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How to Pump at Work

by Melanie Venuti, IBCLC, RLC • September 27th, 2016

Heading back to work with a nursing baby? Read our tips on how to pump at work!

How Often? – When returning to work with a baby at home who is 6 months or younger, I would encourage mom to express milk approximately every 3 hours. For example, if you are separated from baby for 10 hours, it is recommended that you pump at work at least three times. Pumping often while away from baby will ensure that your body continues to be stimulated and will keep production up.

How much will my baby drink? – Breastfed babies are typically eating every 2 to 3 hours throughout the day, some more, some less. On average, they may consume 1 to 1.5 ounces of breastmilk for every hour they are separated from Mom, in increments of 2 to 4 ounces offered in a bottle. For example, if baby is separated from mom for 10 hours, baby will likely be consuming between 10 to 15 ounces of milk. The first few weeks back to work can be trial and error. Communicate with your care provider about your baby’s typical hunger cues so that milk is not offered with every cry. Ask them to offer feedback so that you can plan to leave the amount that works best for your baby.

Nursing and pumping at home – Most of the mothers I work with hope to continue to nurse their baby while they are home in the morning, evening, and on the weekends. While continuing to nurse your baby during the hours that you are home, mothers may find it helpful to pump one more time in addition to feeding their baby at the breast, and pumping at work. Pumping perhaps before you go to bed or before you leave for work, or both, will assure that you keep your supply up, and collect milk to save for times in need.

Some tips for better pumping

Always pump both breasts at each session for 15 minutes. You will be able to get more milk in less time when pumping both breasts and your body releases hormones more freely when both breasts are stimulated at the same time

Play around with the settings on your pump. Put the vacuum/suction strength to the max that is comfortable for you. When using a 2 phased mode pump, keep the cycling speed on stimulation mode for 2 minutes and then change into a slower phase, the expression mode (Some pumps automatically change phases after 2 minutes). After about 6-8 minutes, you may toggle back to stimulation mode for another 2 minutes to trigger additional let downs (some pumps have a “let down button” and some have a dial to increase speed). This will simulate baby being at the breast and offer more hormonal response.

The flange (cone) size is key to comfort and successful milk expression. The flange is what puts pressure on the nipple and areola tissue for successful output. If it is too big, it may cause swelling of the nipple and areola, constricting the ducts and milk output. If it is too small, it can cause discomfort and restriction of the ducts which would therefore also effect expressing milk. *lubricate the flange with a little bit of olive or coconut oil to allow for the nipple to move more freely and gently.

Get hands-on. Massage and compress the breast throughout the pump session. This helps increase stimulation (skin to skin contact) and also the volume of breastmilk output eventually, especially in the areas that you are feeling bumps.

Take a short cut for cleaning: after each pumping session, put all parts in the fridge in a bag or a bowl. Continue to use those pump parts throughout the day, continuously putting the back in the fridge between pump sessions. At the end of the day, you can wash everything in warm soapy water and allow to air dry for the next day. Sterilizing is not necessary daily, you can boil for 3-5 minutes or use a steam bag 1 or 2 times per week.

Sample Schedule for a mom working 9AM – 5 PM:
6 AM – Breastfeed
8 AM – Breastfeed at “drop off”
10 AM – Pump at work
1 PM – Pump at work
4 PM – Pump at work
6 PM – Breastfeed
Breastfeed at Bedtime (time may range)
10:30 PM – Pump
Breastfeed during the night as needed

Need more help! Drop in to our free weekly drop-in breastfeeding group or take a breastfeeding class!

Helpful Resources:
Free Breastfeeding Hotline Sponsored by MV Breastfeeding Support: 857-400-0897

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