11 Ways to Make Pumping Easier After Returning To Work.
As a mom of two, I have both breastfed and formula-fed my children. At different times, I have exclusively breastfed, I’ve exclusively pumped, I’ve done a combination of breastfeeding and pumping while supplementing with formula which led to just formula feeding.
Both breastfeeding and formula feeding have pros and cons.
I strongly support the idea that FED is BEST.
However, there are many documented benefits to breastfeeding and many reasons why a woman might choose to breastfeed for as long as possible.
I always found breastfeeding to be easier and more convenient than bottle feeding. However, I struggled to keep my supply up once I went back to work and had to start pumping.
My breastfeeding journey with my firstborn ended sooner than I really wanted it to due to work demands and being unable to pump enough breast milk while I was away from my baby.
I just returned to work after my second maternity leave and am hoping to continue breastfeeding and pumping until my second baby is one year old.
Luckily, I’m a little more prepared this time around.
Are you a working and pumping mom?
Do you have a breastfeeding goal you’re hoping to stick to?
Here are my favorite tips to successfully pump at work and continue breastfeeding your baby for as long as you want.
1. Find Your Pumping Space
In order to successfully pump breast milk at work, you’re going to need a place to pump.
The Affordable Care Act requires employers (with more than 50 employees) to provide space (not a bathroom) to be used by working moms to express breast milk (source).
Your state may have additional regulations around lactation that support working moms.
My current workplace does NOT have a dedicated pumping room. Luckily, I have an office that I share with one other person and am comfortable pumping in there.
If there is no designated lactation room, ask if you can pump in an unused office, a conference room, or a break room at specific times during the day.
If there really are no other options or you have to travel a lot for work, it is feasible to pump in your car.
I had a different job after my first baby was born. The building I worked in DID have a (very small) room to pump, which I used when I was there. However, I also traveled a lot during the workday, visiting clients, so I frequently pumped in my car between visits. This made pumping a lot more difficult, but it was doable!
2. Plan Your Pumping Sessions
Ideally, you’ll want to pump at the same time your baby eats to make sure you’re pumping enough milk to replace each bottle.
Realistically, you may not be able to pump at that same time every day or even pump ENOUGH times every day.
My work schedule changes daily so I plan out my pumping sessions each morning for that particular day. I work 10-hour days and my baby usually takes 3 to 4 bottles while I’m at work. I plan to pump three times. Occassionally, I’ll only be able to fit in two pumping sessions. When that happens, I try to make them longer sessions to get the most milk that I can.
Having trouble fitting pumping sessions into your work day? Try these tips:
- Schedule pumping sessions in your calendar
- Set your phone alarm to remind you that it’s time to pump
- Try fitting in more sessions if you can only pump for a short amount of time. If you can only fit in a few sessions, try pumping for a longer amount of time.
- Use your lunch break if you have to
- Pump in the car on your way to or from work to fit in an extra session
3. Get the Right Supplies
By now you’re probably aware you can get a breast pump free through your insurance. Once you have your breast pump, you want to make sure you have all the necessary supplies that go along with it.
Your breast pump will come with everything you need to pump. Additionally, you’ll want to order extra supplies such as more breast milk storage containers and an extra tubing set.
Since I don’t like reusing my pump parts unless they are thoroughly washed (which I find difficult to do at work), I order extra pumping sets to use at work. I pump three times so I have three pumping sets.
Your baby may only drink from a certain brand bottle BUT if he isn’t too picky about what bottle he uses, try to find one that fits onto your pump.
I’ve found it extremely convenient to have pump parts that are interchangeable with your bottles.
With my firstborn, I used both the Medela Pump in Style and the Spectra S2 pump. I was able to use my Medela pump parts with the Spectra pump. In addition, my daughter drank from Dr. Brown’s bottles. The bottles fit onto the Medela pump pieces so I could pump directly into the bottles. The caps on the Medela milk storage bottles are also interchangeable with Dr. Brown’s bottles. Having all the parts fit together was extremely convenient.
This time around, I’m using the Lansinoh pump. I chose this one because it is very portable which is helpful when taking it to and from work. Lansinoh has their own nipple line so you can just attach the nipples onto the breast milk storage containers to feed your baby. I didn’t plan on using the Lansinoh bottles at first, but I tried them out since they came with my pump set and my son actually loves them.
This saves on time AND the amount of dishwashing I need to do.
Trust me, after a long day at work, the last thing you want to do when you get home is clean a sink full of dirty pump parts and bottles (see tip # 10).
4. Pack a Pumping Bag
Once you have all the supplies, you’ll need something to transport them in. You’ll want a bag big enough to fit everything but not so big that you have nowhere to store it while at work.
They sell bags that are specifically made for transporting breast pumps and supplies but you can also use any bag that suits your needs.
Here’s what I pack in my pumping bag:
- breast pump
- 3 sets of pump parts (in a large ziplock bag)
- 6 breast milk storage containers with lids
- breast milk storage bags (just in case I need something extra to pump milk into)
- hands free nursing bra
- nursing cover up
- wet-dry bag or large ziplock bag (for dirty parts)
- breast pump wipes
- quick clean micro steam bag
I would love to recommend a great pumping bag but I haven’t found one that I love yet. If you know of an awesome pumping bag, please share in the comments below!
5. Use a Hands-Free Pumping Bra
I’m not sure how I got through the first few months of life with my daughter without a hands-free pumping bra. If you don’t have one already and you plan on pumping at work – YOU NEED THIS.
My sister in law introduced me to my first hands free pumping bra and I will never go back.
You can work while you pump, answer emails, scroll through pictures of your baby, or eat a snack.
It will just make your life insanely more easy.
6. Wear the Right Clothes
Invest in some business casual pumping friendly clothes to wear to work. Shirts that are great include nursing shirts, button-down blouses, and stretchy tank tops.
I like to wear my hands-free pumping bra instead of an actual bra because it makes the pumping process much easier.
Unfortunately, it’s not very supportive or shape-enhancing. On days when I need a little more support, I’ll wear a nursing bra to work and just unclip it and zip my pumping bra over it when I’m ready to pump.
7. Compress the Breast
When you’re pumping at work, you want to get out the most milk you can. Research has shown that warming breasts before pumping can increase the amount of breast milk you pump (source). Using a warm compress like this one can be a quick way to increase your milk production.
Massaging the breasts first can also get your milk flowing faster and increase the output.
TIP: To increase the quantity of milk you pump, try using a warm compress and massaging your breast before pumping.
8. Bring a Cooler
I bring a cooler with me so I can store my pumped milk in the lunchroom fridge discreetly.
If you don’t want to have to keep bringing milk to the fridge, throw a few ice packs into your cooler and keep it with you. Just make sure the temperature stays cold enough. The CDC states that breastmilk can be stored in an insulated cooler bag with frozen ice packs for up to 24 hours (source).
You’ll also want to label your breast milk when you’re home to make sure you use the oldest milk first. Breast milk can be safely stored in the refrigerator for up to four days.
9. Have Plenty of Healthy Snacks and Water
You do burn calories from breastfeeding but the actual increased nutritional requirements will vary for each individual woman. Some women find that they have a decreased appetite when breastfeeding, while others (like myself!) want to eat all day long.
Breastfeeding and pumping women should aim to eat nutrient-rich foods throughout the day. This includes plenty of protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates, especially whole grains, which help keep you feeling full.
You should stay hydrated by drinking enough water to quench your thirst. I find that I always feel extra thirsty during a pumping sessions so I keep a water bottle with me while I’m pumping at work.
Here are some of my favorite pumping snacks to bring to work:
- plain Greek yogurt with fresh berries and Muesli
- low fat cheese with whole grain crackers
- almonds, walnuts, dark chocolate chips and dried cranberries
- whole grain bread or English muffin with peanut butter
You might also like: Healthy, Easy Snacks for Breastfeeding Moms (Who Are Hungry All The Time)
10. Have a Cleaning Routine
Cleaning my pump parts is one of my LEAST favorite parts of pumping. After working all day, I hate coming home and having to wash all my pump parts and bottles.
You may have heard of the pumping hack to store your pump parts in the fridge in between uses, thus cutting down on having to wash them after each time you pump. While this definitely sounds like it would save time, I recommend following the CDC and FDA guidelines for cleaning your breast pump parts.
Germs can grow quickly on breast milk residue left on pump parts.
The FDA states that all pump parts that come in contact with milk should be cleaned after each use (source).
The CDC has similar guidelines, stating pump parts should be cleaned as soon as possible, either by hand or in the dishwasher (source).
Unfortunately, fully cleaning my pump parts at work isn’t really feasible.
Since the CDC recommends cleaning pump parts AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, I try to clean them as soon as I get home. In the meantime, I rinse the pump parts out after using them and store them in a wet/dry bag or a large ziplock bag.
Once home, after washing my pump parts with soap and water, I then sanitize them in a microwave steam bag and let them air-dry overnight on a bottle drying rack.
You may be able to skip the sanitizing step if your pump parts can be washed in the dishwasher – check with the pump manufacturer’s guidelines.
11. Prep the Night Before
There are so many times I’ve gone to pump while at work and realized I’ve forgotten something at home. It’s almost as bad as spilling breast milk!
Common things I’ve forgotten are breast milk storage containers or the caps.
To make sure you’re able to pump and properly store your breast milk while at work, try getting everything ready (as much as possible), the night before.
Pack your pumping bag. Put everything near the door or with your keys so you don’t leave anything behind. Have a list of everything you need to bring so you can double-check it in the morning and make sure you haven’t forgotten anything.