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? What does a breastfeeding and pumping schedule look like? Will you pump 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 my first month, out of three, 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 two 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 area of stress.
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
Supplementing With Formula
Before we get into the logistics of pumping at work, I need to mention that it’s okay to supplement with formula. I know this sounds counter-intuitive. But, this was the best decision for me personally, and that’s why I am bringing it up.
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. If you absolutely do not want to introduce formula, then you will likely 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 ounces of formula a day. The rest was all breast milk!
In the grand scheme of things, 2 ounces of formula is such a small amount. Plus, you can safely mix formula and breast milk, which will keep bottle feeding sessions simple.
I also signed up for the Similac rewards program. 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.
A Breast Milk Cooler And Other Pumping At Work Must Haves
Before we get into the pumping at work schedule, it’s best to get an idea of the gear you need to make pumping at work as easy and stress free as possible.
(1) Bottle Brush: OXO Bottle Brush
(1) Breast Pump: If possible get a pump for FREE through your health insurance. The Medela Pump In Style worked well for me. I will also say that you technically only need one pump, but I found it easier to have a second breast pump for work. This way you don’t have to lug your pump back and forth each day. Other popular breast pump options are the Willow pump for the working mom or the Spectra pump.
(8) Bottles: Your pump might come with a couple bottles. If you have a Medela pump, I would first try the Medela bottles with your baby. 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. It was nice to have something to cover my shoulders to keep warm while pumping in the winter.
When To Start Pumping To Return To Work
I do not think this step is absolutely necessary, but following the routine described will make your transition back to work while pumping easier. About one to two weeks before returning to work, start replacing one, then two feeds with bottles of breast milk.
I would pump 30 min before it would normally be time to breastfeed. This way, 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. Another important part of this step is to have someone else feed the breast milk bottles, if possible, since this will be the situation when you are at work.
How Much Breast Milk Do You Need?
I know the amount of breast milk in a feeding is a big question mark when you have been breastfeeding. I can share that a typical feeding amount for my baby was three to four ounces depending on his age.
When I first returned to work my 3-month old baby was eating three ounces per feeding. As he got older, around 6 months, he dropped his early morning feed and increased the amount of breast milk he would drink at a time to four ounces.
Pumping At Work Tips For Cleaning Breast Pump Parts
Another tricky thing you could be dealing with at work is cleaning breast pump parts. For me personally, the sink is in a very open area of my office. The idea of cleaning my pump parts there was not something I wanted to do.
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 worked 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: my husband was in charge of cleaning bottles. By default, the pump parts got cleaned in the evening along with bottles.
Pumping At Work Law
One last thing before we dive into some options for a breastfeeding and pumping schedule that works. Another thing on your mind could be pumping at work laws.
What are your rights as a working breastfeeding mother? I am not a lawyer and therefore not an expert in this area. But there are some great resources you can check out including information on required break times for pumping and this general overview of your rights as a breastfeeding working mom.
Be sure to also check into state laws, as your state might have even stricter breastfeeding and working laws that benefit you.
Sample Pumping At Work Schedule
Now that you have all this great information to get started pumping at work, let’s talk about a pumping at work schedule.
The main thing you should focus on is trying to spread out your 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 two sample pumping at work schedules, which shows you how to handle a combined breastfeeding and pumping schedule.
You can also adjust the pumping times based on your work hours. My work hours were 7am to 4pm.
Pumping At Work Sample Schedule – Two Pumps Per Day
Nurse Or Pumping Time
Nurse Or Pump?
Pump At Work
Pump At Work
Pumping At Work Sample Schedule – Three Pumps Per Day
Nurse Or Pumping Time
Nurse Or Pump?
Pump At Work
Pump At Work
Pump At Work
*when baby drops early morning feed, move the first pumping session up to when you first arrive at work.
Want FREE printable pumping at work schedules? Grab your set here. You get printable example schedules for pumping both two times per day and three times per day at work. You also get your own personal schedule to fill in with your pumping times.
More Help With Pumping
Before wrapping up, this post I also want to share additional resources to put to bed any stress you have as a breastfeeding mom returning to work. There are two really awesome online classes that you will want to check out to help navigate your pumping and breastfeeding journey while working.
I recommend this back to work pumping class if you feel any confusion about how to successfully pump at work.
On the other hand, if you are struggling to pump enough breast milk, then you must check out the Pump It Up class to maximize your breast milk output.
Both of these classes from Milkology will teach you the ins and outs of whatever you are struggling with. Whether you want more guidance for pumping at work or need help producing more breast milk while pumping, you can’t go wrong with the very reasonable price!
I hope this post has helped you get a better idea of what to expect when pumping at work and provided insight into what your pumping at work schedule will look like. Good luck!