If you plan on returning to work while still exclusively breastfeeding, you will need to pump.
If you plan on returning to work while still exclusively breastfeeding, you will need to pump. We made a least of all the things you should do before you start
We won't deny it – pumping is hard work. It feels strange, and less natural than breastfeeding. Finding a sanitary place at work where you can pump is not always easy, and just thinking about your baby can cause your milk to leak, even when you are in an 11am meeting with your boss.
Although pumping at work is not always easy, it is possible. It becomes less problematic once your baby starts eating solids, as you will not need to breastfeed as often, and by the time baby is one year old only the morning and nighttime feedings remain. By then, things should start to flow easily.
To help you out during this early period of going back to work, we collected some tips about pumping and breastfeeding while working.
These are also great tips in general for any mother who want to pump, even at home.
You can start pumping at any time – some babies require pumped breastmilk from day one, while other babies only start when their mothers return to work.
If you want breastmilk to be available while you are at work, begin pumping and stocking up the freezer a few days in advance. Having a ready supply of pumped breastmilk can make a big difference: you will not feel stressed about pumping enough milk for the day, you will be prepared if a growth spurt suddenly increases your baby's appetite, and you will have a backup if you are sick, exhausted, or just want a night off. With a stash in the freezer, you are ready for anything.
Going Back To Work – how do you do it? And how do you build up a stockpile of White Gold?
- Add a pumping session each day. You'll often find that you have a surplus of breastmilk in the morning which accumulated while you slept. But you can pump at any time that is most comfortable for you. What is important is that you remember to pump at the same time each day, so your body regulates itself to meet the demand (just like it would if your baby was eating).
- All beginnings are difficult. The first time you pump it may feel like nothing is coming out. The same breast that is so full it leaks when your baby is hungry, suddenly seems empty. While it's true that no pump is as efficient as a baby's mouth, after a few tries the breastmilk will start flowing each time you pump.
- Try pumping from one side while baby is breastfeeding on the other. The stimulation of baby nursing will cause more milk to come out through the pump. Another idea is to pump immediately after breastfeeding; although the breast is empty, this will help build up your supply.
- You should also maintain your pumping schedule on the weekend. This will increase your stock and establish a constant demand.
- Make sure that you use a pump that works for you: the size of the suction should match the size of your nipple (not your breast size – that doesn't matter!), and you should know how to operate it correctly and at the optimal angle. Do not purchase a pump before you have tested a few types – manual or automatic, single or double. Do a little research among friends and ask if you can borrow their pumps before you purchase one for yourself.
Storing Pumped Breastmilk
Check this comprehensive article about how to store pumped breastmilk. In a nutshell, remember that it is recommended to store breastmilk in designated bags (tip: the bags do not have to be the ones that come with your pump. You can purchase whatever is most cost-effective and once you have gotten the hang of it, you can use any bag that is suitable to freeze breastmilk).
Some additional tips about storing pumped breastmilk:
- On each bag, write the date and amount of pumped breastmilk it contains. Place the bag in a basket in your freezer, with the oldest breastmilk in front and the breastmilk you recently pumped in the back. This way there will always be a bag ready for you, your partner, or your caregiver to thaw and prepare for your baby. By using a basket you will also make sure that your hard work doesn't get hidden behind frozen peas and carrots – every drop counts!
- After each pumping session, let the breastmilk chill in the refrigerator before placing it in the freezer. You can use the same bottle for multiple pumping sessions throughout the day, and then freeze all the portions at the same time. Never add freshly pumped breastmilk to an already frozen portion!
- To thaw frozen breastmilk, place the bag in a bowl with warm water; it will be thawed within a few minutes. Never thaw breastmilk in the microwave and never boil it. Milk contains a lot of air which can heat up and burn your baby's mouth, even if it seems like the temperature is perfect. Getting your baby used to drinking room temperature breastmilk will make your life easier, saving you the bother of reheating the milk or maintaining its temperature when you leave the house.
- If your baby is in daycare, or spends the day at the home of a caregiver, replenish their stock of your frozen pumped breastmilk every few days. Use a cooler to transport it.
Pumping At Work
- If you have privacy at work, you can pump without interrupting your work day – just lock the door! Working simultaneously will help pass the time, you will be able to relax while you pump, and you will not be thinking about all the work you are missing. A hands-free pump is key for this to work.
- While pumping, look at a picture of your baby and think about all the pleasant moments you spend with him. This will help your milk flow much faster.
- Pump from both breasts at the same time – this will ease engorgement and produce more milk in less time.
- Pump for 15 full minutes, even if your milk is no longer flowing. This will help create an anticipated demand for the future. You can break up the 15 minutes in any way that is comfortable for you; 10 minutes, a little break, then 5 minutes more.
- Be prepared: make sure you have extra clean bottles, a clean plate on which to rest your equipment, and a small damp cloth to clean your breast after you finish pumping.
- If you can have a mini-fridge in your office during this time – great! If not, put the pumped breastmilk into a sealed cooler and store it in the shared refrigerator.
- Drink lots of water throughout the day – even if it's more than you're used to. Keep a bottle of water available while you pump.
- Pumping at the office can be stressful, so try to relax. Listen to music, take off your shoes, close your eyes, and just think about your baby – his smile, his smell, his touch. Think about how, in just a few hours, you will be breastfeeding and reconnecting with your baby.
Most important: be proud of what you are doing.
You are nursing, working, and taking good care of your and your child's health.
Pumping doesn't last very long, but it is worth the effort – by doing this you will maintain a strong breastfeeding routine that will last a long time.
Even if this does not work out and you find it too difficult, continue breastfeeding when you are together with baby and any time that works for you. Mothers have many different roles other than breastfeeding. We live in a society where mothers must or want to return to work at the end of their official maternity leave. If you are one of these women, know that a working mother gives her children the value of financial security and sets a great example of a multi-faceted woman with a range of qualities and abilities.