Ready, Set… Pump!
Excited about stripping down and then relaxing in an office, locker room, or bathroom? Or maybe you work outside and you see many a pump about to occur in the back seat of a car?
Good times, right?
Well, while making the decision to breastfeed and return to work can be rife with challenges, it is also very rewarding. Being prepared can make it much easier and… productive.
Pumps and Supplies
If you will be working more than a few hours a day and more than one or two days per week, a good quality, double electric breastpump can help a lot. We have two boobs, so having them both go at once can save a lot of time.
Many models have features that “stimulate” you to help you let down. To do this, they start with a faster speed setting for the first minute or two until you let down. This simulates the way your baby suckles faster at first before settling into a slower rhythm when you let down. Hygeia, Ameda, and Medela are popular brands with models with this feature.
In addition to the pump, you’ll need a couple of other key items. But of course, these items aren’t small. I found that having a separate bag (which comes with many pumps) can help make it a little easier to quickly grab your supplies and head to the milking mother’s room when the time comes.
- Bottles or breastmilk storage bags – Toss a couple spares in the bag in case you forget to reload one morning. If you don’t have enough bottles, you can pour them into the bags after you pump. Some storage bags can be pumped directly into.
- Pumping bra (optional) - if responding to emails or checking Facebook sounds like more fun than holding your bottles on your boobs, a good pumping bra is needed. I used a bustier style one for a couple months, but got tired of stripping out of my shirt and bra every time I pumped. So I tried a pumping bra you could wear all day and was hooked. So hooked that I contacted the manufacturer, had improvements made to theirs, and started our small business of moms for moms, Tootsie Mama! Click here to get your hands free pumping bra with a free set of washable breastpads.
- A cooler bag – even if you’re putting your milk in a fridge. If it’s the same one co-workers put their lunches in, a cooler bag will help you go incognito. If you don’t have a fridge, add some ice packs to the cooler.
- Mild soap or cleaning wipes – If you don’t have access to a sink, wipes can come in handy to get the majority of the milk residue off your pump parts.
- Sharpie to write the date/time on storage bags or a dry erase marker to write on your bottles.
Whatever person said there’s no use crying over spilled milk did not understand how precious our liquid gold is! If something happens to it, a good cry could be the only thing that saves you from snapping at the guy in the office who didn’t wash down the sink after he dumped his leftovers into it.
Breastmilk can be stored in glass or plastic bottles, though, for freezer space and convenience, you may want to use breastmilk storage bags. These bags can be placed flat in the freezer and then stacked or stood up once frozen, saving a ton of space. Storage guidelines can vary, so check with your lactation consultant or pediatrician regarding storage times. Generally, freshly pumped breastmilk can be stored at room temperature for up to 8 hours, refrigerated for up to three or four days, and frozen for three to six months. If stored in a deep freezer, breastmilk is good for six to 12 months.
Relaxation is Key
Unlike a bottle of milk, we can’t just open up for business and expect milk to come flowing out. Further, some moms have difficulty letting down, or getting milk to flow, for the pump. Practicing with the pump before returning to work may help. Other things that may help you relax and let down:
- Picture (or cute video!) of baby
- Blanket or piece of clothing that smells like baby
- Close your eyes and relax
- Don’t watch the pump working (may cause you to stress)
- Get nice and comfy - prop your feet up, put a pillow under your back
For more tips or additional help with returning to work and pumping, contact a lactation consultant, your pediatrician, or other breastfeeding support groups in your area.
Most employers are required by federal or state laws to provide breastfeeding mothers with a place to pump at work that is clean and private, as well as appropriate break times to do so. Check with your employer before returning to work to find out what their protocol is on pumping mothers. Many large employers even have pumping lounges for mothers who pump and work. If you have problems with pumping at work due to your employer not making accommodations for you, check with a local lactation consultant or La Leche League group. They will help you define your rights and work with your employer.
I hope some of these tips help you on your transition back to work!