Prepping for Pumping: How To Get Ready to Return To Work.

There are so many things that feel complicated after you bring your baby home. Timing when to do what, appointments, and learning how to manage your own needs and those of your baby. 

For people who are breastfeeding and planning to return to work, one looming question seems to be present as soon as they start maternity leave - How will I feed my baby when I return to work? 

Returning to work means navigating a new relationship with your boobs. You need to continue removing milk even though you won't be near your baby to help you do that!

But if you are like most breastfeeding parents, figuring out the logistics of pumping at work is where many get stuck. The how... HOW will I figure how to feed my baby?

We want to help make pumping and going back to work easier. 
Here are some answers to common questions, and some tips to help too!

When do I start pumping?
Generally speaking, first-- establish a stable and adequate supply. Next, know that you do not need to start pumping or make a "milk stash" that takes over your freezer. Generally, if you begin pumping 2 weeks prior to returning to work that is enough. After you finish nursing, pump for a few minutes after each feeding. Label with date and amount, and freeze.  

How do I get my baby ready to take a bottle? 
Learning to drink from a bottle is a skill, just like learning how to feed at the breast. It takes practice! To not interfere with breastfeeding supply AND introduce the process of feeding with a bottle, begin introducing a bottle to your baby between 4-6 weeks of age. 

If you are returning to work considerably later than 6 weeks postpartum, you will need to continue to feed your baby occasionally with a bottle to help them keep this new skill they learned! One feeding per day using a technique called "paced bottle feeding" is sufficient for most.

How much milk should I have stored before returning to work? 
Ideally, you will be pumping at work for your baby to consume the next day. This plan allows for your baby to consume milk that is closest to their developmental needs, as your breastmilk changes right along with your baby!

But if that plan makes you a bit nervous, having anywhere between two days to a week supply of milk is usually sufficient. 

How much do I pump at work? 
Depending on how long your work day is, when you last feed your baby, and when you will next feed your baby, that number can change drastically! 

Here is a sample schedule from Breastfeed USA that is a great guide that is also flexible: 

At home early AM: nurse from breast + pump after 
At caregivers: nurse at drop off 
At work mid-morning: pump At work mid-day: pump, or nurse if possible on lunch break At work mid-afternoon: pump At caregivers: nurse at pickup  At home: nurse on demand At home before you go to bed: pump  At night: nurse on demand

Generally speaking, your body will respond better to your baby nursing than to your electric pump, but consider using a method called "hands-on pumping" that was shown to produce 48% more milk than passive pumping. It goes like this: 

1. Before starting to pump, massage both breasts 
2. Pump both breasts in tandem with a hands-free device, and massage breasts while pumping, be sure to engage all of the tissue. Stop pumping when milk production slows to a trickle. 
3. Massage breasts after
4. Hand express or single pump each breast, going back and forth until empty

Talk to your employer:
And last but certainly important, one part of breastfeeding many do not consider is talking to your employer before you deliver to discuss your needs for support when you return to work. Ask: 

What facilities are available to use? 
Is there a comfortable chair? Electricity? A refrigerator? A sink to wash your equipment? If you plan to pump in your private office, how can you ensure your privacy will not be disturbed?

Having some of these questions answered before leaving can help make your return that much smoother.

Mary PopeOh Baby! KC