It has been said many times over (and most mothers who nurse would agree) that there is no better breast pump than baby. However, from my experience as a physician, there appears to be a growing proportion of women who choose to pump milk from the outset. Many women either have difficulty with latching, have nipple issues or simply prefer to pump. And, of course, pumping becomes essential when a new mom goes back to work.
Here are a few tips to increase and keep up with pumping when back at work:
It’s necessary to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. I recommend hydrating on the way to work, having a water bottle close by at your desk, and keeping a few around the house to always have one handy. In order to keep up your milk supply, it is also important to eat and drink often. Consume in excess of 500 calories more per day than usual.
Pumps vary in speed, attachments, size and weight. It is most important to know that we all have nipples of different sizes and choosing a pump that allows for physical variability is important. It is not one pump fits all! There are both manual and automated pumps on the market (I recommend investing in an automated pump.) A manual pump can take quite a bit of time but is useful for blocked ducts and during times of breast engorgement. When using a manual pump, I recommend massaging the breast with the free hand from the outer most areas to the nipple and continuing in a circular manner in order to massage the entire breast.
It is a good idea to consult a lactation specialist or postpartum nurse and ask about nipple attachments and fitting of cups. A good pump should allow you to empty the breast with ease. It should not be painful to pump. I do recommend consulting with a lactation specialist if you are having difficulty with pumping and for some renting a hospital grade pump may be the short-term answer. A hospital grade pump has a larger more powerful suction.
Consider spare parts so that you always have a dry set ready to go. Some women enjoy the hands-free pumping bra, while others get the hang of holding both cups with one hand. Making sure that the cup is the right size to avoid nipple injury is also key. Fluctuating the pump between a continuous and alternating method will also help extract more milk.
I also suggest investing in good storage bags and making sure they are sealed and lying flat to maximize storage space in the freezer. Freeze some bags of milk in 1 oz increments so that you can have small amounts of milk as needed to “top off” feeds. Always make storing milk as easy as possible. Some women choose to invest in a small fridge or freezer for their office, or simply buying a few insulated bags will work. I would also recommend keeping a spare insulated storage bag and spare bottles to pump into in the car in case they are forgotten.
For women who have a long commute to work, I recommend the following as a template or sample schedule:
1. On waking, nurse or pump at home.
2. Pump in the car on the way to work (key for women who have a long commute, but please be safe in the car!)
3. Pump 1-3 times at work if possible, and consider blocking time on your calendar as you would block out a work meeting so you can protect your time.
4. Pump again on the way home.
5. Nurse or pump before bedtime.
Dr. Canale is the founder of Lactation Lab, which provides innovative and proprietary breast milk tests for mothers. She earned her undergraduate and medical degrees from McGill University. She completed her residency training in Family Medicine at UCLA. After medical residency, she joined the teaching faculty at the UCLA Family Health Center, before joining the Santa Monica Parkside office. She enjoys seeing patients of all ages, especially families with young babies. Dr. Canale is a Member of the American Board of Family Medicine.
photo credit: Christine Donaldson