Shiver at the thought of pumping at the workplace? While it can be a challenge, these pumping pointers can make your job to give your baby the very best—and the job that pays the bills—a lot easier.
1. Choose the best pump for your situation.
Working and pumping full time means you need a good pump on your side. "Investing in a good quality pump is worth it for the working mom," says Beth Iovinelli, a maternal child health educator and lactation consultant at Norwalk Hospital in Norwalk, Connecticut. "It will help you keep your milk supply where it needs to be. If you are staying at home and only want to pump once in a while you may be able to get away with a less expensive pump."
2. Decide whether renting or buying is best for you.
If you can share a pump with another breastfeeding mom at work (you would each have your own accessories for the pump!) or only plan to pump for a few months, renting may save you big bucks. "Crunch the numbers to see what makes more sense for you," says Iovinelli. "If it is your first child and you plan on having more, buying your own pump may be worth it."
3. Get into a schedule.
Many women find that they express more milk when they're able to pump at the same times each day—they train their bodies into a let-down at those times. Choose the times of day you have the most milk and that fit into your work schedule. "The most important thing is to make sure you are making time to pump!" says Iovinelli. "Be flexible but listen to your body."
"If you use a work calendar, such as Outlook, I recommend blocking the time out on your calendar so last-minute meetings don't pop up," suggests Tori Weber, a California mom of one with another on the way, who exclusively pumped while working for over nine months.
4. If your milk supply drops, add another pumping session for a while.
Even doing this for a few days may help you go back to your regular schedule and pump the same amount of milk again. "Many women find that their supply may dip a bit when first returning to work—the fatigue and stress of managing a new schedule can sometimes affect supply," says Iovinelli. "By increasing pumping times it should help rev up your milk production. If you are struggling with supply, contact a lactation consultant for other strategies that might help you make more milk."
5. If you don't need it at home, keep your pump at work.
If you're hitting public transportation, you probably don't want to lug your pump with you each day. Instead, carry your bottles in an insulated lunchbox with plastic ice packs—you can take your lunch to work in it and bring your milk home in it. "If you do take the pump home each night, invest in a car charger and nursing cover and pump on your way to or home from work to utilize that drive time and not take away from your baby when you get home," suggests Weber. (Of course, we recommend you get completely set up before driving!)
6. Make sure there's always a little extra milk in your freezer.
Worrying about producing just enough milk for tomorrow's feedings can be enough to inhibit your let-down. "By beginning to pump several weeks before you return and building up a stash of milk in your freezer it will feel less stressful than worrying about pumping today for tomorrow's supply," says Iovinelli. The back-up insurance can also make it a lot easier to accept the occasional day when your work schedule forces you skip a pumping session or two.
7. Keep an extra cardigan or jacket at work.
"Leaky boobs can be an undesirable part of breastfeeding, but stuff happens, so being prepared by having an extra top or sweater to cover up just in case," says Iovinelli. And if you're wearing something you need to remove completely to pump, you can use the sweater to keep warm. But Weber suggests to keep your work wardrobe simple for a while. "Maybe shelve the dresses for now and wear button downs or simple slip off shirts," she says. "If you wear a nursing tank underneath you can be pumping within minutes so you don't waste any of that valuable time."
8. Make pumping a relaxing break that you look forward to.
It can be tempting to read incoming e-mail or take that important phone call—but don't! The hormones you release while pumping will make you feel refreshed and more productive when you return to work. If you have to pump in your office, turn off the computer monitor, send your phone to voicemail, and don't look at the papers on your desk. Look at a photo of your baby, or even turn off your light if you can.
9. Invest in a good nursing bra and nursing tanks.
A good bra is always important, but even more so when you're breastfeeding. "The nursing bra keeps you from having to get completely topless if you don't want to because you can just open the flaps and place the pumping bra over it," says Weber.
10. Remember to be patient.
It may take a little while for you to get into the rhythm of pumping and working full time. "Be patient when you first return to work," says Iovinelli. "Most moms say it takes them a week or two to get into the groove of being back at work and how to get the logistics worked out."
The groove will come, Mama! And think of what a wonderful thing you're doing for your baby.