Pump Pump, Get Get It {Tips and Tricks for Pumping At Work}

….Shake, shake, shake, shake a lil’ somethin’…

Unofficial title of this post… How to Pump at Work Without Losing Your Damn Mind.

This is my third go-round with breastfeeding and pumping at work. While it gets easier (or maybe it just becomes routine) and I am far more confident, pumping sucks.

literally

It doesn’t just suck the milk out of you – but also the energy, the time, and, the fun. So here are my tips on making it work – at work.

Set Goals

My long-term goal is to pump for a year. I know I CAN do it because I HAVE done it. However, with Braeden I didn’t know if I was going to survive the first 6 weeks, let alone a year. A year of your baby’s life is incredibly short, but a year of pumping feels INCREDIBLY long. So, I broke up my goals. Make it the first week and then 2 more weeks, and then a month, and then 6 months. I also have the mindset that I’m happy I can do it AT ALL, so while I can, I will. And while I will complain about it every day — I am also grateful that I can do it at all.

I find it’s MOST important not to have that added pressure that I have to do it, or else. Unnecessary worry, pressure, and shame does not positively impact your supply. If I can’t and for some reason my milk supply drops or is not enough? Well, then I’m not going to feel bad about it. As long as my kid eats and he’s happy? I’m happy.

Know the Tricks

magic

Sorry Ron…

There are few tricks to pumping that I have learned over time that have really helped me

Run the Letdown Feature (if your pump has one) or Simulate Letdown (if your pump doesn’t have the feature)

This quite possibly the #1 tip I give to new moms. If you have a Medela Pump in Style Advanced or Medela Freestyle you are able to run a letdown feature whenever you want. The pump automatically runs the feature for the first two minutes and then switches to the normal setting. This simulates a baby sucking to get a letdown. (Letdown = lots of milk) I recommend running the feature AGAIN when you are halfway done with your session (with the PISA you have to turn the pump off and on again – with the Freestyle you just have to hit the button). You might be OK running it one time, or you might need to run it more. I get at least an ounce more if I run it a second time vs. just running it once. You can do the same if you have a pump that’s NOT Medela – it just takes a little playing around. For letdown you want the speed to be fast, and power/suction to be low. After about 2 minutes, switch to a slower speed for higher suction/power.

freestyle

 

If you are looking for a pump recommendation – I HIGHLY recommend Medela. Yes, they are more expensive, but they are worth it.

Pump after the first morning feed

If you know you’re returning to work after having a baby, I recommend adding this session into your daily routine as soon as your engorgement settles down or when you feel like you have enough time to add in a pumping session. It’s good practice for getting your body adjusted to the pump, it starts building your stash, and it gives your significant other a chance to give the baby a bottle at some point during the day (before I went back to work, Dan would give E a bottle every night after his bath – it was a good bonding time for them!).

Really, you can pick any time of day to pump (just try to make it around the same time every day so your body adjusts to those cues), but after the morning feed is generally the best. Milk production is at an all-day high and AFTER a feed ensures you are getting a good amount of the hind milk (aka – the fatty milk). I keep up this session while I return to work for at least the first 6 months and then I slowly wean myself off of it.

This is the only pumping session I do on the weekend s(unless I’m going out – then I’ll pump more). I hate having to do it, but again – it helps me stock up on my freezer stash.

Drink ENOUGH water/fluids, but not too much

Water is good for you and all, but too much water CAN negatively impact your supply. A good rule of thumb is to drink 1/2 to 3/4 an oz per pound of body weight. I weigh about 150lbs — so I should be drinking anywhere between 75 – 112oz a day. This include all liquids – water, juice, coffee, wine, and beer. And wine. :)

After working out I am CRAZY thirsty, so I listen to my body. I also find that drinking a HUGE glass of water before I go to bed helps. I’ve experimented and I typically pump a few more ounces on days when I chug a bunch of water before going to sleep.

Look at pictures and videos of your baby while you pump

I have no idea if they’ve actually linked looking at pictures of baby while pumping to an increase in supply – but it DEFINITELY helps me. Pumping can be very clinical and it’s hard to think “oh, I’m doing this for the good of my baby” when I you have plastic horns attached to your boobs. Giving yourself something to visual makes it less awkward.

Thankfully, I’ve had some really cute babies to look at…

3 kids

Eat oatmeal, whole grains, fruit, and healthy fats to fight the sugary cravings and fill you up

pie2

It’s very common to crave sugar when breastfeeding. I don’t typically have a sweet tooth (MOAR SALT!), but when I’m nursing I do (and it’s WEIRD!). However, just because your body WANTS sugar and you’re likely burning calories like crazy doesn’t mean you should be giving IN to the cravings all the time (it’s OK to splurge though – you are working HARD!). Instead, try eating oatmeal with peanut butter (in my case sun butter), a sweet potato, fresh or frozen fruit or some guacamole. Not only will these fill you up – but they are also really great for increasing/maintaining your supply AND you are passing these great nutrients on to your baby. Remember when you are breastfeeding your baby gets all of your nutrients first. You get the leftovers.

Figure out a Routine

I find routine SO important to a successfully pumping at work – mainly because, unlike your husband, your body listens TO YOU. If you can pump every day at the same times – you are going to more efficiently. Now, you don’t have to be exact to the minute, but within a half hour is good.

My current pumping schedule is:

  • 7:30am (10 minutes)
  • 10:30am (15 minutes)
  • 1:30pm (15 minute)
  • 4:00pm (10 minutes)

If I have meetings, I pump around them (especially if they are short) or I excuse myself for 20 minutes (if they are long). In a few months I’ll drop the 4pm session and probably pump at 11 and 3 at work. If I have enough milk, I will drop the 7:30am session somewhere between 6-9 months. Around 10-11 months I’ll drop down to once a day, and at 12 months I will wean off the pump completely. With both Braeden and Livie I was still able to nurse for another 14 months AFTER weaning from the pump – mainly in the morning and at night.

Figure Out How to Make It Fun 

Yeah, umm fun. Sure.

Truthfully, pumping is never fun BUT it is my time and I use it to catch up on blogs, and check FB, Twitter, and Instagram. I’ve also been known to play a little Sudoko or read a book. Really, I do anything to get my mind off  feeling a little bit like a cow. Moooo.

Storing, Rotation, and Cleaning Tips

Storage: I store the milk in a variety of sizes. I am pumping about 30oz a day in those four sessions (have I mentioned that I have a healthy supply?).  The first session goes directly to daycare in a bag labeled with the time. I do this to ensure that he gets at least 1-2 bottles of “fresh” milk a day (fresh milk = healthiest milk in the land). It’s labeled with the time because fresh milk can go unrefrigerated for up to 4 hours. The rest of the milk is put into bags usually in increments of 7, 5, 4, and 3oz. I don’t know how most babies are, but E eats the most in the morning and then tapers off, which is why I store them this way, it gives his daycare provider options!

I am a big fan of the Lansinoh Storage Bags

StorageBags

I pump into the bottles at work and then immediately transfer them into the bags. For a first time pumper, I recommend storing the milk in 2-4oz bags – until you get know what your baby eats every day. When at work, they are labeled with the date and size and go into my insulated pack in the fridge.

Untitled

When I get home, I lay them flat in my refrigerator freezer. At some point (I need to do this soon!) I will take the frozen packets and put them in my standalone deep freezer in my garage. I do this because the milk lasts 3-6 months LONGER in the standalone/deep freezer (there is nothing worse than having to throw away milk because it’s expired) and because I need to use my refrigerator freezer for things other than milk. Shocking, I know.

Rotation: It seems obvious – but when feeding with frozen milk, the oldest stuff should be used first. It’s personal preference, but I do like to make sure E has a little bit of fresh milk each day too. This is a bonus for his daycare provider as well – she doesn’t need to defrost.

Speaking of daycare – every day care is different so find out what their policies are. I’m lucky that my provider lets me bring her milk at the beginning of each week in their frozen state (I don’t have to worry about prepping and cleaning bottles!). She puts the milk in her freezer and defrosts them in warm water when it’s time  to eat. When E started, I gave her a few Playtex Nursers and a box of Drop-In Liners.

nursers

Cleaning: I admit, I do the minimize cleaning of pump parts at work. I wipe them down with these awesome wipes Medela makes (thank you Victoria for introducing them to me)and then I rinse them with very hot water.

quickcleanwipes

At home they get a serious washing AND sterilization in these bags

 quickclean

 

Know Your Rights

This is, perhaps, one of the most important things to be aware of if you are pumping at work. For starters, make sure you tell your boss/supervisor about your pumping schedule. It might feel a little embarrassing, but chances are they will understand and you might be surprised about who will advocate for you (I know I have been!).  Second - it is against the law for your employer to make you pump in the bathroom. And it is YOUR RIGHT to pump.  You might scoff – the bathroom, why would you pump there? But, sadly it has been suggested to me (at a previous job, with a previous baby). If you don’t have an office (I don’t) find some place quiet and private to go. Don’t be afraid to ask for a space or to ask someone if you can use their office.

Remember… It’s Worth It

If it’s your goal to breastfeed for 2 months, 6 months, a year…. you CAN do it. Breastfeeding and pumping aren’t for everyone (and some people just aren’t able to do it) and it’s not my place to tell you what you can or should do. But for me? It’s worth it. Every bit of the struggle and challenge. It’s worth holding up those stupid plastic horns, trying to find a private place, feeling a letdown in the middle of a meeting and hoping you’re not leaking all over yourself, sneaking the milk into the fridge while your coworker makes small talk with you, and really feeling like a cow.

I see the fruits of my labor. I see how it keeps my babies healthy, makes them happy, calms them down, and gives them edible chunky thighs. I feel blessed and lucky and proud that I am able to provide what I can. And oddly enough I am a little sad (I said a LITTLE) that this will be my final pumping experience.

Untitled

Yes, really Evan – final.

Have any breastfeeding or pumping questions? Let me know – I’d be happy to help problem solve. Have any pumping tips? What works (or doesn’t work) for you?

Comments

  1. Christie says

    I pumped at work for my baby for 1 year also. You have an awesome supply – I’m a little jealous! I struggled around the 6-8 month mark to get enough milk every day but my kiddo never drank a huge amount. Seriously her highest intake per day was 12-16 oz. She never moved past a 4 oz bottle. Anyway we made it to a year without supplementing, which was my goal. I just ended up having to take a med from my midwife to help produce more milk. I’m curious how much your little guy eats per day.

    I agree with the morning pump. I always did that and it was my highest yield of milk during the day. I pumped one side and nursed the other (most of the time at the same time!).

    Also, instead of using storage bags, I pumped directly into the Playtex liners. I know they don’t freeze flat but I liked never having to transfer milk.

    • says

      B never moved passed a 4oz bottle (which is typical of breastfed babies) and L hated bottled – so the fact that E is such a milk hound is surprising! He eats between 15-25oz while I’m at work – depending on when I drop him off/pick him up.

      I wish I could pump while he was eating – but I am just not coordinated and the amount I produce per side is SO lopsided. I can pump 6-8oz on my left side (max – when I am super full) while the max I have been able to pump on my right is 4oz. It’s crazy how off balance they are (and it’s always been like that).

      Good idea on pumping into the Playtex liners. I’ve never thought to do that – but I might for the day that Dan has him!

  2. Marie says

    Love this post! Another trick if you can’t rinse your pump apparatus at work ( I have no space to let dry) is to put it in the fridge until the next feeding. It’s a real time-saver!

    • says

      I put mine in a gallon ziploc and freeze them in between pumping sessions…take them out 15 min before to “un-thaw.” Cuts down on the washing or wipes/sanitation supplies:-) I have always used fresh milk, but may have to do a better job using frozen milk every once in a while to maintain a “fresher” freezer supply. Good tips; I learned somethings even though this isn’t my first go around! New reader here BTW; I have a 21 month old and 6 week old:-)
      Gina recently posted..Braxton’s First Race!

      • says

        I feel like I always learn something new – with each baby. Keeps me young! Lol.

        BTW – I don’t know how you are doing it with a 21 month old and a 6 week old — I bow down to you!!

  3. says

    I agree, pumping is not exactly fun but so worth it. Being a FTM my first goal was to breastfeed until I went back to work, then to see how it went and go from there. My next goal was 6 months but now that I have a pumping schedule, I’m not embarrassed to tote my little black bag to the privacy room (yes I thought this would be a problem), and my boy is getting chunky on mommas milk I have no plans on stopping anytime soon. I would really really like to make it past a year or at least have enough stored to get past a year. I’m not quite the producer that you are but I was over the moon when I realized I was pumping more than he was eating at daycare because this was one of my biggest fears! You can’t match that special bond you get with you baby when breastfeeding, and although it is tough some days I wouldn’t trade the look of comfort and happiness on his little face when he gets mommas milk for more convenience on my end. There is nothing like being able to nurse your baby and know that it will calm them almost every single time. I’m lucky enough that this is a slow period at work and that when we get into busy season he will be eating solids and my pumping schedule won’t be so demanding. I try to look forward to my pumping sessions as a reason to get up from my desk, stretch my legs, and give my eyeballs a break from my work.

    • says

      It’s exciting when you make more milk than they eat! I produce a lot, BUT Evan eats A LOT (20-24oz a day — which is a lot for a not quiet 3 month old).

      I love how excited E gets when he sees me and it’s time to eat. I know he’s not excited about me necessarily, but my boobs — and I’ll take it :)

    • says

      This is a recent change (it was passed when the healthcare reform act was passed) – but YES. Employers also much provide a space for you/ They don’t have to pay you for the pumping breaks, but they do have to be flexible in actually giving you time (FYI – this is for companies who have more than 50 employees). There’s still a way to go, but 4 years ago I just had to rely on the kindness/flexibility of my manager.

    • says

      It’s only terrifying if it’s not a necessity. Once it becomes your reality – it’s just a big pain in the ass more than anything else. Lol.

  4. says

    Yep, pumping totally SUCKS – both literally and figuratively. ;) I haven’t had to pump at work, but I pumped a ton for the first few months of Hunter’s life and I hated it. I’d much rather be snuggling my baby and nursing! My hands free pumping bra was definitely a lifesaver. Like you said, I’d hook myself up to the pump, and then use the time to read blogs, return emails, or play Candy Crush. Anything to get my mind off the fact that I was pumping.
    Ashley @ My Food N Fitness Diaries recently posted..My Food ‘N’ Fitness (and baby?) Diaries

    • says

      I am SOOOO happy you ended up being able to breastfeed!! I have a few friends who thought pumping would be easier, who then realized it was ridiculously HARDER and it was too late for them to go back.

  5. says

    Thanks for this post. It is awesome and I need to reread it in a few weeks when it is getting closer to time for me to go back to work and I can process things better. I have been doing a little pumping to build supply and we need to start getting Ellie to take a bottle.
    Heather recently posted..Baby Marron is Here

    • says

      Since E is only a week old (crazy that it’s already been a week!)I suggest waiting another week to start pumping/bottle feeding (but that’s me!) BUT I do recommend doing it somewhat early – around week 2 or 3 to ensure she will take a bottle – and then try to be consistent about it (we didn’t get to introduce it constantly to Livie and she HATED the bottle). Plus, it’s a nice break from the constant feeding you experience those first 6 weeks. I hope everything is going well with you guys! Congrats again :)

  6. Angie says

    I made it to 8 months and somehow my supply plummeted and my little one wanted nothing to do with nursing. I was so hard on myself but I made it past my 6 month goal but wanted to go a year. I’m actually happy we went that long because we had an awful time the first week and multiple lactation consultant meetings. I did get a great stash built over 3 months and then when we went out of town for Christmas my husband left the freezer door open. I never cried so much! Thankfully, as a teacher, my work is very accommodating and when we did a lockdown drill during recess and the principal offered me her office to pump!

    • says

      Seriously awesome that you made it to 8 months – especially as a teacher! I know a few teachers who haven’t been has lucky and only made it to 3-4 months because of the timing (understandably so).

      OMG on the freezer door being left open. I would have cried too. I need to get my stash into my deep freezer tonight because I can totally see on of the kids leaving it open.

  7. Denise P. says

    I really hope BF works for us. I do plan to have baby at my works onsite day care for the first few months but I’m not sure they’ll appreciate me visiting every 2 hours to bf or just to swoon over my little one. It is going to be very interesting to see how my work accommodates me. My department is small and the only 1 on the first level along with a bunch of conference rooms and our lobby. Maybe the supply room behind my cubicle will work. Anything else would be a pain to be carting the pump and lunch bag around too.

    I’m going to start making a little of questions to ask them- including the milk storage/bottle issue you brought up.

    • says

      I am soooo jealous that you have onsite daycare!! I would love to just pop in for a feeding/see how things are going — and believe me, it’s not disruptful when they are really little. If anything, it’s a relief because the little ones miss you just as much as you miss them.

      Definitely ask as many questions as possible beforehand – and figure out a system that works for you. I do think that breastfeeding has become more normalized in the past 7 years – even if just slightly. I used to feel like that super crazy pumping lady at work – and now I’m just the slightly crazy pumping lady :)

  8. says

    Thanks so much for these tips! I have pinned this post to refresh my mind later, once I go back to work and need to start pumping. There is so much to learn in the land of nursing!! I plan on nursing for about a yea,r but this is my first kid and I really have no clue what I’m doing. Lol. I do have a book on breastfeeding and there is a class at the hospital which might be helpful. I know my hospital has lactation consultants too, so I’ll be relying on them when the time comes. Hopefully Baby Wilson will take to it! :)
    Kelly @ Running Kellometers recently posted..Baby Wilson: 33 Weeks

    • says

      There is a lot to learn – but it’s SO hard to learn unless you are doing it. Honestly, having a great support system is SO key. If you are in doubt about ANYTHING don’t be afraid to contact your hospital’s LC. We took a class when I was pregnant with B and it helped Dan more than it helped me — BUT it made him realize that I needed him to help in different ways and to be patient when I was frustrated. So I do recommend going if you can.

      I always hope that breastfeeding works for every new mom! I am a HUGE advocate – but I also think you need to do what works for YOUR family. Life is short and the moments you have with your baby is fleeting – make them as happy and memorable as you can :)

      • says

        I just came back to this post now that I’m back to work and officially a working and pumping mom! So far my little girl has been EBF and I’m very proud of it! My first day of pumping has been okay and I’m making enough out put for what she has been taking (I had some supply issues in the beginning but we are okay now). Knowing that other moms are out there, sequestering themselves to pump for their babies is really reassuring! I am not alone! We are not alone! And although we are working, we are still trying to do the best we can for our babies. :)

        Thanks again for this post, I came back to it and it was super helpful!
        Kelly @ Running Kellometers recently posted..2013 in Review

  9. says

    I was wondering what other people do for storage. I have a few storage bags, but they suck (or at least I do for using them to store). I just store them in the little 5oz medela bottles that my pump came with but I find my milk does not stay fresh for that long. I started storing some milk in a glass mason jar. I really need a system soon because I want to start freezing some milk for when I go back to school next month.

    You sound like you have a pretty fantastic system and I’ll have to keep this in mind if or when I ever have another kid and if or when I’m working at the time hah!
    char eats greens recently posted..sunflower seed pâté

    • says

      I’ve tried a few bags and I like the Lansinoh bags the best (I buy them by the bulk via Amazon). If you are going to freeze – than I definitely recommend them!

      I swear I’ve had a different system for each kid – but then again, each kid has been different (and I’ve also worked at a different place for each baby!). Braeden didn’t go to daycare until he was 18 months (Dan and I had opposite schedules, which allowed us to keep him at home), Livie hated bottles, and Evan is an eating machine!!

  10. says

    This is so helpful, thanks for posting! I have built a decent stash from but lately have been slacking bc H barely naps or let me put her down much so it’s hard to fit it in. I need to work on that. And in 5 weeks I’ll be back at work, hopefully pumping away!
    Jen recently posted..How I spend my days

  11. says

    I am so glad I found this post! I’ve been back to work for 2 weeks, but pumping from the beginning. However I noticed a drop ALREADY and this terrifies me. And my left side is only producing about half of my left and it used to be the opposite. I’ll definitely try using the let down feature in the middle as well. One suggestion I would like to offer is use an old sports bra to hold up the pumps so you can be hands free. No need to pay the $$$ for the manufactured one if you dont need to!
    Athena recently posted..Friday 5 – 2 months

    • says

      I really need to try the old sports bra trick. I don’t use a handsfree bra – but it would be nice to have some free hands. Lol.

      Don’t let the drop worry you – I swear stress contributes to how much I can produce. Switching to the pump can be an adjustment to your body. Just go with it and try to be consistent. Going back to work is hard enough!!

  12. says

    WHY DIDN’T YOU WRITE THIS POST WHEN I NEEDED IT LAST YEAR? I did a combination of direct nursing and pumping and the pump was SUCH a bitch for me. I feel like after a while I couldn’t trick my boobs into thinking it the pump was a baby anymore and it just sort of stopped working for me. I’d nurse just fine, but pumping six ounces of milk would take me an hour. I don’t think I could have managed to do it at work. Thanks so much for writing this, I hope other moms find it as helpful as I did.
    Marie recently posted..hillbilly highway

  13. says

    I’m just re-reading this post again because I have to get pumping soon. I know it’s nothing compared to what you’re doing, but I have two full days on campus this semester (like 8:30am – 9pm). So I’ll be that girl pumping in my car between classes haha. I hope I can find those storage bags in Canada somewhere. Gonna scout out the drugstore today! I love how my necessities for back to school have shifted from clothing to breast milk…life of a mom! haha
    char eats greens recently posted..thursday things: unshared stories

    • says

      Those are LONG days – it’s comparable.

      Ugh about pumping in your car. I HAVE actually done it though and it’s not that bad. It’s better than being super engorged or leaking all over yourself :)

      I usually buy mine from Amazon – but I googled and it looks like you CAN get them in Canada – so I hope you find them!! I like that they double seal – it makes a difference.

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