Working and Breastfeeding
Having a new baby is one of life’s greatest joys. To pay for this wonderful joy, unfortunately, Mamas often need to go back to work. Not only are you adjusting to new Motherhood, but now you need to further adjust to a new working schedule. If you’re a breastfeeding Mama, then you also need to add pumping into your daily routine.
Let’s be honest, if you are used to breastfeeding you know that snuggling that little baby close to you while he or she feeds is one of the best moments for bonding. You can’t get cuddly and cozy with an uncomfortable plastic pump. For me, I dreaded pumping. I did it though, because I wanted my baby to have the best nourishment possible.
While you’re on maternity leave, start to think about what your schedule will be like. Imagine a time that you can fit in pumping times, and compare that with the times your little one is feeding. Ideally you want to get in 8 feeds per day. Start your day with directly breastfeeding your baby, then pump either directly after feeding, on your way to work, or right after you’ve arrived to work, if possible. Pump as often as you can, even if it is just for 5-10 minutes, however, it is more ideal to aim for 15-20 minutes per session. You need to frequently empty the breast to keep up your supply, and can do this by pumping every three hours on average. Take a picture of your baby (or look at one on your phone), as well as a onesie or blanket that you can touch and smell. Sight and scent can affect your milk making hormones to improve let down no matter how silly it may seem.
Three things you can do to improve your pumping amount is to warm your breasts prior to pumping, massage before and during pumping, and hand express after 15-20 minutes of pumping. A pump is never going to be as effective as your baby, no matter how much you spend on one. Hand expressing is the sure fire way to empty your breasts, so you will make more milk in return. Keep the pump flange close to your breast, and just hand express right into the collection container to add to your pumped milk, and voila! If you need some practice on hand expression, I have made a very easy to follow tutorial video that you can find here.
To keep baby wanting to feed at the breast, make sure that whoever is feeding him or her during your workday is doing paced bottle-feeding. This type of feeding is meant to mimic breastfeeding. Many times parents will hold baby with the bottle facing down, and baby doesn’t need to work to get the milk out, and often overfeeds. If you hold the bottle horizontally baby will need to work to get the milk out, and can pace the feeding to last longer, and become full at a more appropriate time. Instruct your caregiver to take frequent breaks from feeding with the bottle, as well. This will most likely frustrate baby, and that is okay. You want him to continue to prefer the breast over the bottle.
You should attempt to feed your baby on demand when with your baby, but when you’re working you can put into place a more structured feeding schedule. Below is a sample of a feeding schedule that you can adjust as needed. Try to figure out what is going to work best for you before you go back to work for a trial run, then adjust it as needed. You will want to get a hands free pumping bra so you can multitask during your pumping. This can allow you to eat lunch, or catch up on anything you need to. Keep in mind that stress can lower your milk output during pumping, so you will want to make your pumping sessions as relaxing as possible. Simple, right?! Trust me, I get it.
Sample schedule for working 8am-5pm:
- 7am-feed and pump
- 1pm-pump during lunch
- 4pm pump
- 6pm-feed at breast
- 8pm-feed at breast
- 11pm-feed at breast and pump
- 3am-feed at breast
When you are with baby you will want to directly breastfeed as much as you can. By pumping after your morning feed and late night feed you will keep your milk supply up better (If you have an oversupply to begin with, or start to develop one with including pumping after feeds, remove this step). On days you are not working only feed on demand. When you are pumping, use the highest comfortable setting. If you are using too high of a setting that is causing pain, you could collapse your milk ducts.
Make sure to wash your hands prior to pumping, and to keep your pump clean. Use hot soapy water, and wash your pump parts after each session. If your baby was born at term, and is healthy, your pediatrician may tell you that you can keep your pump pieces in the refrigerator instead of cleaning them after every single use, but you will want to make sure this is ok with them before doing this. Be sure to wash them very well at least once through the day if keeping your parts in the fridge. Happy Pumping!
You can also check out this article on my must haves for breastfeeding.
Welcome! I’m Brittany. I’m a mom of two toddlers living in Northwest Ohio with my husband, Chris, and our two cats, Simon and Oliver. I’m a labor and delivery nurse, and an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant. I love finding new ways that make parenting easier, while providing a fun learning atmosphere for my girls at the same time. In my blog you will find tips and tricks for dealing with pregnancy, labor, and parenthood. My favorite part about being a nurse (besides getting to welcome little miracles into the world, obviously) is being able to educate new Moms (and Dads) on how to care for their little ones at the very start. Parenthood is such a complex and exhausting journey that we need to have support from others who make us feel like we’re not alone. You are not alone here!