15 Tips for Keeping Up Your Milk Supply While Pumping at Work
Keeping up your supply when away from your baby is not easy! It takes a lot of hard work and determination. You need a lot of motivation, and a whole village of support.
I’m going to be absolutely honest, pumping sucks. It sucks a lot. Most pumping moms have a love hate relationship with our breast pumps. We love them because they help us to reach our breastfeeding goals and provide our baby with the best nutrition possible while we are away. We hate them because the simple fact is, being hooked up to a manual milking machine is not exactly “fun”. Sometimes I feel kind of like a cow. Moo.
The bond between breastfeeding mother and baby is simply unparalleled. There is nothing more beautiful in the world than staring down at my beautiful baby while he nurses. There is no greater love in the world, than the love I feel when we lock eyes. I can almost feel him say to me, “thank-you for this life sustaining milk, I love you mama”. It is an amazing experience that I am grateful to have the opportunity to do.
Unfortunately, no amount of oxytocin is going to make me fall in love with my breast pump. I love nothing about the process. Pumping is just one more thing to fit into a busy day. It is one thing to do. It is easy to pause what you are doing to feed your baby. Generally, because when you are with your baby taking care of baby IS what you are doing. Nursing your baby gives you an instant oxytocin high and baby lovin’ gratification. Pumping is different. At times pumping can feel like a chore, and frankly, it is borderline humiliating to be milked like a cow half naked in your office. As you sit there exposed with two suction cups on your breasts, you always have a little bit of fear of someone walking in on you. Or of spilling milk all over yourself, ruining your outfit and leaving you smelling like spoiled milk for the rest of the day (yes, I am speaking from personal experience). Even in the most supportive environment, pumping is somewhat inconvenient and time consuming. I give exclusively pumping moms a whole lot of credit. I don’t know if I could do it! (#respect)
That being said – despite the fact that pumping can feel somewhat degrading, tedious, and annoying – it is absolutely, positively, without a doubt, worth every second.
As I said before it takes a lot of work, a ton of support, and most importantly dedication. I went back to work when J was about 3 months old. 5 months later, J is 8 months old and I am still pumping at work to provide him with the best nutrition possible! Whatever your breastfeeding goals are, you can make it work! Set a goal, find support, and above all try to enjoy this beautiful season of your life. Although it might seem impossible, know that you are not alone, and learn from the experience of others! You CAN do it, and it doesn’t have to be hard!
The following 15 tips are a compilation of tips and tricks from all different kinds of working moms, from part-time to over-time, and in between
1. Invest in a good pump
Most insurance companies now cover the cost of a high-quality pump. Call your insurance company for details first, but generally you have a couple of options.
I was lucky enough to simply take a signed prescription from my doctor straight to the Target Pharmacy and leave with a Medela Pump In-Style covered completely by my health insurance. Seriously amazing.
For help with this find out more at: https://pumpingessentials.com
2. Know your rights
The department of labor requires your employers to provide you with REASONABLE break time (this includes set up and clean up time) and a space to do so. This space cannot also be a bathroom. Talk to your HR department if you are not happy with your accommodations. This law is fairly new, so it is possible they just don’t know what is and is not already available in your office.
3. Don’t be ashamed
Sometimes you may feel as though you need to be secretive or try to hide why you need to take so many breaks, or wait until no one is in the kitchen to clean up your pump parts. Don’t! This only perpetuates the stigma that nursing mothers face. You are nourishing another human being the way that God intended. You have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, you should be applauded. Nursing mothers deserve to be respected and revered, not ridiculed and ignored.
4. Schedule your time
Schedule your pumping sessions into a calendar or set an alarm on your phone. You should be pumping at least three times in an 8-hour period away from your baby. When I first started back to work, I had my caregiver notify me every time the baby would take a bottle and how much. I would try to pump the same amount around the same time. This can seem incredibly tedious at first (it was), but it was just so I could get myself onto a consistent schedule. It helps you get a better idea of how often and how much you should be pumping when you are away from your baby. After a while, you will feel more confident about getting onto your own schedule.
5. Keep pictures and videos of your baby close by
When I am watching a video or looking at a picture of my baby my milk tends to let down faster and my pumping sessions don’t take quite as long.
6. Don’t worry if you are only able to pump a little bit of milk
Sometimes you will make more or less milk than normal. It doesn’t mean you are “drying up”. I have had days I could pump 15 ounces in one session, and others when I only pumped 2 at the very same time of day. There are so many factors that play a role in your milk production. Don’t give up because of one bad day (or many bad days for that matter)!
7. Pump a little extra if you can and build up a stash
This will take the stress off of you to consistently pump enough. I know that I have had days in which I “came up short”. It can be a huge confidence buster. The stress actually works against you and you end up pumping even LESS. With a little cushion stash at home, you don’t have to worry about your baby going hungry while you are away. It sounds irrational, but it is a real pumping mom fear!
8. You don’t have to wash all of your pumping supplies every single time you pump
This was a huge revelation for me. The whole process used to take FOR-EV-ER. Until I discovered that your pump parts are actually safe at room temperature for about 6-8 hours! For real. This makes it SO much easier to sneak in a quick 5-10 minute pumping session when you have a quick break. Versus 30-45 minutes.
9. Leave your pump at work
I went out and bought a small hand pump for “emergencies” at home. I rarely use it because if I were with the baby I would simply nurse instead of pumping because it is easier, but it is nice peace of mind. This allows me to keep my pump at work during the week. This way I don’t have to lug that whole bag around, along with everything else I need. Everything is set up and ready to go at work so it saves me a huge hassle, and a lot of time.
10. Make sure you are eating and drinking enough
I am so guilty of failing this one. If I didn’t have a God given gift of a massive milk supply, I would probably be in trouble. I am the kind of person who will have a cup (or three) of coffee for breakfast and forget to eat, or drink enough water. I guess I have a passion for data collection but I have definitely noticed a correlation between the number of calories I eat in a day and the total ounces of milk I can pump. The same goes for water. I make sure to keep a big bottle of water at my desk and drink at minimum a glass of water with each pumping session.
11. Consider your wardrobe
I know this is kind of a bummer when you want to wear that cute dress when you make your office debut. However, unless you want to get yourself totally undressed to pump, reconsider. I try to wear shirts and dresses that I can pull up and down easily, or button ups. Also, invest in a pumping bra. It has been a huge lifesaver. Hands free pump does not mean “hands-free”. I’m actually not sure why they call it that. Without the pumping bra you actually have to hold the flanges in place. It is nice to have your hands free to do super important things while you pump, like check your Facebook or keep up with your favorite blogs!
12. Pump as often as you can
Lots of short pumping sessions, versus a few big ones are OK. Milk production is based on supply and demand. If you take X amount of milk out, your body will continue to produce X amount of milk. It seems so intuitive, however whenever I started to feel like I wasn’t producing enough, I tried to remind myself this. As long as I was pumping all the milk I needed for the next day, I was doing ok!
13. Ask your caregivers to try to avoid feeding baby in the last hour they are with them
Obviously, the caregivers should not withhold food if baby is truly hungry. However, if the baby is able to wait until you get home try to nurse as soon as you arrive home. The same goes for when you leave. Try to nurse baby just before you go (if you can’t do this for some reason I suggest pumping right before you leave or right when you get to work).
14. Have a “nurse-in” day as often as you can
I actually really love these days. A “nurse-in” day is simply a day of the week that you spend the whole day with your baby close to you. Allowing your baby to nurse on demand. Don’t expect to get a lot done. Simply just relax and be with your baby. I know this isn’t always realistic but if you ever feel like you have a drop in your supply, spending the day close to your baby and nursing as much as possible are the best ways to boost it (and your mood from all of that wonderful oxytocin)!
Make a commitment to yourself and to your baby that you are going to continue to breastfeed. You are going to receive your fair share of rude comments, funny looks, and turned up noses. There will be days in which you feel like quitting. You will leak through your favorite shirt, or forget to pump just before a meeting leaving you pained and visibly distracted the entire time. You might forget your pump at home and need to go all the way back to get it. You will feel like throwing in the towel 100 + times throughout your journey, but at the end of the day you and your baby will have a beautiful bond that no one in this world could ever understand. Each time you feel like quitting ask yourself if you can just do it for “one more day”. You might find you are capable of more than you think!
Lindsay is the author of caffeinatedmama.net ! She is a working mom, wife, yogi, life-long student, and part-time blogger. She is passionate about breastfeeding, gentle parenting, list-making, coffee, and savasana. She loves to write about her journey through gentle parenting, the products she believes in, and how to wear many hats.
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