So the dreaded day has arrived. The time has finally come to leave your baby to return to work because bills gotta get paid…and you’re kind of freaking out, right? Naturally.
Before I returned to work with Carson, I didn’t know what to do as far as pumping went. How much milk should I have saved up? When should I start pumping? How often do I pump at work? Well mama, I’m here to save the pumping day! This is what worked best for me and the advice I followed so use it as a baseline and adjust accordingly. Now let’s do the dang thing!
What is the best pump?
There are a lot of options out there – manual pumps, single electrics, double electrics, tons of brands. Whatever you go with, you NEED it to be a double electric for pumping at work. It’s such a time saver! I have a manual pump for at home when I just don’t feel like busting out the electric or I need a little extra help getting a clogged duct out (but that’s another blog post) and a double electric that I just love. I use a Spectra S2 and LOVE ITTT. My IBCLC recommended it to me and I haven’t looked back since. It’s the only one I’ve ever used but after using it for almost 2 years, it hasn’t lost suction and works just as well as before. You can find the full set with tote and cooler on Amazon! There are cheaper options without all the added items as well.
When should I start pumping?
This depends on a couple of things – how many hours are your work days + do you have supply issues/want to boost your supply? If you work normal 8 hour work days, you could get away with waiting until a week or two before going back. If you work longer days, you want to start a few weeks sooner to have more saved up. You always want to make sure you have more than you think you need! If you want to produce more, pump more. It’s supply and demand so the more you pump/nurse, the more you produce. Find the best time for you to pump, whether that’s morning after feedings or night (or both!) and get to it! And don’t forget to pump a little extra for those dates nights. (;
How much milk should I have saved up before returning to work?
The general rule of thumb is have 1 to 1.5 ounces per hour for baby and go up or down as needed. This is a good guideline to go by, but like I said, you’ll want to have more than you think you need. My 2 month old will probably kill 6 ounces after 3 hours. Don’t compare it to formula fed babies either; breastmilk isn’t quite as filling so your baby could eat more than his formula fed friend and still be hungry. Every baby is different. As long as you have plenty of milk saved up, you’ll figure out what your baby needs.
How do I store my milk?
Once pumped, fresh milk can stay room temperature for up to 6 hours (but it’s best to try to cap it at 4 if you can help it). I like to refrigerate my milk before freezing so the temperature can gradually rise. Your milk can last in the fridge for about 3-5 days (but again, I would try to stay on the low end of these numbers to be safe). Once you put your milk in the freezer, it’s good for 6-12 months. Just be sure to date and label all of your bags and use the oldest first! When you take out the breastmilk to thaw, DO NOT REFREEZE! This is why I store my milk in 2-3 oz bags. Less waste of that liquid gold.
How often should I pump at work?
This one is tough because sometimes you just get so busy that its hard to break away. Essentially, you want to pump around the time your baby would be eating. Shoot for around every 3-4 hours, if possible. I’ve gone longer and been just fine. A couple of times won’t hurt you, especially if you still nurse the baby when you are at home, but if you can avoid the longer spurts, then do! Working in a hospital, it’s totally hit or miss with me. We could be on the slow side one minute then the next, we’re running around like maniacs until we realize it’s 5 hours later. The healthcare struggle is so real, y’all.
What should I pack in my pumping bag?
After you choose your pump and get a bag to carry your equipment in (this is why I love my Spectra and the carrying case it came with), you can add in a few items to help you out. Or a hands free approach, which I HIGHLY recommend, you’ll need a pumping bra like this one – I use it and I love it. Super great for multitasking and adjustable for those of us that are a little challenged in the chest area… Print off a few pictures of your baby and stick them in there to look at while you pump. If you’ll have your phone on you, watch videos of your baby. Just like I said in my 10 Things You Should Know About Breastfeeding post, if you even look at a baby (especially yours), then you’re leaking already. Trust me, it helps! Pack in a few snack items like granola bars or mixed nuts and a bottle of water. If you plan on pumping more than once, pack a small bottle of dish soap and a bottle brush to clean between uses. Then grab a book or sudoku if you’re a little on the nerdier side like me and you’re good to go! It sounds like a lot but it totally isn’t! You have all you need in one spot!
A couple of great resources on breastfeeding and milk storage:
What do you pack in your bag? If you have any other questions, ask away!