Tips for Working Moms: Get the Most Out of Your Pumping Sessions

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Hi Beautiful Mommies!

So you’re back at work, but still wanting to provide for your little bundle at home. I won’t lie, pumping is TOUGH! It’s tough emotionally, physically, and mentally. But, it’s so fulfilling and worth every minute. And, it gets easier, truly. After awhile, it’s just part of your normal routine and schedule. After one year of breastfeeding and working full time, I’ve accumulated a lot of time trying out techniques, gathering tips from other moms, and doing research. And, I’m here to share the best of it with you. You got this mama!!

So, first, The Basics:
Your milk supply works by supply and demand — so the more often you pump, the longer you pump, and the more consistent you are, your milk will adjust to this demand and grow; however, a pump will always pull less milk than your nursing baby, but that’s one disadvantage that we working moms just have to deal with. Don’t be discouraged though! EVERY drop counts. Did you know your milk’s composition adjusts to your baby’s needs as they grow older? Yep. Our body is pretty impressive.

The Tips:
This list is meant to give you the most out of your pumping sessions and keep and (maybe even) increase your supply. Pumping at work can be emotionally and physically draining, but hang in there. You’re surrounded by a community of mommies cheering you on. And your baby will thank you too!

1A GOOD PUMP: Have a high quality pump! Usually your insurance will give you choices of pumps that they will provide for you. I love Medela! I use the Medela Pump in Style Advanced.

2. A GOOD SCHEDULE: Make sure you have a good pumping schedule. Ideally, you want to pump when baby would be feeding. This isn’t always possible with different work environments and babies can nurse as often as every two hours in the first few months! Do what you can, and don’t stress if you can’t keep baby’s schedule perfectly.

3. BOTH SIDES: Pump both sides at the same time if you can. It’s more effective and will save you time. Also, your let down reflex will help jumpstart both sides instead of just one.(You can find hands-free pumping bras at the store. But, if you’re on a budget, get a cheap sports bra and cut small vertical slits in them.) I survived without a pumping bra and ending up pumping one side at a time, needing the other hand to continue working at my makeshift desk. If you can’t do them at the same time, make sure you pump both sides every session.

4. EXTRA ATTENTION: On the side that seems to have less milk, pump first on that side. When the milk stops flowing, switch to the dominate side until emptied, and then return to the side you began on (even if the milk doesn’t come). That being said, both breasts, every time.

5. DONT STOP WITH THE LAST DROP: Pump longer after the milk stops flowing. Sometimes continue pumping up to 5 minutes after — this tells your body that more is needed and eventually your supply will grow. If you stop pumping before the last drop falls, you tell your body that what’s left is not needed, therefore your supply will decrease.

6. CHEST COMPRESSION: Use your hand to squeeze and manipulate your breast while pumping. Often you can stimulate a gland that hasn’t been emptied. (But this shouldn’t be painful!!) Chest compression also can increase the fat content in your milk.

7. SUPPLEMENTS: I love using Gaia Lactation Support or More Milk by Motherlove. These lactation supports pills contain herbs that help you keep and increase your supply. You can also try lactation cookies, lactation teas, as well as specific foods such as oats. Always read the label before taking a supplement!

8. VISUALS, SOUNDS, AND RELAXATION: A mother’s letdown reflex can be triggered simply by a crying baby in a store! Although this can be inconvenient, it’s actually a plus for pumping moms that you can use to your advantage! Different visualizations, sounds, and relaxation techniques can help trigger this reflex. Think about baby nursing on you when pumping — envision it! Look at a picture. Listen to a recording of their coos. Or train that reflex to respond to other stimuli. Do the same activity right before pumping, consistently, to stimulate let down. Drink tea, then pump. Or, drink water, then pump. Do squats, then pump. Stretch, then pump…. something of the like. It’s your way of preparing your body by saying “I’m about to pump!”

9. BREASTFEED, BREASTFEED, BREASTFEED: Breastfeed as much as possible!! On weekends, before work, at lunch, after work, during the night…. (And don’t be discouraged by your baby waking up at night hungry. Breastmilk is digested faster than formula and your baby will need to nurse more often than formula-fed babies, especially during growth spurts!) Learn to love these sleepy night feedings. You will miss them someday! Those moments are sweet and few.

10. BE HEALTHY: Get plenty of food, rest, and keep hydrated! Take care of yourself too, mama.

11. EXTRA PUMP PARTS AND GOOD STORAGE: Buy extra pump parts so you don’t spend a lot of time at work cleaning the parts. If you have a Medela pump, you can buy extra parts straight off their website. Remember to pay attention to how long your milk is good for. Thawed (from completely frozen) milk should be used within 24 hours when kept in the fridge, while refrigerated milk (never frozen) is good for three (ideal) to eight (acceptable) days. Frozen milk however, can stay frozen up to three (ideal) to twelve (acceptable) months. Make sure to use appropriate sterile breastmilk bags for storage and squeeze out as much air as you can from the bag before freezing to keep it fresh. (Lay bag flat to freeze for optimal storage space.) (Check out more guidelines from the La Leche League here: http://www.llli.org/faq/milkstorage.html)

In the end, you may not be able to keep up with baby’s need. But, this is okay!!! Don’t be discouraged!!! ANY breastmilk is better than none — even if you only have time to pump every 4 hours or even only once a day — stick to it.

*Please contact a lactation consultant or perhaps the La Leche League if you have questions or concerns with your supply or breastfeeding. Contact your pediatrician if you’re concerned about your baby’s feeding/nursing habits or health.*

Good luck! And happy breastfeeding!