Going back to work can be a very hard time for most moms. To add to this stress, you now have to figure out how to manage your pumping schedule and keeping up supply, all while actually getting your work done. Here are some tips for pumping at work to make your life easier.
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A lot of moms worry about getting a freezer stash built up for their first week of work. This seems like such a daunting task, but it’s not as bad as it seems! A typical baby needs about 25 oz per day of breastmilk. All you have to do, is take 25 and divide that by the number of times your baby nurses in a 24 hour period. This will give you a rough estimate of how many oz per feeding your child needs. Then, calculate how many bottles they will need at daycare if they eat on the same schedule. Babies can differ, and my son typically eats closer to 30+ oz per day, but this is something you will easily figure out. We started with 3 oz bottles, then slowly increased as we tracked his weight gain.
When building up your freezer stash, you only need ONE day’s worth of milk! This is usually around 15-20 oz of milk to be on the safe side. Every day you will pump the milk for the following day’s bottles. I started daycare with about 40 oz of milk to be on the safe side, and it was more than enough!
I pump at my cubicle surrounded by 8 men, and I only feel comfortable doing this thanks to my Freemies. [Read my full review of the Freemie Cups here]. My setup involves my pump in an insulated lunch box to suppress the sound. I have it zipped it up with the backflow preventer inside, only leaving the tubes and cord out. Not one of my coworkers can hear the pump AT All, I can hardly hear it and that’s only when I’m trying to listen for it. I pump 4-5 times throughout the day to make enough milk for daycare. At the beginning, I would also pump in the car on the way to and from work while I was trying to increase my supply.
I have both the Spectra S2 and the Medela. I thought I was going to have to take the medela because it has a battery pack but I just bought a converter for the cigarette lighter and it works great with my car. Along with my pump, I also bring a large cooler bag that has 5 ice packs, my Freemie cups, and a smaller bag with bottles for my pumped milk. I wrap my freemies in two paper towels and put inside a gallon sized ziplock bag to keep everything contained. In the front pocket of my cooler, I have extra bags, tissues, and nipple cream. They make cute pump bags, but they were all pretty expensive. I just used a medium sized lunch box we had at our house instead of going out and buying a pumping specific bag.
What you need:
- Pump parts
- Pumping bra
- Breast pump
- Breast pump bag
- Extension Cord
- Cooler/ice chest (I use a soft sided cooler that is 12”H x 12”W x 10”D)
- Bottles and/or milk bags
- Ice packs
- Nipple cream
- Breast pads
- Paper towels
- Wipes (either pacifier wipes or medela pump wipes)
- Car Adaptor (for pumping to and from work)
- Extra shirt (I just keep one in my desk drawer)
The car adapter I use:
I personally prefer my freemie collection cups over a regular flange set. Before going back to work, I was worried about having to take so much time off of work to pump. After calculating each 20 minute pumping break, set-up and break-down time, along with my 8 hour shift – I was going to be at work for a minimum of 10 hours. My Lactation Consultant recommended these Freemie cups to use instead. You can read my full review of them here. These just go inside my bra with the tubing coming out the bottom of my shirt. I am completely covered and this allows me to pump at my desk!
I work out in the open at my cubicle and was concerned about being too exposed. After testing out this pump setup, I could not imagine having to pump in a separate room every two hours.
My Typical Schedule:
4:30 am – Breastfeed with Haakaa then back to bed ~ 3-4 oz
6:30 am – Breastfeed before work
8:30 am – First Pump Session ~ 5-8 oz
10:30 am – Second Pump Session ~ 4 oz
1:00 pm – Third Pump Session ~ 4 oz
3:00 pm – Fourth Pump Session ~ 4 oz
5:00 pm – Breastfeed at home (I work until 4:30)
8:00 pm – Solids then Breastfeed before Bed
I send my son with 5 bottles (4 oz each) to daycare along with about 3-4 oz of solids. Each pump session is a minimum of 20 minutes long, but most of the time I do a short power pump so I can trigger multiple letdowns. I ended up with Mastitis a couple of months ago that trashed my supply. For a few weeks, I power pumped every time at work.
Power Pump Schedule
- 20 minutes on
- 10 minutes off
- 10 minutes on
- 10 minutes off
- 10 minutes on
Each “on” session would start with 2 minutes of a typical letdown mode followed by the standard speed and suction settings. I pump every 2 hours from start to start at the beginning. Now, I get closer to 8 oz of milk during my first pump of the day and 4 oz using my Haaka during the 4:30 am feeding. This allowed me to cut one pump session out of my day. Now I can get away with 20 minutes on, 10 off, then 10 on instead of a full hour of pumping.
Breastmilk can be left out at room temperature (up to 77 degrees) for 5-8 hours. Some women keep their milk in the fridge, but I didn’t want to clutter up my work fridge with a bunch of breastmilk and pumping parts. Instead, I bring a large cooler to store my pump parts and milk in. I keep about 5 large icepacks in the main portion and I also have a smaller bottle bag for my expressed milk. I love the skip hop bag here on amazon because it fits 3 of my 8oz Dr. Brown’s bottles side-by-side. I can also stuff a large ice pack in, directly next to the bottles to keep the pumped milk extra cold. Some women prefer to pack milk collection bags to store the milk. This is a great idea, but I always use my milk for the following day at daycare so bottles work better for me. Fresh milk is the best for baby, and it contains everything that they currently need. Your milk is constantly changing based on babies needs so I limit frozen milk to once a week. Monday-Thursday I pump at work and save for the next day. On Friday, I freeze everything from that day. Sundays, I pull out the oldest milk and defrost for Monday morning.
I do NOT wash my pump parts in between sessions! I talked to my Lactation Consultant about this and she said this was totally fine. As long as I keep my pump parts in the ice chest between each pump session, they will easily last all day. You can pack some pacifier wipes or medela wipes to wipe down your pump parts. It’s not necessary, but sometimes milk will get on the outside of the parts and you don’t want it to get your top wet. Just make sure whatever wipes you use are safe for baby and are okay to use on items that will go in their mouth.
At the end of the day, take everything home and wash well in warm soapy water. If I am running short on time, I will pop everything into the top rack of the dishwasher and run overnight. This helps save so much time, but I find the bottles will sometimes have a little residue left on the inside. Just check them before you pack them, and sometimes you might have to scrub down with the bottle brush before using them.
Know your rights
Companies are required to provide pumping moms with a private space that isn’t a bathroom and a reasonable amount of breaks for pumping, according to federal law. Keep in mind this is only during baby’s first year of life and applies to companies with more than 50 people. This also only applies to hourly employees and some salaried workers as well. If you do not fall under these guidelines, you can always check with your state regulations. It’s best to sit down with your HR representative to discuss your options and go over the requirements before you go on maternity leave.
If you aren’t making enough milk:
Milk is solely based on a supply and demand basis. There are no conclusive studies that show any food or drinks increase your supply. Actually, some studies show these “milk boosting” products can actually decrease your supply! Some women swear by them, but this is most likely a placebo effect. Placebo effect or not – I’m all for anything that increases supply! I even tried some of these tricks; unfortunately with no success. I tracked my milk supply in an excel sheet for every pump session. My goal was to find some consistency between when I tried these “tricks” and when I would make more milk. Eating oatmeal? Drinking a gallon of water? Lots of veggies? I tried it all. I think I ate enough garlic to ward off any vampires within a 100 mile radius (sorry husband, but it was for science). What did I find out? There was absolutely NO correlation between my pumped amount and my diet.
What I did find out, was that my supply was always increased after power pumping all week and I always have more milk first thing in the morning. These are both facts that my Lactation Consultant gave me, but in my desperate attempt to increase my supply the “easy” way, I was willing to try all of the rumors. It turns out, those Lactation Consultants (the people who do this for a living) actually know what they are talking about!
If you are having trouble making enough milk, here are some things to try:
1. Start using Haakaa during home BF sessions
This was such a game changer. You can check out my full review here! I use this every single morning and can get about 4 oz of milk. This is 4 oz less that I have to worry about during my day and really helped reduce the constant worry about not making enough milk. Just note, when I first started using the Haaka, I would only get about 1 – 2 oz.
Note: If you can’t get a double electric pump, use a manual pump on one side and the Haakaa on the other side! It’s hands free once you get it suctioned and you can just switch sides with your hand pump!
2. Try Power Pumping
I talked about this earlier, but I believe this was the sole reason my supply increased to what it is now. Power pumping is the pump equivalent of cluster feeding. It tricks your body into thinking your baby is going through a growth spurt and you are telling it to make more milk.
3. Add in more pumping or breastfeeding sessions.
It is better to have more stimulations throughout a day versus longer pump sessions. Anything longer than 20 minutes can start to damage your nipples. This is why I used a power pumping schedule that had lots of breaks.
Give yourself time
Going back to work is so stressful, but it’s not as bad as the anticipation leading up to it! Trying to get back into the swing of things along with missing your baby is enough to stress any new mom out. Stress can actually decrease your milk supply, and it is normal for moms to have a drop in supply right after starting work. If you were exclusively breastfeeding before now, this can be concerning when you aren’t making as much milk as you think you should be. Give yourself time to adjust to this new routine, and your milk supply should jump back up.
The first few weeks are the hardest, and you are going to miss your baby. BUT, it gets easier- I promise. I never thought I would get to a point where I didn’t want to cry at work. I’ve been back to work for just over 3 months and it has gotten so much easier. Yes, I still miss my baby – but I know he is enjoying his time at daycare and he LOVES his teachers! We also get to spend quality time together, and I [almost] enjoy the break instead of enduring the constant touching, pinching, and pulling. I’m not saying I wouldn’t enjoy being home with him, but I’ve learned to accept this new way of life. Enjoy the evenings, get in lots of cuddle time, and just take in every little moment because these kids grow up so fast.
Hands Free Pumping
Check out my post on hands-free pumping solutions to make pumping at work a little easier!
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