i wanted to continue on with my breastfeeding journey and talk about going back to work. you can read my first post about the first two months here.
i was fortunate enough to be able to go back to work part-time. this was a decision brian and i made together and my work was on board as well. i love my job and what i do, but i wanted to be home with bastian during his younger years, so part-time was the perfect choice for us. i did some pumping when bastian was a few days old (because of issues we had), but not too much beyond that. i didn’t have a huge stock-pile of milk in my freezer and you don’t need to either. i remember having what i thought were stupid questions about the logistics of pumping at work. i am no expert, this is just what works for me.
knowing how much your baby eats is where i started. i attend a breastfeeding support group (another post i need to do) where we can weight our babies before and after we feed them to know on average how much they eat. at that time bastian was eating around 3 oz of milk every three hours (this changes with age obviously). it’s also important to make sure your baby will drink out of a bottle. we tried a few different bottles before we found one that worked for us. breastflow is what we use. i have heard lots of people like the playtex ventaire bottles because they have a really slow flow, but bastian wanted nothing to do them. too slow for that guy. every baby is different and you will find the right bottle by trial and error. don’t buy too many of one kind until you know what your baby likes. once you find a bottle your baby likes you will probably only need 3-4 bottles.
a week before i was returning to work i started pumping once a day. the morning is usually the best time to pump because your supply is highest then. i would pump for about 10-15 minutes after bastian’s morning feeding. some women are talented enough to pump on the side the baby isn’t feeding off of while baby is eating…i never felt like i had enough hands for that. after about a week, i had enough milk stored up for 2-3 days. seriously that is all you need. if you pump that first day of work, that will be your baby’s food for the next day. that way you are always one day ahead and your baby is getting the antibodies they need to fight any nasty bugs that might be going around. try to store your milk in a variety of quantities. i would store 3-4 oz in these bags to be used for a bottle as well as 1-2 oz if i needed more but didn’t want to thaw out a whole other bag. once milk has been thawed out, it’s only good for 24 hours. the last thing you want to do is waste milk…because you worked hard for that! here are some good guildlines for storing and handling breast milk.
women really differ here on how like like to pump and store milk and you will find your groove once you have done it for a couple weeks. i personally like to keep it as compact as possible. i use the 2.5 oz medela containers to pump into. i have to dump them into another container mid-way through pumping but it keeps my little kit way smaller. some people pump right into bottles. i use plastic 4 oz pop-top containers that you can see in the photo. my girlfriend got a ton of these for me as a shower gift (GREAT gift to get a mama!) at a local breastfeeding boutique. you can put them in the freezer too!
of course you will need your pump supplies like the tubes, shields, extra membranes (you should change them out every 3 months or so) and it doesn’t hurt to have other power sources such as the battery pack or a car adapter because seriously you never know when you will need it. i bought a small soft insulated lunch bag to hold all my storage containers and breast shields. they sell special ones that are specifically for bottles but really, any insulated container will work.
i feed bastian around 7 am before i leave for work, so my pumping sessions at work fall around 10 am, 1 pm and 4 pm. i have a job that allows me (for the most part) to pump when i need to. i am not on-the-go or running in and out of meetings, so for me, keeping a consistent schedule is easy. some moms that have a harder time pumping every 3 hours can do other tricks to make sure their supply doesn’t go down. such as power pumping — a quick, five-minute pumping session whenever you get the chance. i have heard even going to the restroom and doing breast compression in the sink (ahhh so sad to see that milk go down the drain…) to let those boobies know “we still need you!” i think the biggest thing is to try to aim for every 3 hours to keep that supply up, but if there are days where that just won’t work, don’t fret! it shouldn’t cause any issues. if you aren’t pumping enough milk during work don’t give up either! there are ways to still make it work. my pediatrician told me, babies don’t always eat the same amount every bottle every day, so what you pump at work (if in reason) is what the baby gets the next day.
when i first started pumping at work i felt clumsy and it took a long time to get all set up and packed up. some women use the hands-free bras, but seriously…those things are way more of a hassle than they are worth. you actually get pretty good at propping them on your knees, forearms or even a table or desk haha. i know some mamas that are expert car pumpers — now that’s talent! you want to have a place for pumping that is comfortable and private. i take my phone with me to help pass time. when i first started pumping i would look at pictures of bastian to help me get a quicker let-down. now, my boobies are pretty used to that pump and i don’t really have to think about him…even though he’s always on my mind 😉 i pump around 15 minutes and once i am done, i pack up my little lunch bag. i detach the breast shields from the tubing and put them in with the milk in the lunch bag and pop it in the fridge (hopefully your workplace has one). having the shields in the fridge makes it so i don’t have to worry about cleaning the shields each time i use them. then at the end of the day i take my lunch bag home (i leave my pump at work and just bring it home on the weekends). if i work the next day, the milk i pumped at work goes in the fridge for the next day, and if it’s the weekend, i put it the freezer and pull it out the night before that following work week. a lot of daycares have you leave the milk with them and then give you the empty containers they used that day. i then wash the 2.5 oz medela containers and breast shields and valves every night when i come home. about once a week i will steam clean my pump supplies with these microwave bags.
just like everything with breastfeeding, pumping at work can be difficult. i have been stressed about milk supply just like the next mom. the biggest thing to me is that i am trying. if it were easy, everyone would do it. there have been times when i have wanted to quit, but i just keep on truckin’. now, over 8 months later, i am still going and find it like second nature. the nights where i was up all night, tired, stressed or dealing with a baby going through a growth spurt, i found i didn’t pump as much as the day or week before. this is normal! the key is to not quit or give up. add another pumping session that week or dip into some frozen milk. your supply will boost back up. sleep, water and relaxation (ok, not like spa relaxation, but like a 10 minute shower) will all help with your supply. i feel like every breastfeeding mom worries about supply…and let’s face it, when you are the sole source of food for your child it can be concerning sometimes (that is another post i want to do). we are so lucky now-a-days to have great pumping products out there that make going back to work and breastfeeding so doable! good luck mamas — you won’t regret it!