I will never forget that big WTF feeling I felt before going back to work with a breastfed baby. I understand that you’re supposed to pump when the baby usually eats, but what do you do about that first day? How are you supposed to pump before leaving the baby all day?
Like so many aspects of working motherhood, the logistics for pumping are hard for a first time mom. Fortunately, the answer is simple but just like everything else it’s easier said than done. Still! I gotchu… and I will walk you through this insanity and make it make sense.
I’ve been where you are. Scared I was going going to starve my baby and completely confused by that damn machine, and milk storage methodology, and how does the milk get in the bags? And do I write on them before or after I pump? And why can’t I stop crying?!
If you have a successfully breastfed baby, then I’m so proud of and happy for you! It’s no small feat and it’s an incredible (and free) resource for moms to bond and protect our babes. Feeding these little people is one of the many assignments in your new job, and pumping is one aspect of that duty for us breast feeders.
How to start pumping when the baby is still around
Even though all your coworkers think you’re on vacation, you can expect to work around the clock during maternity leave. Pumping is another part of your new job and it needs to start before it needs to start (on day one back to work).
You can start pumping as soon as your milk comes in but after the baby eats.
And the first couple times you put those electronic cones on and get to work you won’t get a lot of milk (if any). This is normal.
Your supply (the amount your body produces) is reliant on the demand (the amount your baby requests). If you want to fill up those bottles, then your body needs to think there’s another baby to feed after baby #1 is done. So in a creepy robots-rule-our-lives way, your breast pump is another baby you need to feed.
You do not need to pump after every feeding, but it’s smart to start pumping after the feedings that naturally occur during your regular work day. This way your body will naturally start overproducing only during desirable times. The most stressful part of pumping at work is not getting enough to cover your little one’s demands, so by over feeding (a meal for baby & another 5-10 minutes on the pump) your body will know to over produce at those times.
The problems you will probably face
Increasing your supply to build a stash before going back to work isn’t foolproof. We’re messing with nature here and tricking our bodies into overproducing milk, it’s only natural that you might run into some complications. The *best* breastfeeding resource on the web is hands down KellyMom.com. It’s a one stop shop for any question you might have and every solution you might be looking for. But these are the 3 big problems I ran across as a pumping mom.
While we do want extra milk some of the time, if you have it all of the time it’s… less than ideal. The good news is our bodies adapt fast and there are definitely some tricks for tolerating this and “shutting it off”.
Let’s say you over-demand your body during those critical workday hours, as you should, but at night, your body is still fully stocked but baby has passed out. This is a textbook example of oversupply. You could express it into the pump and stash it like the rest, but if you want the nights off then you have to start letting your body know. And all this means is to just leave them full and your body will take the hint and adapt within a few days.
2. Excessive foremilk
I’m not a lactation consultant, just a working mom on a mission, but apparently not all breastmilk is created equally. Our boob juice evolves throughout each feeding. There’s the foremilk (thin & watery) in the beginning then the hindmilk (thick and nutrient dense) after the foremilk runs out.
Hindmilk is preferred by moms & babies because it fills up tiny tummies with the good stuff, so too much foremilk can be a problem. And with oversupply, your breastmilk composition can shift and fill up that same tummy without all of the amazing benefits.
Too much milk will either stay in you or fall out. I’ve had trouble with both. Engorgement is uncomfortable. Plain and simple. Your chest stretches and boobs are swollen into lumpy milk blobs.
Leaking is just a mess. Instead of holding the milk in, your body might just naturally release all that build up. That was me. Like, daily? I remember several mornings when I would wake up and start pouting wondering when I would wake up without a milk-soaked t-shirt. I never thought I’d sleep without a bra and breast pads again.
how many days will it take to build a stash for going back to work?
That depends on how much you want to have stashed. How many meals you will need for the first few days of work while you master your pumping at work process. Generally speaking, plan to dedicate at least one week to siphon off your excess milk after your workday feedings.
There are some very impressive production tips all over pinterest, but those honestly intimidated me. It is perfectly acceptable to have a small stash before going back to work.
I went back with about 1.5 days worth ready to go, and thanks to some other struggles it lasted a while.
how much is too much?
It’s possible to have too much of a good thing. Aside from the oversupply issues, an XL stash could go to waste.
We followed the 5-5-5 rule. Meaning breastmilk is only safe to save for
- 5 hours at room temperature
- 5 days in the fridge
- 5 months in the freezer
So if you’ve saved more than baby can eat in those times, then THAT is too much. Luckily there are alternatives to tossing it in the garbage, because losing little drops of that hard earned milk will mess with your head!
You can donate your excess milk to milk banks at local hospitals, and struggling mamas will thank you for it!
Breastfeeding and going back to work doesn’t have to be stressful
Successfully breastfeeding your baby and going back to a 9-5 only 6 or 12 weeks later is a modern marvel. This is completely unnatural and that’s ok. It’s more than ok. AND it’s possible. Just. Start. Pumping. Add one 10 minute session into your daily routine every other day or so to get into the habit. You have so many new things to learn and this is just one more, and even I was able to make it work!
Be sure to download the printable breastfeeding schedule and let me know how your pumping journey is going.
- The Counterintuitive Secret to my Breastfeeding Success
- What to Pack in your Pumping Bag
- Tips to Seriously Speed Up Pumping at Work