In my previous post on breastfeeding, I talked about nursing tips. In this post, I am focusing on pumping. Some moms rely exclusively on pumping rather than breastfeeding for a myriad of reasons: their baby was preterm, they developed mastitis, or breastfeeding was not an option. Regardless, pumping is essential for maintaining your milk supply, especially when you go back to work.
In your third trimester, call your insurance company and request a breast pump. Most insurance companies will cover this expense and will send you a breastpump for free. Some insurance companies will request a letter from your OBGyn. I was able to get a new pump with each pregnancy (which was a blessing because my first pump was terrible). They gave me a couple of options and I picked this one. It was great and I highly recommend it.
If you are planning on going back to work, try to build up your freezer stash of milk supply. You don’t need a huge freezer stash, just enough for the first week of work. Keep in mind that it is hard to get a huge stash because you will have to pump in between nursing so you won’t get too much milk from pumping. I would store about 3 oz in each bag and freeze immediately to keep the milk fresh. You can vary the amount of milk you freeze based on how much your baby is consuming. Place your bags horizontally in a plastic shoebox to maximize space in the freezer and increase thawing speed when you need to use it.
On your first day of work, you are pumping for your next work day. Keep the milk in the refrigerator for the next day (no need to freeze). I typically only keep milk in the refrigerator if I think the baby will consume it in the next day or two. You are allowed to keep milk in the refrigerator for longer than that.
To estimate how much milk to save, take the average ounces of milk consumed each time and multiply it by the number of feedings the baby will need while you are at work and add one more (in case you get home late). I typically store 3 bottles in the fridge with 3-4 ounces in each bottle.
During your maternity leave, it is important to start feeding your baby from a bottle by the second week to get him used to drinking from a bottle. My second son loved nursing but hated the bottle. I had to buy five different brands of bottles and nipples to try to get him to drink from one of them. In fact, he hated the bottle so much that we transitioned him to the sippy straw cup by five months of age.
Below are the items that I purchased:
- Buy a manual hand pump. It is inexpensive and convenient. There were so many times when I have used it: when I needed to express a little milk before nursing the baby to avoid a strong let down reflex, when I was feeling “too full” but the baby was still sleeping, when I was traveling and didn’t want to get fully hooked up, etc. I used this one.
- Buy extra bottles and pump parts so you’ll always have clean ones available. I only figured this out with my second baby. This way, you won’t have to worry about washing pumping supplies late at night when you’re too tired.
- This bra is amazing because it allows you to pump hands free.
- 4 and 8 oz Evenflo glass bottles
- OXO bottle brush to get in the corner of the bottles and has a silicon tip for cleaning nipples and small parts
- Bottle caps – these are great for transporting milk without leakage
- drying rack: sturdy enough to hold my glass bottles and easy to clean
- JL childress 6 bottle cooler
- Ice pack for your cooler
- Bebe au Lait nursing cover. The bebe au lait nursing cover is great because it is so big. I had one in my car for pumping and one in the diaper bag for nursing
- Milk storage bags. I used these and they never leaked
- organic cotton nursing pads that don’t itch. You’ll have lots of “leaks” and these prevent you from having to change your bra
- Nursing bras: clip ons recommended. You’ll have to try various ones on for size and comfort
- Vehicle breast pump lighter adapter: for pumping in the car. Make sure you check your car’s manual to see if it takes a 9 volt or 12 volt.
I was initially stressed out about pumping at work because my friends told me they took pumping breaks. Taking breaks for pumping was not an option for me due to my line of work. I went back to work 6 weeks after my baby was born. By the end of six weeks, I was nursing every 3 to 3.5 hours. I nursed my baby in the morning before I left for work if he was awake. Then, I got to work early and pumped first thing before I started work. At lunch time, I ate and pumped at the same time with my hands free pumping bra. I would pump one last time before I left work to go home. Following this schedule, I was able to pump every 4 hours and maintain my milk supply with minimal stress or interruption to my work routine.
My daily routine: (I have to thank my friend, Nakako, for sharing her routine with me. I have adapted her routine to fit my situation and I encourage you to do the same)
In the morning (or night before, but keep the ice pack in the freezer until the morning) I place the following items in the cooler: three 8 oz glass bottles with bottle caps on, two Medella bottles with the flanges, ziploc bag (optional).
The following items are always in my car: breast pump and tubing, lighter adapter, nursing cover, hand sanitizer, tissues, extra nursing pads
I pumped in the car rather than in the office because a male colleague walked in on me one time. I had my nursing cover on, but nevertheless it was a bit uncomfortable for the both of us. After that incident, I did all my pumping in the comfort of my own car. With my windshield sun shade and nursing cover, pumping in the car was quite discrete. I found that it was more comfortable knowing that I was in a clean environment and I had all my supplies handy. With my hands free pumping bra, I could relax, eat and listen to music.
When pumping, try to relax and think of your baby. You can bring a used onesie or a picture of your baby if it helps to start the flow. It takes a little while to get your let down reflex to start, but once it does, the milk usually comes out pretty quickly. Start pumping with faster speed but lighter pressure. Once the let down reflex comes, decrease the speed but increase the pressure. I typically pump 2-4 ounces per side per session. After pumping, I transfer the milk into the Evenflow glass bottles. I place the Medela bottles/flanges into my ziploc bag. Everything goes back into the cooler and the cooler goes into the refrigerator.
I keep the parts for the breast pump in the cooler so that I wouldn’t have to wash it during the day. I wash all the washable parts with warm soapy water when I get home. I hang everything on the drying rack overnight to dry. I didn’t sterilize anything because I didn’t feel comfortable heating plastic things.
At first I thought that pumping would be a big pain, but following this method, pumping was not bad at all. The best part of it was that it allowed me to continue to nurse my sons until they were 12 and 15 months respectively.
Are you planning on pumping at work? Did you do something differently? Please feel free to leave your feedback below.
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