Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts on motherhood in the legal profession, in partnership with our friends at MothersEsquire. Welcome Jamie Szal back to our pages. Click here if you’d like to donate to MothersEsquire.
Three months ago, I gave birth to my second little one. I’m back at work (my parental leave experience this time around the subject of its own upcoming post), and also gearing up for my first business trip away from home and babe.
All those how-to books out there about getting ready for baby gloss over the practical aspects of being a mom who also works. There’s no discussion about things like parental leave, pumps and parts, pumping breaks and accommodations, childcare, adjusting your schedule as needed, and all the other ways your day-to-day life will change in the short term beyond just meeting the needs of your newborn.
In the spirit of doing my part to get that type of resource out there, here are my top tips for pumping law moms heading back to work post baby:
- Get a wearable pump or truly hands-free pump collection cups.
These types of pumps make it actually possible to work while you are pumping, so that you have less disruption to your working day and billable hour requirements. They are also more discrete — hello, Zoom pumping! — and they make business travel so much easier.
That said, wearable pumps or collection cups tend to have smaller, weaker motors or lower suction. They are not as effective at draining you as breastfeeding directly or pumping with a more traditional pump. If you’re going to use one — and I still strongly recommend that you do! — keep in mind that you may need to play with your suction settings or pump more frequently if you need to keep up with your supply. Please, please, please, check the pump recommendations or work with an IBLC before you extend your pumping sessions or power pump to accommodate, as improper use of the pumps can cause tissue damage.
- Get a second pump and extra pump parts to leave at the office.
There’s nothing worse than forgetting your pump and parts at home when you actually have to go into the office. Yeah, sure, you can hand express, but ain’t nobody got time for that. Not to mention the fact that ineffective hand expression could lead to engorgement, mastitis or other infections, or the embarrassment factor of leaking through your shirts. Save yourself the anxiety by just keeping a whole second setup at the office.
- Storage! Make arrangements for storing your expressed milk.
Whether you store your expressed milk in the office fridge, a mini-fridge in your personal office, or in one of the newer devices on the market like a Ceres-chiller, make sure you know how you’re going to keep your expressed milk cold till you get back home.
- Block your pump sessions off on your calendar to preserve those times and keep up your supply.
You need to keep a consistent schedule of pumping for so many reasons! The best way I’ve found to do that is to block it off on your calendar as an appointment. This ensures that you do not inadvertently book a meeting through your pumping times, and ensures that your colleagues don’t book you for meetings during those times either.
- Ask for what you need when you are traveling or away from the office!
As the saying goes, you don’t get what you don’t ask for. When you are going to be in a proceeding (like a deposition or trial), at a meeting, traveling, or otherwise away from the office, ask for the things you need to maintain your pumping. The things I ask for include breaks for pumping and a secure, private room (not a bathroom) for pumping. If traveling more than three days: MilkStork or some other form of sending frozen expressed milk home, long enough layover time to make use of a lactation room or pod, an aisle seat on the plane or train in order to more easily pump while you’re traveling, and similar scheduling adjustments. I’ve found the greatest success in making these requests in advance so that all expectations are set well before the day these adjustments are needed.
As for pumping accommodations, MothersEsquire has actively worked with the American Bar Association on a resolution for best practices for bar examinations, CLEs, and law schools.
If you are traveling, you may need to adjust your schedule anyway. With my first child, I found that I needed to pump more frequently while traveling to keep up my supply, so keep in mind that you may need to squeeze in extra sessions around your normal pumping schedule in order to make up for what would otherwise be your routine at home.
- Reverse engineer what you need each day to hit your billable hour requirement and be diligent about tracking your time.
One of my favorite LinkedIn lawyers, Emily Logan Stedman, regularly posts about her process for reverse engineering her billable hour requirements for her Biglaw practice. I highly recommend you check out her posts for a step-by-step, practical guide on how to do this.
On the note of tracking your time, be diligent about it! All those quick email responses on your phone while pumping add up and make sure you count them.
- Prep, prep, prep!
Whether that is doing some meal prep for breakfast the night before or batch prepping for the week, laying out your clothes in advance, or packing your pump parts and milk storage containers in advance, save yourself the mental angst caused by rushing around like a tumbleweed in a storm.
And lastly — know that there are thousands of lawmoms who have been there in the trenches. We have your back. You got this, mama!
Jamie Szal assists businesses understand and strategically approach state and local tax compliance as a partner at the firm of Brann & Isaacson. Outside of work, Jamie is an active volunteer in her communities: serving on the Trinity College Board of Trustees and as a founding member of the college’s Women’s Leadership Council. She also is a member of the Board of MothersEsquire, involved with the Maine State Bar Association Women’s Law Section, and President of the board of Community Dental of Maine. She co-authored best-sellers “#Networked” and “Women in Law” about the power of women supporting women. Jamie enjoys chocolate, singing, and exploring Maine with her family.