A Breastfeeding Mom’s Guide for Returning to Work

If you are a parent, chances are you have heard more opinions and tips than you ever thought possible. For every question or concern you have, everyone has a different solution or wants to share what their brother or cousin or best friend did. It is only funny because it is totally true! And preparing for your return to work as a breastfeeding mom is no exception. The following are tips for some stress-free and productive pumping, as you prepare to return to work.

 

 

First, focus on breastfeeding

 

In the early weeks, it is really important to put your baby to the breast frequently, to establish supply. It’s best not to pump at all in the first few weeks, or until you feel breastfeeding is established and going well. Of course, there will be exceptions to this, for those mothers who choose to pump exclusively, who may need to supplement, or who have to return to work early. But feeling really comfortable with breastfeeding before you add in pumping can help reduce stress. If you want to do something to save breast milk in these early days, a lot of moms like to use some type of milk catcher (Haakaa or Milkies Milk Savers are popular) on the opposite side their baby is nursing, and also to catch leaks. These milk catchers are simple to use and require no electricity. Youll be amazed at how much milk you can collect this way!

 

Get comfortable with your Breast pump

 

Breast pumps come with lots of parts and have multiple settings. The first time you pump can already be nerve-wracking, so becoming familiar with the equipment beforehand is a good idea. Your pump may have “one size fits all” type settings where you just choose a slow, medium, or fast setting, or it may be more customizable with the vacuum and suction settings. Generally, starting low is good, and then work your way up. The highest setting is usually not needed and just hurts. It can also be helpful to figure out beforehand if your pump is portable, how it fits in your bag, and what kind of bottles fit.

 

Check your flange fit

 

Pump parts are not one size fits all. No two breasts are exactly alike, and having the right size flange can make all the difference. For a good fit, your nipple should glide in and out of the flange, there shouldn’t be any gapping between, nor should your nipple be rubbing the sides. The breast shield should fit flush against your breast.

 

 

Understand how much milk your baby will need

 

This is probably the thing that stresses nursing moms the most. Will there be enough in the freezer to feed my baby while we are apart? Hopefully, this will be reassuring to you: You DO NOT need a freezer full of milk to return to work. While having a freezer stash can be comforting, it is not necessary. All you really need is enough breast milk for the next day. Then, while you are pumping at work, you are replacing what your baby ate that day.

Your baby will need the equivalent of 1 to 1.5 ounces per hour that you are away from them. So, if you work a typical 8-9 hour workday, you shouldn’t need more than 15 oz (and that’s on the high side) for that first day back, and then after that, you are replenishing what they’ve eaten every day. You may see lots of posts on social media from moms with countless pouches of breast milk stacked in their giant chest freezers, but there is no need for that, and breastfeeding is not a competition. Your body provides what your baby needs on a daily basis.

 

Alright, ready to start pumping? Need a break from being the only one who can feed your baby? Feeling totally overwhelmed with a baby that wants to nurse all the time? You are not alone! Don’t worry, you do not have to pump all the time. Just adding one or two sessions each day will help you to save up. And if it feels too stressful on a given day, give yourself a break and don’t pump that day. Depending on the natural routine you and your baby have fallen into, when you pump can vary, but here are some sample pumping schedules.

 

Potential Pumping Routines

 

Routine 1:

7 am or first-morning nursing session

Pump

Nurse on demand throughout the day

9 pm or baby’s “bedtime” nursing session

Pump

Nurse on demand throughout the night

 

Routine 2:

7 am or first-morning nursing session

Pump

Nurse on demand for rest of the day and through the night 

 

Routine 3:

Nurse on demand throughout the day

9 pm or baby’s “bedtime” nursing session

Pump

Nurse on demand throughout the night 

 

Routine 4:

Nurse on demand throughout the morning

Nurse before baby’s longest naptime and then pump while they are sleeping

Nurse on demand throughout the remaining day and night

 

Routine 5:

Nurse on demand and pump on the side that your baby is not eating from

 

There is plenty of room to be flexible here, as well. These routines are just general guidelines or suggestions. If one-day pumping in the morning is easiest, but the next day pumping at bedtime is what works best, that’s totally okay! And although you may want to pump more than this, just one or two pump sessions on top of breastfeeding will be plenty. Please do not feel like you need to be tied to your pump your entire maternity leave! You want to enjoy your time at home with your baby, and savor those precious moments. You will get your fill of pumping as soon as you’re back at work. 

 

And one last thing you will want to know, as you prepare, are the guidelines for storing your pumped milk. Remember to always thaw frozen milk in the refrigerator or using warm water, and use warm water or a breast milk/bottle warmer to heat the milk for feeding. Do not microwave or boil breast milk.