There are so many big adjustments for new moms, but adjusting from new mom to working mom is strange and usually too quick. Then, preparing to return to work requires even more effort for a breastfeeding mom. Then there’s the ongoing effort: pumping at work. The only way to keep it up is with a schedule, so let me share what I did to create the perfect pumping schedule for work.
With breastfeeding recommended for the first 6 months of life, so many women aim for that goal on top of the regular struggles (sleep deprivation, recovering from a major medical event, etc). Then you throw in a recklessly brief maternity leave and we need a solution to keep our babies fed while we’re at work. My colleagues never suffered because of my maternal duties and I breastfed my daughter PAST my ultimate goal of 1 year while working full-time. I owe it all to the perfect pumping schedule.
In this post, I will be covering:
- Why you need to pump
- How often you should
- When you should
- How much you should produce
- How long it should take
- The best way to schedule it
With this schedule I reached my 1-year breastfeeding goal, AND:
- Pumped 1.5-2 meals worth during each session
- Decreased duration to less than 10 minutes
- Built a large freezer stash
Why do I even need to pump at work?
Pumping is critical for every breastfeeding mom (not just working mom) if you ever expect to be away from your baby for two or more feedings. You need to pump to keep your body producing breastmilk. Skipping two or more regular feedings will throw your body out of sync with your baby’s needs, and stop making baby food.
You know, just nature doing its thing.
If you DON’T pump at work but breastfeed your baby before and after work, then your body will only be producing milk before and after work. So when you’re home on the weekends, you won’t be able to feed your baby through the day. Maybe you’re into that, but that means you will need to supplement with formula or donated breastmilk.
How often should I pump at work?
For a regular 8-5 (with an hour for lunch), you can expect to pump 2 or 3 times during the day. A 4th pump should only be necessary if your commute time is longer than a half hour (adding an EXTRA hour to your day) or if your supply only gets you the bare minimum.
If you think you’ll need to provide a fourth pumping session, read my time-saving tricks.
Even if your body is producing more than it needs to be, a minimum of 2 pumps a day is expected. Ultimately harvesting 3-4 meals each day (wow this sounds creepy).
When should I pump at work?
Your pumping schedule should mirror your baby’s feeding schedule.
In other words… pump when baby eats.
CLEARLY, this is not clear.
Depending on how your body handles milk build-up (engorgement, spraying, a decrease in supply) you’ll have roughly an hour window for each session. And with the baby eating every 3 hours, you should be pumping every 3-4 hours.
With the stress of modern baby-having and running back to work, I was so fortunate with a short commute. Most days, I would run home for lunch and feed my little lady. Others, I would space out my pumping and get the same amount (and sometimes more). It really surprised me to see how much more I could get just by waiting between sessions and really taking the time to express every last drop of breastmilk.
This is what my two schedules looked like:
I actually created a pumping schedule for YOU to start tracking your production and keep track of baby’s feeding habits at the same time. You can grab it below to track your work hours with baby’s regular feeding times (and log the amount you pump while you’re away!). This is a great way to keep track of “high performing” pump times and get the most out of your schedule.
It will also help to know which days you pumped less and find a cause for the undersupply. After all, fail to plan – plan to fail!
How much should I be producing?
You want to produce as much as baby is eating, but preferably more than that. Most care professional providers (daycare or nannies) will request one more feeding than the baby is expected to need, based on their age and appetite. (Here is an awesome calculator to determine your baby’s needs. It will be handy to have your pumping schedule on hand for this!)
For the record, my baby needed at least 4-5 ounces of breastmilk every 2.5-3.5 hours. So I was happy to crank out 5-7 ounces each session, but I often got over 9 ounces!!
Until you are producing your ideal amount, leaving the pump on for 5 minutes after the milk stops flowing is the simplest trick. You’re demanding more, so your body will supply more. It was exactly this habit that had me producing 1.5 to 2 servings of breastmilk when I was at work. Because according to my feeding routine, my body needed more than just what baby wanted.
With all that pumping and a big ol’ supply of breastmilk, you really have the upper hand with pumping. Each session could be getting you at least 2-5 EXTRA ounces of breastmilk. This is great for continuously building a freezer stash.
If you are still producing less than you need, that’s what we call under-supply.
are you struggling with under-supply? <– this is THE expert resource every mom needs to know about.
How long does it take?
Each pumping session can take anywhere from 10-30 minutes. If you’re looking to cut down your pump time, I shared my tricks here. But the biggest secret to getting the most milk in the shortest time is to massage it out. Seriously.
In addition to these guidelines for speeding up milk production, a little gentle squeezing-massage action got me in-and-out of the mother’s room aka supply closet in no time. A pump want to act like a baby, but it can’t read your body like a baby does. Still, I knocked my 20-minute sessions down to 10 minutes on days that I was seriously needed elsewhere, and my supply didn’t suffer. A little massage and machine manipulation is all it takes.
The pump is not like a baby. It won’t gag on too much breastmilk, so don’t be afraid to “overfeed it” ha! I’m imagining Audrey II right now (what IS wrong with me?)
The best way to schedule your pumping
It’s hard to say work will never interfere with your breastmilk production (and vice versa), but most work environments will respect your “condition” if you have a fixed schedule in place. Once you’ve figured out the best routine for you, your baby, your production, and your job, this will be easy.
Personally, I set aside 20 minutes for each pumping session and entered them into my public calendar as appointments. The description can be something vague (although mine was just “pumping” because idgaf), but it was also assigned “busy” instead of free time. That way it always showed up as a conflict for people trying to schedule a meeting that interfered with my body’s maternal instincts!
***The 20-minute window gave me time track my milk production, change my shirt when necessary, and get additional new mom work done like scheduling mom + baby doctor visits***
Another option would be to publicly display your times outside your office/desk/cube so people won’t be bothering you wondering why you’re ignoring them!
The most important thing to remember as a breastfeeding mom
Everything is temporary
This might be the most ridiculous AND miraculous thing you’ve ever done. Breastfeeding is amazing all by itself, but blending it with work and keeping your baby sustained with all of this extra effort is HUGE! You are doing something even our ancestors didn’t do. (Wet nurses make the job easier, don’t add to it with dishes and machinery and taking away from your office productivity)
You absolutely can find your perfect pumping schedule and make this work. It will take a little more effort, but we are already obsessing about our baby’s habits. I hope all of your questions were answered. The entire concept of pumping just didn’t make sense to me until I had to dive into it, so if I can help at least ONE pitiful, postpartum, working mom then I will feel like a success!
If you could, please pin this on Pinterest and help me reach as many new moms as possible 😉 and SUBSCRIBE to stay in the loop of all things millennial mom-worthy <3
All the best! – Ashley
Don’t forget to grab your FREE pumping schedule before you go!
OTHER POSTS YOU’LL LOVE:
- How to Pump at Work with a Busy Schedule
- Returning to Work After Maternity Leave, Like a PRO
- Bracing Yourself for the First Week Back to Work
- The First Week Home with Baby
- Frugal Living for Financial Independence: 10 Tips
- Breastfeeding Essentials for the First Month Postpartum
- 5 Controversial Tips for enjoying a short maternity leave