Returning to work as a new mom presents all kinds of stress and challenges. Planning is key. If you’re a breastfeeding mom, you will have one more thing to plan for. Since breastfeeding helps keep your baby healthier, you’ll want to make sure you can continue breastfeeding.
But let’s be real, pumping is time-consuming. These hacks can make it all go faster, smoother and help you be prepared for the unexpected.
Have a Plan for the Unexpected
One of the most important steps to being prepared for is building a robust stash of milk in your freezer. I advise moms to try to get two weeks’ worth of milk frozen. Remember, this is back-up milk. You’ll be pumping today for bottles your baby will get tomorrow. And there will be unexpected things that arise, like missed pumping sessions and spilled milk.
If you’re not sure how much your baby is eating at a feeding, go to a breastfeeding support group and weigh your baby before and after feeding to get an idea.
To minimize milk waste, freeze your milk in tube trays instead of bags. That way your childcare provider can thaw only what’s needed. If your baby is extra hungry at a feeding, has finished their bottle and still wants more, you can just thaw an ounce.
Make sure your babysitter is pace feeding your baby. Pace feeding allows for the time it takes baby’s tummy to send the message to the brain it’s getting full.
Do a Practice Pumping Run
Go into work and do a dry run of a pumping session: set up, pump, store your milk, and clean up.
Cleaning your pump parts properly is important to ensure the safety of your milk. However, not everyone has access to soap and running water. There are cleaning wipes and sprays specifically for cleaning breast pumps. By far, though, the best pump cleaning hack is to have multiple pump parts. That way you can use a clean set for each pumping session. You don’t need an entire kit, just the parts that come in contact with your milk.
Breastfeed at Work Instead of Pumping.
Try to arrange for someone to bring your baby to work for some feedings.
Multitask While Pumping
Although the law says moms can have breaks to pump, those who are their own bosses may want to find a way to pump while doing other things. There are two things that can help:
- A hands-free pumping bra
- A wearable pump. There are several pumps on the market that fit into bras.
Hacks for Common Problems
- Decreased milk supply: A common issue breastfeeding moms deal with is a decrease in milk supply as the week goes on. Being able to take a day off in the middle of the week can help minimize this. Your employer might be amenable to letting you work 10-hour days to be able to do this. Another alternative is to work from home once a week in the middle of the week.
- Slow let-down response. Watching a video of your baby, or of you breastfeeding your baby, may help your milk let down faster. Doing some breast massage before pumping also can help.
- Keep a manual pump at work for those dreaded times you forget your pump or pump parts. It may not be as good as an electric pump, but it’s better than nothing.
Milk Storage Hack
Some moms get creative about keeping their milk cold. If you don’t have access to a refrigerator, you can use ice packs for your lunch, and to keep your milk cold.
Continuing to breastfeed when you go back to work takes extra effort. If someone asks you why you bother, simply reply, “I make milk. What’s your superpower?”
*Author Andrea Tran RN, MA, IBCLC is a nurse and lactation specialist.