If you’re going back to work and will continue breastfeeding while working, congratulations! You’re doing an awesome thing for your baby. Although it can be daunting, it’s absolutely possible to return to work and continue to breastfeed. I pumped for 12 months and breastfed for 19 months so trust me when I say it can be done. It’s true!
If you plan to exclusively breastfeed and work outside the home, pumping will become a necessary part of your life. Although you’ll need to adjust your schedule, pumping at work will just become part of your (thrice) daily routine.
I had a love/hate relationship with our mother’s lounge. It allowed me to continue exclusively breastfeeding while working, but I never got used to the constant interruption of my day. Or my never-ending battle to get the ounces I was chasing. After pumping 2-4 times a day for over nine months, I was efficient with the process. This post outlines the necessary steps and products to get through pumping at work. You CAN continue to breastfeed (and even exclusively breastfeed) once you return to work.
Nursing my little lady was a huge accomplishment. It’s something I’m really proud we were able to do, and I want you to have the same success. I did a three-part series of posts on our nursing journey, and pumping at work (what you’re reading now!) is the second post in this series.
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I hope you’ll get some good information out of these posts, and that I can help motivate you to reach your breastfeeding goals. So, let’s focus on how to crush pumping at work.
This post probably contains affiliate links. That means if you buy something using one of my links I may receive a small commission – at no additional cost to you! How cool is that? It’s kind of boring, but feel free to read my full disclosure if you want more info.
Adjust your calendar to make breastfeeding while working possible before you return to work
I pumped every 2 ½ to 3 hours for the entire first year. I blocked 30 minute holds on my calendar at 9 a.m. noon, and three p.m. until little lady’s first birthday. The schedule below was my pumping and nursing schedule when I went back to work at 14 weeks.
I eventually dropped the dream feed at about 9 months. I know you can do it earlier, but since she wasn’t sleeping through the night yet, I was terrified of getting even LESS sleep.
Sample breastfeeding/pumping schedule:
4-6 a.m: Nurse. Eventually, she was sleeping until 6 a.m. daily, but it took almost a year.
7:00 a.m: Pump (after feeding her again)
9:30 a.m: Pump
Noon: Nurse at lunch or pump
3:30 p.m: Pump
5:30 p.m: Nurse
7:00 p.m: Nurse before she goes down
9:30 p.m: Nurse (dream feed)
You might also like The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep. Dr. Karp has awesome tips on how to get better sleep and to break bad sleep associations and habits. Nursing to sleep is a big offender, so be sure to check this out if you’re looking at optimizing your schedules.
Our daughter would wake up once or twice from 9:30 p.m. – 6 a.m. and I’d usually nurse her then as well. This nursing/pumping schedule allowed us to keep ~500 oz. in the freezer for the first year. I’d built up most of my freezer stash before I went back to work (here’s a quick video on how we did it) and then maintained it until she was 10-11 months old when I started pumping less than she was consuming daily.
Before you go back to work add pumping holds on your calendar, or let your supervisor know that you’ll need frequent breaks for as long you plan to breastfeed. You can adjust the time and frequency later. If you don’t hold your calendar before you’re back in the groove, it will be way too easy to block over your pump time as work piles up.
Set yourself up for pumping success
Make sure you have everything you’ll need to pump for the day, along with extra parts. Pack your pump bag the night before, and keep your extra parts at work in your mother’s lounge or at your desk. Bring an extra set of EVERYTHING. Flanges, bottles, tubing, valves, and membranes. Feel free to stick a couple of bottles in there too.
Packing your bag the night before ensures you won’t forget anything as you’re rushing out the door in the morning.
There will be a time that you either forget to pack something or even leave the entire bag sitting by the door. Don’t take out these extras or bring them home frequently or you won’t have them when you need them. Trust me on this.
Bring dish detergent and a storage container and leave those as well. If you have time to clean your parts at the end of the day this will cut down on dishes when you get home, or you’ll always have it handy if something gets dirty during the day.
Trina and Alli from Mom Smart Not Hard have some great tips on How to Pump & Store Expressed Milk. Check out their great advice to make sure you’re maximizing your effort and storing your milk safely!
Make your pumping time count
In order to maximize your time and get out as many precious ounces as possible, bring photos or videos of your baby and look at them while you pump. Especially at first, it really helps to relax and think of your little while you get in the groove. If you’re lucky, this may even get you a second let down. Eventually, you’ll probably be able to get work done. After a few months, you’ll feel like a professional multi-tasker.
For efficiency, a hands free pumping bra is 100% necessary if you plan to work while pumping. You may even want to get two of these so you have one handy if the other one is in the laundry. I liked using my pump sessions to check and respond to emails. It was a good way to fully utilize my 15-20 minutes of sitting in the pump room when I wasn’t able to get going on a new project.
This bra is my favorite pumping bra, and it’s actually affordable.
If you want to learn to breastfeed and really set yourself up for success when you go back to work, check out the awesome Breastfeeding & Working Ebook I put together on breastfeeding and working success.
We’ll tackle questions like:
- How to set up the conversation about breastfeeding at work
- How to prepare to be successful breastfeeding when you return to work
- Getting your baby ready for bottle-feeding
- Your rights as a breastfeeding mom
You’ll also learn how to:
- Set up your day so you get more done
- Prioritize and set yourself up for success
- Outline expectations and your schedule with your boss
- Crush it as a boss mamma when you’re back at work
Click the banner below for more information!
The Home Stretch
After all your hard work to continue breastfeeding while working – you’ll want to make sure you get the milk home safely. With commute times this definitely means you’ll need to get an ice pack to keep everything cold. Make sure you get a pack and cooler that holds the amount of milk you’ll be pumping during the day. I never needed more than this medela cooler, but if you have a large supply, you may need something bigger.
At the end of the day you’ll need to pack up all that milk you pumped and put it in your cooler. You’ll put the cooler along with your pump parts in your breast pump bag and take it home for the evening to clean and store your milk.
Breast milk storage and bottle prep
I typically used half fresh and half frozen milk when prepping bottles for the next day. I needed to cycle through the frozen milk at regular intervals so none of it expired. Ideally, you’ll use as much fresh milk as possible, but since I was nursing a lot she got milk right from the source in many instances. I felt ok using some frozen every day.
Frozen milk is good in your freezer for 3-6 months (refrigerator/freezer combo) or for 6-12 months in a deep freezer.
When I got home I ran a bowl of hot water with some Dawn in it and put in all the bottles from the day, my pump parts, and the bottles she drank from at daycare. This was a HUGE bowl of dishes. I’d make sure to take out enough frozen milk to finish her bottles for daycare the next day and use some of the fresh milk I’d pumped to get the bottles ready. Anything extra I’d put in my milk storage bags, label, and freeze.
Be sure you wash your pump parts in a sterile environment – either in a separate bowl or side of the sink you don’t use for food prep. Sinks can be pretty dirty places so you don’t want any nasty germs getting into your freshly washed pumping equipment.
All this was a TON of work, and there were so many days I didn’t think I’d make it the full year. Looking back I’m so glad I did. Hopefully, some of the tips above will help you too. Let me know what you did to get through breastfeeding while working!
Here are some of the things you’ll need to make this phase easier!