When I was on maternity leave, one of the things that concerned me about starting to work again was having to pump throughout my workday. I would spend some of those late nights or early mornings researching article after article about how to pump while working.
What’s the difference between all the pumps?
How many times should I pump a day?
What if I have a meeting during my pump time?
These were just some of the questions I googled, but believe me, there were many more that I wanted answers to. Thankfully, most of the advice I heard was honest and straightforward: it’s not always easy, but if you’re organized and consistent, pumping while working is possible.
If you’re a mom who is considering trying her hand at integrating pumping into her work schedule and want to make sure you do all you can to keep your supply up, here’s what I did.
1. I put my pump times on my meeting calendar and stuck to it
What is it about meetings just popping up on your calendar out of nowhere at the last minute? If your job is anything like mine, then you know how inconvenient and unexpected this type of thing can be. If you’re a pumping mother, having something unplanned added to your calendar overtop of your pumping time can be stressful if you don’t make it known you’re unavailable during that time.
That’s why I blocked off my pumping times on my calendar and made myself unavailable for that full duration. Now, it won’t always be that simple and easy, there will likely may be exceptions from time to time. But adding my pumping session to my calendar allowed me to be consistent with my pumping schedule and also set an expectation for my team and manager of what I’m doing during that time.
2. I paused all of my stress once I started my pumping session
Did you know that stress can have a major impact on how much breast milk you express during each session? Once you begin pumping, it takes on average 2-5 minutes for your breasts to let down and begin expressing milk. If you are tense, worried, stressed, depressed, anxious, or feeling some other unpleasant emotion, your body is going to have a more difficult time with the let down possibly resulting in a struggle with expressed breast milk.
I know, “How do I stop being stressed? I’m a new mom!” I literally think this is one of the questions I googled too because I completely agree—just the simple act of being a new mom can bring on a lot of stress and overwhelm.
My trick? I looked at heartwarming pictures and videos of my baby. You know that feeling after a really long day, and you finally pick your child up from daycare, and they smile and you melt into the biggest puddle ever? That’s the feeling you’re looking to recreate while pumping. This is why when you hear your child cry (I’ve also heard this happens when other people’s babies cry too), your breasts may leak breast milk a bit.
3. I stayed nourished and hydrated
We have a million and one things to think about, remember, and do at any given time. And while I’ve never in my entire life ever forgotten to eat (#foodie), I have gotten to the end of a day and realized I’ve not had nearly enough water. Those days, I’ve personally noticed a decrease in that day’s milk supply. I’ve often found that when I’m eating and drinking to satisfy my hunger and thirst that I tend to pump the average amount of milk my baby needs each day.
Nutrition and hydration are essential when pumping and breastfeeding. Now you do not need to be counting calories or being strict about what you eat, that is not necessary. Just make sure that if your body is saying it’s hungry to feed it and the same with thirst.
4. I created and stuck to a consistent schedule
This part may not be for everyone, but I believe this was one of the things that helped me the most with my milk supply. For one year, I pretty much nursed or pumped at the exact same time every single day. Making this schedule means that I had to plan many of my errands, meetings, or activities around my nursing or pumping schedule, but that was a commitment I was willing to make.
For me, I pumped at 6am, 9:30am, 12:30pm, 3:30pm, and 7pm with an occasional middle of the night feeding too. This also meant that, on the weekends, I was still keeping to this schedule even if that meant waking my son up for a feeding and putting him back to bed for a bit longer. Again, we all have different priorities and obligations and so sticking to the same schedule on the weekends may not work for you. But I do highly recommend trying to stick to some type of a consistent pumping pattern so that your body can begin to produce milk at the times you need it and not leave you engorged at the times you don’t.
I know how hard it is to pump while working and stick to it no matter what else is going on. I also understand from a personal perspective that not all workplaces provide the necessary amount of understanding, support, and recognition that moms need if they choose to feed their children in this way. If you’re currently struggling with having that support at your job, I want to say that I’ve been where you are, and I’m so sorry you’re going through that.
If pumping is the feeding option you’ve chosen for your child right now, I hope these tips help you keep going even just one more day longer.