….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.
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.
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
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.
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…
Eat oatmeal, whole grains, fruit, and healthy fats to fight the sugary cravings and fill you up
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
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.
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.
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.
At home they get a serious washing AND sterilization in these bags…
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.
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?