As many women do, I returned to work when my little one was 3 months old. I wanted to continue our exclusive breastfeeding relationship, so I dutifully pumped at the office (and at times in the early am hours). Here are the strategies that worked best for me to pump the most milk as efficiently as possible.
Breast pumping tips from a working mom:
- Pump as often as your LO would feed – This meant I would have to pump three times a day – honestly something I always viewed as a huge hassle, but I experimented a lot with 2 longer pumping sessions vs. 3 shorter sessions and the 3 sessions yielded more milk.
- Even if your pump has a let down cycle, ‘warm up’ your breasts first with a gentle massage. This helped my letdown to start sooner after I turned on the pump (so total time spent pumping was a bit shorter) and contributed to slightly higher yields.
- Massage during the pumping session – massage or breast compressions helped me yield more milk quickly. I did have to take care, though, to avoid bumping the pump and breaking the suction.
- Hand express at the end – No matter how long I pumped, I could always hand express a bit more milk when I was finished. An easy way to collect the milk you hand express is to express into the pump flange, since it is like a funnel, rather than expressing directly into the milk collection bottle.
- Watch videos of your little one – The conventional advice I always heard was to look at a picture, but watching videos of my LO helped trigger let downs.
- Relax! I can’t say this enough. In busy weeks or when I had to pump before a looming deadline I often produced less milk due to the stress. Just a few minutes of deep breathing before the pumping session or real focus on videos of my LO helped at times to relieve this stress and allowed me to produce more milk.
- Consume enough calories – I learned this the hard way during a busy week where I was skipping breakfasts and just grazing on snacks for lunch… by the end of the week my 3 daily pumping sessions yielded only enough for one feed! (Luckily I had a small freezer stash)
- You don’t have to wash pump parts between each session – if you can store them in the fridge, or even a cooler bag, reusing the same parts is fine. This saves you a lot of time – just take the parts home at night for a wash!
- Don’t stress about your stash – a huge freezer stash is not a necessity. When I returned to work, I had enough milk for two days. That was it. No huge stash! As I worked and pumped, I had a bit of extra milk each week so eventually I had enough milk stored for about a week. This gave me peace of mind and did come in handy during stressful weeks when my yield was lower.
I hope you find these tips useful. Pumping can feel very tedious at times but it is certainly worth it. Let me know what worked for you in the comments below!