 at 1:23 pm #

    I will be returning to work in August and my little one will be four months. I have a very similar schedule (planning every other day, etc.). My principal is okay with me leaving at lunch to nurse, but I am worried that I won’t get enough pumping times in if I do leave. What do you think?

    Thanks for the tips… It is nice to know it is possible.

    • HealthfulMama June 4, 2013 at 1:27 pm #

      Hi Hannah– I would have loved to have the ability to nurse more often than I did, so if it works for you, I’d say go for it! Good luck!

  9. Jenn July 6, 2013 at 12:36 pm #

    Big thank you!!!! I teach 4th grade & will return soon. My baby detests the bottle. Any tips on getting baby to actually take a bottle of expressed milk? She screams & screams when my husband or mom tries to feed her. She gets so worked up. It’s very unpleasant for all parties.

    • HealthfulMama July 8, 2013 at 2:24 pm #

      I plan to do a follow-up to this post with an expert answering some of the questions asked in the comments, but my first question for you, Jenn, would be whether you are present when your baby is trying to take a bottle or not. Sometimes, “testing it out” while you’re present doesn’t work because baby knows the real thing is right across the room!

  10. Kellista July 8, 2013 at 1:39 pm #

    I had a baby last fall and pumped from January-May! Followed all these steps and you are right on everyone!
    I pumped while I was getting ready with a hands free medela freestyle at home (this was my home/back up pump from my first child). Then pumped at my lunch at 11:30am with a medela pump in syle advanced I got free through my insurance under the affordable healthcare act). I pumped again at my plan time at 1:30 and either rushed out by 4pm or pumped another time after school.
    So I pumped at 6:45am, 11:30am, 1:30pm and 4:30pm (or was already home).
    I pumped directly into bottles and put them into my classroom fridge. I had a note over the keyhole that said Do Not Enter and curious 1st graders who knocked at the door were told I was on a conference call. ;)
    I took the time to read facebook or catch up on texts from our sitter (complete with baby pics). The key is drinking lots of water and pushing everything out of your mind to relax enough to pump.
    Was it always perfect? No. Did I ever quit or supplement? No.
    I pumped and froze lots during maternity leave and weekends for extra supply/long breaks and field trips, or growth spurts and had several extra pump parts so I only washed parts once or twice a week too.

    • HealthfulMama July 8, 2013 at 2:24 pm #

      Thanks for sharing, Kellista!

  11. Michelle G. July 21, 2013 at 2:40 pm #

    This is so helpful! I’m an elementary art teacher, and plan on pumping once I go back in September. The post eases many of my worries, since pumping and a professional job are both new to me!

    • HealthfulMama July 21, 2013 at 9:50 pm #

      So glad you found this post, then! Good luck this year :)

  12. Joey H July 31, 2013 at 8:27 pm #

    I will be returning to the classroom in October and when inquiring about pumping I have been told by administration that, “The county will not allow teachers to interrupt instructional time to pump.” My problem with that is my planning is at 9:50 and lunch is at 10:45, so i can’t pump at both as i won’t get much from the second pumping. From 11:15 to 3:50 I am with children. In all fairness my administrators said they’d try to make something work, but if they can’t/won’t any tips on how to proceed and advocate for my son and I respectfully? I will need to pump more than once a day to feed my son for the next day. Georgia law is more of a suggestion, and basically employers do not have to provide time or space for pumping.

    • HealthfulMama July 31, 2013 at 11:19 pm #

      Ugh, how frustrating. I checked into Georgia law, and you’re right, “The employer is not required to provide break time if to do so would unduly disrupt the workplace operations” (http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/health/breastfeeding-state-laws.aspx). They do, however, have to provide a space. “Employers are also required to make a reasonable effort to provide a private location, other than a toilet stall, in close proximity to the workplace for this activity.” Can you pump first thing in the morning before students arrive, then again at lunch, and perhaps immediately at the end of the day? I don’t know how old your child is or how often you’ll need to pump. If your only times are truly your planning and lunch break, I would push heavily for a different schedule or, at the very least, a different planning time.

  13. Nicole April 18, 2014 at 8:44 pm #

    How did you manage field trips? I teach preschool and we go on one field trip a month. Where did you pump? How did you store it?

    • HealthfulMama April 18, 2014 at 9:44 pm #

      Hey Nicole,
      I taught high school, so (unfortunately), field trips were not as common. The first trip I made was when my son was almost a year old, and I think I just didn’t pump until I got back to school or even home. Hopefully, someone can lend some advice to you here!

    • Abby H July 30, 2014 at 2:25 pm #

      Nicole – unsure if you’ll get this or not, but I pump ‘on the go’ all the time. I have a nursing cover that I use, a battery pack for my Medela pump, hands-free pumping bra, and a good sense of humor.

      I’ve pumped on the interstate (husband was driving), at the zoo (first aid station), children’s museum (family room), church (borrowed a staff’s office), waterpark (again, first aid station), pool (lifeguard’s break room off in the corner), and the front seat of our minivan in a parking lot at the park.

      I turn up the power one higher than normal so I’m done in ten minutes at most, and am not always able to fully drain (I”m pumping for twins, so my supply is high), but to at least relieve the pressure. I’m sure at some point in the future I’ll have to use a bathroom stall, but so far I haven’t needed to, which surprised me!

      Best of luck to you and to all the fellow pumpers!

    • Abby H July 30, 2014 at 2:27 pm #

      Also – for storage, my electric pump had a storage space built in with ice packs that worked for hours. But I also kept an insulated lunch bag with me and kept an ice pack in there – then I blend in with my lunch bag.

  14. amber May 9, 2014 at 8:25 am #

    The only things I can think to add are…

    1. I turned out the lights and did it by the light of my computer monitor. With no light apparent from the outside people would leave me alone. And it was very calming.

    2. Find something you can store in your desk for an emergency lunch. When trying to remember everything in the morning its easy to forget that. Then the choice between running out to get a quick bite and pumping is agonizing. Either way it would ruin my day. A jar of peanut butter and some crackers could be a lifesaver.

  15. Abby Smith June 22, 2014 at 9:47 pm #

    These are great tips! I recently had baby #4 and have pumped at school with all of my littles! I am a kindergarten teacher at a school with NO doors and LOTS of windows – Pumping in my room was not an option! This presented a unique problem!! I was often able to pump in the counselor’s office (big thank you to the amazing women who sacrificed their work time to allow me to do that!) Unfortunately, there were times that the office was needed and I would pump in the adult bathroom – not my preference but was much cleaner than the kiddo bathrooms and had doors that lock! It is VERY important to let all staff know what your sign means – Mine said “Private meeting in progress – Please do not disturb!” due to my regular pumping station in the counselors office. Once a male staff member (one of the three at our school) who didn’t know what I was doing and needed to use the restroom was VERY upset (knocking on the door repeatedly, shouting “What is going on in there?”, complaining to our principal) that our budget was cut so much that a meeting was being held in the restroom! He felt very embarrassed and apologized profusely after he found out what the situation was and it is now a subject for a good laugh! :)

  16. Stephanie Quarato August 26, 2014 at 5:33 pm #

    These are GREAT tips! I’m starting the school year off and have been nervous about what I was going to do. Just a question, if you don’t pump at the same time everyday, do you notice your supply going down? I have only been back 3 days now, but I pump in the morning before I leave, then again at lunch, but my plan periods are at different times everyday. I can definitely pump once in the morning, once during lunch, and as soon as I get home, but I’d like to throw in one more session during my prep period (which is at different times everyday). Thanks again!

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