Tips for pumping at work

By 12:44

After I revealed that my journey of expressing breastmilk at work had come to end, I received a few questions from moms about to start expressing at work. While I was on maternity leave, I remember reading articles and asking people how they did it. Even when you’re super prepared, there are some things you only figure out as you go through the process. Here are some of my tips that helped me in this year long journey.

1. Invest in a double electric breast pump 
The breast pump is probably the best invention for working mothers. Moms don’t have time to waste. While hand expressing and manually pumping works fine to prepare a bottle for that rare occasion that you’re away from your baby, it doesn’t cut it for every day pumping. A double electric pump along with a hands free pumping bra allowed me to drain both breasts while eating lunch or typing up a report. And each session only lasts 20 minutes. I used the Medela Swing Maxi


2. Build up a freezer stash
I hung out with the Le Leche League crew for a few months and they would never advise building up a freezer stash. They aim to help you understand how much milk your baby needs to drink while you’re away, to be consistent with pumping so that your supply doesn’t drop and to trust your body to produce what your baby needs. Perfect advice for calming down anxious moms. But, in the corporate world, work stress causes a dip in supply and department meetings that overrun mean you can’t pump at the same time you usually do. I created a freezer stash by adding a pump session every day while I was on maternity leave. I was a relief to be able to dip in to that for those days I didn’t or couldn’t pump enough. 

3. Know how much milk your baby needs
Most parents think their babies need more milk than they actually do. This is because they focus on the formula calculations on because when they leave more milk, their babies devour it all. Luckily, we have science to tell us everything we need. Little babies suck for comfort and when mom is not around, their desire for comfort increases. They can easily drink a full bottle because the need to suck is so strong. According to studies performed, babies only need to drink about 37ml of breastmilk per hour that the mom is away. They are also far more intuitive than we give them credit for. If they don’t drink enough, they’ll make up for it when mom’s back home. 

4. Schedule your pump sessions in your calendar
Ideally, you want to pump as often as your baby drinks in order to maintain your milk supply. At some point, I was pumping three times a day. I blocked out those mid-morning, lunch and mid-afternoon sessions on Outlook so that my colleagues knew I wasn’t available for meetings. It also served as a reminder for when I got busy and lost track of time. Don’t wait until you’re engorged; it sends a message to your brain to slow your milk production. This just threatens your supply in the long run. 

5. Know your rights
In most countries, the law entitles nursing mothers to take lactation breaks by law. In South Africa, you’re allowed breaks to express milk up until your baby is 6 months old. These breaks should not form part of your lunch break and its to aide exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of your baby’s life. Even when the law no longer protects you, there is no harm in finding out if you can still take your pumping breaks. I worked while pumping so that my seniors couldn’t really complain that I was neglecting my work. 

6. Grow a thick skin (or just learn to laugh at yourself)
The number of times I’ve heard people talk about how I’m milking myself, whether I need a helping hand and the disbelief that I’m STILL breastfeeding. It comes with the territory. Learn to laugh it off.

7. Find a place to pump
An office, your car and even the sick room will do. Ask about a clean place you can use. If nothing exists, you might be helping all the mommies that come after you to create a space for them. There is also a fantastic breast pump that just sits in your bra so you can discreetly pump in the open plan. Whatever you do don’t settle for a bathroom! All those germs hanging around waiting to infect a little baby’s virgin gut. Ugh!

8. Be prepared
I carried 4 bottles and an ice-pack in a lunch cooler bag which fitted nicely inside a handbag. This way, I didn’t need to use the fridge because my milk was kept cool all day. I also kept my pump parts in a ziplock bag which kept them clean so I didn’t have to disinfect them after each use. A clean face cloth to place my pump parts on, back up batteries and a hand sanitiser. And don’t forget snacks or lunch. Pumping is tiring work.

9. Support group and online resources
Cos you’ll need a tutorial to help you to figure out how to hand express when your batteries run out of juice. It also helps to talk about your pumping blues with other mommies going through the exact same thing. Photos and videos of my baby also helped the milk flow on those tiring days. 

10. Reduce your pump sessions gradually
My plan was to reduce my pumping sessions once Squeak started eating solids. The problem was that he still preferred his booby juice. Plan B was introduce some cow’s milk after he turned one but he was allergic. I was hoping he would give up a bottle himself but I soon realised that wasn’t going to happen with my kid. I slowly got him to eat more food by gradually reducing my pump sessions. Stopping completely was hard because I felt like I needed to give him something to replace the milk. Given that cow’s milk was a problem, I needed time to play around with other drinks. Eventually I introduced watered down tea and juice. I stopped pumping at 15 months. Trust your instincts and do it in the way that works for you and your family. 

What tips do you have for moms about to venture down the seemingly daunting path of expressing milk every day at work?

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