It’s officially my last week of maternity leave with Ella. I have been so fortunate to be home with her for 15 weeks, but I am ready to head back to work. Since this is my second time going back, I pretty much know what to expect. There’s only one thing I’m nervous about – keeping breastfeeding going.
With Abbie, I struggled with my supply while on leave, but my milk supply plummeted when I went back to work and I stopped breastfeeding at 6 months. I’m hoping to make it longer this time. Thankfully this time around I have more resources than last time – a better pump, a stronger support system, and more knowledge about the whole process. I’ll be going more in detail about my journey in later posts, but in preparation for heading back to work, I surveyed moms in the two pumping support Facebook groups I’m in – Working Pumping Motherhood and Working Pumping Moms – to find out what they wish they knew, and I got some great advice. I’m so thankful to have those groups as a resource, and I’m passing their advice along to you!
On your time and setup at work:
- That it can be time-consuming and not to rush it even though that’s a tough balance at work. Also, that getting on and staying on a pumping schedule can maximize output. – Amanda B.
- That it is possible! Employers will work with you to provide a quiet and private space to pump. Just ask 🙂 no explanation needed! – Mirela H.
- If you don’t have a refrigerator in your designated pumping room, you can ask HR for one. I’m pretty sure they have to accommodate your request. My employer did and it was really nice to have our own mini fridge for milk. – Amanda L.
- To set an alarm for when it’s time to pump. I get so busy and don’t realize I have missed a pump session until its time for the next. – Alaina D
- To never just tolerate rude comments or looks from fellow employees and/or management because you’re pumping. You are legally able to do so while at work and it’s an amazing thing that you’re doing for your little one. Not to mention that it is already difficult enough without feeling shamed for doing so! – Haley G.
- Everyone at work treats my breast milk like it’s uranium, they are TERRIFIED of it. If I am messing with milk on the counter of the break room or even pull my bag out of the refrigerator everyone vanishes or backs away slowly. – Kelly V.
On building a freezer stash:
- You are best to start pumping a few weeks ahead so that your body gets used to it. It will also save your sanity by having some frozen milk for those days you don’t produce as much as you need. – Shelly S.
- I realized that even though you think you should start pumping around 2 months postpartum you may have to start pumping at 2 days postpartum. In all seriousness, I think just preparing and making sure you stick to a schedule and pump when you’re supposed to and establish a routine is important. – Nikki H.
- Not to stress about building up a big freezer supply in advance because you only need enough for the first couple days. – Karen R.
- I wish I had known how to check for high lipase. My 1st night at work is when we realized babe wouldn’t drink my frozen milk. – Alaina D.
- Make sure you milk doesn’t have high lipase before you build a freezer stash. I had to throw out 30 ounces. Also, that high lipase can be solved by scalding before freezing. – Amanda N.
On your equipment:
- How your pump parts have to be exact or the pump won’t work efficiently. – Victoria B.
- I loved mesh bags to store parts in between pumps after washing them. We had a sink/soap in our pump room. – Nikki H.
- To make sure u have a let down mode on your pump and to change membranes. I stopped pumping with my first because I couldn’t get a letdown with the machine, but at home was fine. – Miriam E.
- With my 1st I didn’t know about hands free bras, and nursed/pumped until he was 10 months. With my 2nd, I bought the hands-free bra when she was 3 weeks old. This is my 1st week back, and it is SO much easier than last time. Also, last time I had trouble with low supply, so I tried all sorts of things. Power pumping, fenugreek, flax seed, etc. I would pump for 30-45 minutes hoping to get more, hoping it would tell my body to produce more, but only come out with 2 oz. in that time. Whereas I got 9 oz. in my 20-minute session this morning, and 6 oz. at the session I just finished. Big difference. – Crystal W.
- If you didn’t pump frequently before you return to work, after a month go back to a lactation consultant for a re-fit. Your flange size can change. Check periodically that there have been gradual changes you didn’t notice were happening. I started with 19mm flanges and ended up at 27mm on one and 24mm on the other. By the way, the lactation consultant provided me with complementary flanges in both sizes! – Jennifer C.
- Definitely ensure that your pumping parts are working as they should! Change them out as recommended. It’s stressful enough being at work and having to pump. If you feel as though you’re not producing/pumping the same as before, check and replace the necessary pumping parts. – Sara P.
- I wish I had tested the crappy pump my insurance sent me before I needed it; when I went to use it, I hardly had any suction and my husband had to run out like a lunatic to buy a $200 pump. Also, save receipts for said purchases as they are tax write offs. – Heather M.
- To have extra parts for your pump in case something breaks (like the valves). Usually these parts aren’t readily available at local stores, so if you don’t have a spare pump either, you can be in quite a pickle. – Ashley Y.
- I wish I’d known to check for correctly sized flanges. I use a different size on each side. Who knew? The valves, membranes, tubes need to be replaced periodically to maximize output. – Amanda N.
- The damage it would do to my nipples. With that how to properly fit a flange. I started out with ones that were way too big and did damage to the breast tissue. – Kelly V.
- I wish I had known about hands-free pumping bras. I exclusively pumped for my first child for an entire year, at least half of that was full-time working, and never even knew these bras existed. Now that I know about it, the next two kids, it was so much better at work because I could be doing email or checking my phone or organizing my desk or writing notes etc. while pumping for me, being distracted made me actually pump more, and it never made me feel guilty when I had to go pump a few times a day at work, because I was still working. – Angela A.
General Tips and Tricks:
- Putting parts in the fridge between pumps saves quite a bit of time and also (this is silly I know), freezing milk bags flat saves space! – Whitney W.
- I wish I would have known about using the 3 bottle and bag method too, anything to cut down on the number of bottles you have to wash at home. – 3 bottles to pump into, and bag milk as you go. Let’s say I pump 6 ounces at my first pump. I would pour 4 ounces into a bag for storage. I have 2 ounces left in 1 bottle. everything goes into the fridge. At the next pumping session, I use the empty used bottle and the other clean one. Pump 5 ounces. Bag 4 ounces, 1 ounce is in a bottle. Everything goes into the fridge. At the next session combine the two cold amounts of milk and use the two empty used bottles to pump. I do this over and over all day. I ONLY use 3 bottles a day. Basically, its understanding that like temperature milk can be combined, and you can use “dirty” bottles as long as they have been refrigerated. You get comfortable with throwing everything in the fridge and reusing it. – Kelly V.
- Tre not to stress and take the time to look over photos and videos of baby to help with the let down and reduce any stress from work as this can also affect your supply. – Shelly S.
- You don’t have to wash your pump supplies after every use if you keep them in the refrigerator. That there are bags that can hold everything including pump and I don’t have to carry five a day! – Stephanie M.
- As others have said, you don’t have to clean each time – just keep parts in the fridge between pumps. Also, at first you won’t pump as much as you normally would or you would expect to. It takes time for your body to get adjusted, then there’s the stress of going back to work, etc. on top of it. – Amanda L.
- I wish I would have been warned about how difficult it is in the beginning, or how you’re on such an emotional rollercoaster the whole time. I’m 8 months in and this last month has been such a struggle with supply. The thought of not being able to feed my baby is terrifying and makes me so sad. – Jen L.
On your supply and pumping technique:
- It’s important to pump at least 15 minutes if you can. 20 minute sessions are even better. This allows for multiple letdowns and more milk. – Amanda N.
- I wish I knew before starting that a small output didn’t mean I wasn’t making enough milk for my baby. No one teaches you that and the way all moms freak out about it surely made this girl nervous. It would have been nice to know the certain dietary supplements that provide a hefty over supply from day one. – Melissa M.
- Most moms will have a decrease initially from the stress of re-acclimating to their work schedule again…. and the dreaded dip that happens a few days before your period when it finally returns. – Jennifer C.
- I wish I had known that it would be virtually impossible for me to pump and work at the same time. I have to use constant hands on massage which makes working super hard. Also, that my baby would not be able to use any of my frozen stash because we did not know that he had a dairy and soy allergy until the week I returned to work. But that I would be able to get by without it!! – Stephanie H.
- That using a hand massage technique would help me extract so much more milk. Unfortunately, it also meant I could never multi task while pumping but that’s okay – I would rather have a good supply for my baby. – Melissa P.
I hope this is helpful! I do want to say a big THANK YOU to all the ladies that offered their expertise and advice for this post – hopefully we can make pumping just a little bit easier for all of us. If there’s anything I’ve missed, please leave it in the comments, and make sure to pin this for future reference!!