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Are you a breasting feeding mama? Do you plan on pumping once you go back to work? If you do, there are some things you need to know. Things I wish I would have known when I went back to work after my first was born.
Do you feel like an emotional wreck? Don’t worry, it’s normal– you’re hormone levels are high. I’d like to tell you it gets easier, but leaving your babies never feels quite right. Going back to work was more emotional for me with my second. I was anxious about how pumping would go. With my first, it was not a good experience. I remember crying on my lunch break many times because I was so upset about the lack of milk I was able to produce with a pump. What was I doing wrong?
As a first time mommy, I didn’t really know what I was doing. Looking back on things, I wish I would have asked for more help. Don’t be embarrassed! Every mom goes through her own nursing/pumping journey. There are lots of moms who have been where you are right now, so don’t hesitate to ask someone what they did. I wish I would have!
I was teaching 1st grade at a new school and I was struggling to get everything done. I went in many Saturdays and took lots of things home. If you are a teacher, you know how hard it can be to get everything done. When you are pumping it’s so important to be consistent! It was hard to be consistent while trying to prep and plan and still leave after work as soon as possible so I could go see my sweet little boy. I felt like I wasn’t able to pump enough and still do my job well.
I wish I would have made pumping more of a priority and known more about my rights.
I know how emotional going back to work can be. It’s so hard to leave your baby, especially when they are still so dependent on you! So here are some of the things I wish I would have known before I went back to work.
1. Pumping is Hard Work
Pumping is HARD! When you’re nursing you have a sweet little face to stare at. While you pump, you have a nothing but a little robotic box for company. Not exactly the dream I envisioned when I decided to continue pumping when I went back to work. At times, it was very lonely.
Even though it is a lot of work, it is so worth it! Try to keep a positive attitude. My friend suggested that I make my pumping time a time of prayer. Many times I did and this helped the time to pass by more quickly. Being able to provide for your little one is one of the most challenging and rewarding things you will do as a mom. It was encouraging to know that I was providing the best nutrients and life long health benefits for my baby even though I wasn’t able to be with her.
I was an emotional wreck the first time I went back to work. It’s hard enough to get back in the swing of things, but on top of doing everything I was doing before, now I had to find time to pump. Who has time for that? This was especially hard for me, because I am a teacher. There is very little down time during the day, so finding time to pump consistently was very difficult.
Remember why you are pumping. Tuck a little picture of your baby in your pumping bag or scroll through the photos on your phone. You can do it mama!
2. Meet with a Lactation Consultant
I highly would recommend doing this right after baby is born. Even if you feel like things are going well, it’s always good to get a professional’s opinion. I asked my lactation consultant so many questions about going back to work and about pumping. With my first, I only met with a consultant at the hospital, which was awkward and not very helpful. I was new at being a mom and nursing was not at all what I expected. I wish I would have reached out for more support.
My lactation consultant was amazing! Even if she doesn’t remember me, I will forever remember what she taught me. Ask around for a good recommendation. It will be worth it! This is one of the most intimate spaces you will invite someone in, besides the birth of your baby. You want to have someone you are comfortable with. If it doesn’t feel right, find someone new.
Nursing with my second was very challenging. I met with a lactation consultant for 5 weeks after my little one was born. She gave me tips on how to improve what I was already doing. I even met with a nursing support group for a little while. This was so helpful. My poor little one was tongue and lip tied which made our journey a little more tricky.
Don’t be afraid to reach out for support. Other mommies totally get it. You don’t have to do this alone! Feel free to reach out to me too 🙂
3. Get the Right Supplies
If you plan on pumping at work you will need to have a pump. This Medela Breast Pump is the one that I use. I like it, but had to buy a bigger flange size so that it fit me better. The ones that come with are rather small. I ended up buying the 27mm size which was way more comfortable. Make sure everything fits well before you go back to work!
My favorite part about this pump is that I comes with a battery pack. This allows you to be able to pump anywhere. Recently, my husband and I were able to get away for a couple of hours while the grandparents watched the little ones. It was so nice not to have to worry about finding a place to awkwardly plug in my pump. I was able to pump in the car. Which wouldn’t seem like much of a luxury unless you’ve thought about alternative places, such as the *cringe* restaurant’s public restroom. YUCK!
Hands Free Pumping Bra:
Your hands-free pumping bra will be your best friend or should I say breast friend. Okay, corny, I know, but so true! If I could go back in time and buy myself one of these when I pumped for my first kiddo, I totally would! I spent my lunch break holding those awkward parts while I checked e-mail and ate! This would have made pumping so much easier! If you like to be a little more on the frugal side, you can make your own! I made one out of 2″ elastic. I measured my bust, sewed on some velcro and cut 2 slits! Voila!
I use these Lansinoh Breast Milk Storage Bags. I don’t think it matters which ones you use, I just like these! They are a great deal. I have already gone through 200! As a pumping, working mom I fill up about 2 per day, sometimes 3. That adds up pretty quickly.
You will want to have replacement membranes. I always have a couple extra membranes in my pumping bag, because if yours rips or goes missing you won’t be able to pump! I accidentally forgot to put mine back in once and I was going crazy trying to figure out why my pump wasn’t working! These little guys help the pump to have the right amount of suction. It’s always good to have a couple extra, just in case.
These quick clean micro-steam bags are a lifesaver! I had never even heard of these until my sister-in-law got some and gifted them to me. Just add water, your pumping equipment (make sure not to overfill the bag) and pop them into the microwave. Each bag can be used 20 times and kills 99.9% of germs! I do still wash my equipment with gentle soap occasionally just because, but I don’t think you have too.
4. Stock Up!
Before you head back to work you will want to build up a little bit of a supply, but don’t stress yourself out too much. The most important thing is that your baby is getting enough from you while you are together. While building up your supply, remember to pump after your baby has nursed to ensure your baby is getting as much as he or she needs. I pumped every morning after my little one nursed, but I didn’t start until she was over a month old. You can start earlier if you want, but make sure to wait until your baby has gained back their birth weight.
It was hard to tuck my sweet baby girl back into her nice cozy bed as I trudged off to the kitchen to pump. Although, I will admit, some days those fluffy down covers called my name and I skipped my morning pumping. You need sleep too, mama!
I don’t exactly know how I did this every day for 5 months, other than the fact that God helped me through. I remember the first several pumping sessions didn’t go so well, I didn’t get very much milk. I started to get worried and discouraged. I began praying fervently that I would be able to support my baby with breast milk. Every day while I pumped from that day forward I had my quiet time with God. I read the Bible and or prayed. God came through in a big way. My milk in the morning doubled!
When is the best time to pump? My lactation consultant said that the best times to pump were at night or in the morning. She said that your supply is a little more due to the fact that at night baby cluster feeds to stock up for the night and in the morning because baby usually sleeps a little longer.
5. Watch Your Diet
If you are struggling with supply, make sure that you are DRINKING LOTS OF WATER! It’s so important to stay hydrated. I fill up my HydroFlask at least 3 times a day. Also, try to stay away from caffeine. I was never a coffee drinker, but I love tea and it has been so hard! The struggle is real, especially when your little one isn’t sleeping through the night!
Eat a healthy balanced diet and make sure you are eating enough! You will burn an extra 300-500 calories a day just by nursing. Make sure you have some snacks too. I wasn’t a big breakfast person, but since being pregnant and now nursing, I have to eat breakfast. I sometimes even have a little snack before lunch just to tide myself over. Below is a list of foods that can help increase your supply and boost milk production:
- Basil Leaves
- Brewer’s Yeast
- Beet Leaves
6. Make a Plan
Before you head back to work meet with your supervisor and work out a place to pump and discuss your pumping schedule. Jenny over at momlovesbest.com has an incredibly comprehensive checklist for heading back to work.
Make sure you know your rights before you have this discussion. According to the United States Breastfeeding Committee, “Effective March 23, 2010, this federal law requires employers to provide break time and a place for most hourly wage-earning and some salaried employees (nonexempt workers) to express breast milk at work. The law states that employers must provide a “reasonable” amount of time and that they must provide a private space other than a bathroom. They are required to provide this until the employee’s baby turns one year old.”
7. Pump Consistently
This is probably the most important part of pumping. You absolutely have to be consistent. When I went back to work with my first I was not consistent. I tried to pump at lunch every day, but it just wasn’t enough to keep my supply going, especially because my little one was eating more often than I was pumping.
Try to keep your pumping schedule as close to your little one’s eating schedule as possible. Pay close attention to how often your little one is eating and plan accordingly. When I went back to work with my second, I noticed that she was eating about every 2 hours. I usually pump 3 times while I’m away.
Here’s what my schedule looks like:
- Nurse- usually between 6:00-7:00 AM or when she naturally wakes up
- Pump-7:15 (optional- I pumped every morning after she nursed for the first 4 months)
- Pump- 8:45 AM
- Pump- Lunch 11:15 AM
- Pump- Break 2:15 PM
- Nurse- usually between 4:00-5:00 PM
*This schedule will change as your baby grows and has bigger breaks between feedings. So far, I have not changed my pumping schedule and my little one is 6 months old.
It is so so so important to be as consistent as you can. Your employer is mandated by law to give you time to pump, so don’t feel guilty reminding them that you need to be given a break. That’s why it’s good to work out a plan before you head back to work. I wish I would have been more prepared before I went back to work with my first. I really hope this post has helped you to feel more informed as you begin your own pumping journey.
Also, don’t fret if things are a little crazy at work and you can’t stick exactly to your schedule. Give yourself some and remember that tomorrow is a new day.
Pumping is hard work, but you can do it!
If you feel like you are on the verge of quitting, REACH OUT! Find a lactation consultant or talk to a mommy friend. Remember you are not alone. Lots of mamas have been there and we are willing to help 🙂
Above all, make sure to take care of yourself and your baby. If pumping isn’t working for you, don’t beat yourself up. My son got a mixture of breast-milk and formula from the time he was 7 months on. If it doesn’t work out, life will go on. I know breastfeeding and pumping aren’t for everyone.
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I hope this post was helpful. Is there something you did that made pumping easier when you headed back to work?