Pumping At Work Schedule
Are you getting ready to return to work and stressing about your pumping at work schedule? How long should a pumping session last? How often should you pump? Will you get enough breast milk? There are so many questions around how to pump at work and it can be difficult to find the right answers. I know for me personally, I was only into month 1 (out of 3) of maternity leave and I was already wondering how pumping at work would go. In this post, I am sharing the simple method I used to build in (2) 10 minute pumping sessions a day at work. But first, check out some tips on how to prepare while you are still home with your baby.
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Introducing A Bottle
This is something you will want to do while you are still home with your baby. By making sure your baby is willing to accept a bottle before returning to work you will remove one thing that could be stressful. If you wait too long to introduce a bottle to a breastfed baby he might refuse the bottle. On the other hand, if you introduce a bottle too early, this could lead your baby to reject your breast. But, don’t stress, just follow the tips below, and it should be an easy transition.
- Introduce the bottle around 6 weeks old
- Have someone else give the bottle
- Leave the room while the bottle is being fed
- Try different bottles if your baby doesn’t like the first one you try
I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but this was the best decision for me personally. I actually already wrote a whole blog post about how to combine breastfeeding and formula feeding, so be sure to check that out. One of the ways I was able to limit my pumping sessions at work to twice a day was by introducing formula. I know this helped me breastfeed for longer too. I just wanted to share that this was what I did to help me breastfeed as long as possible. If you do not want to introduce formula then you will probably need to pump three times a day at work instead of two.
With pumping twice a day at work, on average, my baby would receive about 2 oz of formula a day and the rest was all breast milk. In the grand scheme of things, 2 oz of formula is such a small amount. Another perk was I signed up for the Similac rewards program and with the coupons I was sent, I never spent a penny on any formula. That should give you an idea of how little formula my baby was receiving.
Pumping Gear Must Haves
To start, it’s best to get an idea of the gear you need to make pumping as easy and stress free as possible.
(1) Bottle Brush: OXO Bottle Brush
(1) Breast Pump: Get this for FREE through your health insurance. The Medela Pump In Style Advanced worked well for me.
(8) Bottles: Your pump might come with a couple bottles. If you have a Medela pump, I would try the Medela bottles with your baby first. All the Medela bottle parts match up with the pump, which makes life much easier. I recommend purchasing the Medela 5 oz Bottle Set and the Medela Breastmilk Cooler Set. The bottle set comes with the nipples you will need too. If you pump twice a day, it works well to have 8 bottles in rotation. This is because you will have 4 empty bottles to bring to work in your cooler and 3-4 bottles with breast milk for feeding that day.
(1) Hands Free Pumping Bra: I highly recommend the Simple Wishes Hands Free Pumping Bra. It’s comfortable and works very well.
(1) Cardigan Sweater: This could depend on where you live, but I am in the Northeast and it was nice to have something to cover my shoulders to keep warm while pumping in the winter.
The Weeks Before Maternity Leave Ends
I do not think this step is absolutely necessary, but this is something that I did that helped with the transition back to work. About 1-2 weeks before returning to work start replacing one, then two feeds with bottles of breast milk.
About 30 min before it would be time to breastfeed, I would pump. When your baby is hungry the breast milk from the pumping session is given instead of breastfeeding. If needed, you can supplement the bottle with extra breast milk or formula. If possible, have someone else give the bottles, since this will be the situation when you are at work.
How Much Do You Need To Pump?
I know the amount of breast milk in a feeding is a big question mark when you have been breastfeeding. A typical feeding amount for my baby was 3-4 oz. When I first returned to work my baby was 3 months old and he was eating 3 oz per feed. As he got older, around 6 months, he dropped his early morning (6am) feed and increased the amount of breast milk he would drink at a time to 4 oz.
Cleaning Breast Pump Parts
Another tricky thing you could be dealing with is cleaning breast pump parts at work. For me personally, the sink is in a very open area of my office and the idea of cleaning my pump parts there was embarrassing. Secondly, cleaning pump parts would take up extra time during the work day. I did a little research and found other moms suggesting to put pump parts in the refrigerator. This is what I ended up doing and it work out great.
I would bring a Ziplock bag with my clean pump parts to work. After each pumping session I would put the parts back in the bag and stick it in the fridge along with the bottles of breast milk I had pumped. This saved time and avoided any embarrassing conversations with coworkers. An added bonus was my husband was in charge of cleaning bottles, and by default, the pump parts in the evening – thanks honey.
Sample Pumping At Work Schedule
Now that you have all the information to start pumping at work, let’s talk about a pumping at work schedule. The main thing you should focus on is trying to spread out the pumping sessions as evenly as possible. However, keep in mind that if the timing of your pumping sessions are off a few days here and there, it’s okay. The most important thing is getting in the number of sessions you want. Below, I have included a sample pumping at work schedule for pumping twice a day. If you will pump three times a day at work you can use this schedule as a guideline, but just add in a third pumping session with each one spaced out appropriately. This should be a helpful guideline and you can adjust the times based on your work hours. My work hours were 7am-4pm.
More Pumping Tips
Before wrapping up this post I also wanted to share an awesome pumping class that my friend Marianna has written. If you are looking to maximize your breast milk supply and learn even more pumping tips, I highly recommend taking her class. You can check it out here.
I hope this post has helped you get a better idea of what to expect when pumping at work and provides insight to what your pumping at work schedule will look like. Good luck!