by Michelle Clookie
You chose to pump at work, GO MAMA! If you ever pumped, for any reason, you know it can be a labor of love. I think you are making a great choice, for both you and your baby, and one that you will never regret. To help make it a little easier for you, I’ve put together answers to the most frequently asked questions about returning to work.
FAQ GUIDE FOR PUMPING & GOING BACK TO WORK
How do I create a ‘milk stash’ before returning to work, and how much will I need?
There is a common misconception that you need to have a huge ‘milk stash’ saved up for when you return to work. This can be stressful for some moms who are making enough for baby, but may not be pumping a ton beyond the baby’s immediate needs. Have no fear! That 100oz stash you see posted online, is NOT a necessity. Realistically you only really need about 2 day’s worth of milk to be on the safe side, and that is 2 day’s worth of milk baby will take when you are gone. Based on baby’s weight, most likely your baby will need to be drinking between 3oz – 4oz every 2-3hours. This means if you work an 8hr shift, will need about 24oz in your ‘stash’ to get you through that first day of work, and then have a little emergency backup. Start pumping once a day after your first morning feed, about 1 month before returning to work. Don’t worry if you are only pumping 1oz at a time, just save it in the fridge until you collect about 3-4oz, and then pop it in the freezer! Take note, we want to avoid pumping for going back to work in the first 6 weeks postpartum so as not to mess with your supply.
I can’t pump at the same time every day at work, and some days can’t pump at the time my baby feeds. How do I create a schedule?
This can seem daunting, but in reality this is the simplest part. Don’t be surprised if in the first few days when baby is with a new caregiver that they don’t take all the milk you think they will, or if the amount they want increases. If your baby is eating every 2-3 hours you will just want to pump every 2-3 hours. It does not need to be the same time every day, even if your baby eats at 9:30am, and you can’t get out of a meeting until 10:30am, that is ok. Same goes with if the pumping times change based on your days work schedule, don’t stress! Best rule of thumb, if baby is eating 3x while you are gone, try and get 3 pumping sessions in. IF you are making way more milk than baby needs, and are finding you are freezing milk that is not being used, you can try cutting out a pumping session, just be careful to assess your supply. If you notice a dip, add that pumping session back in.
Do I freeze all my milk every time I come home?
No! Fresh breastmilk contains the most valuable nutrients so we will feed that first. When feeding pumped milk to baby, on Monday (or first day of work) you will feed them the oldest milk in the fridge first. On Tuesday you will offer them Mondays milk (no need to freeze), on Wednesday you will offer Tuesdays milk (no need to freeze) and so on. On Friday (or your last day of work for the week) you will put that milk in the freezer! Voila, you now have a pro-pumping-breastfeeding-badass mama schedule!
How do I clean my pump at work and store my milk?
Pump cleaning can be a pain. Nobody has time to clean a pump more than once a day, so my recommendation is to throw the milk and all the pumping parts in the fridge after you are done pumping. This means you only wash your pumping parts when you get home at night! For milk storage, you will want to have your milk storage bags with you and store them in the fridge at work towards the back. Depending on your commute, you may want to bring a small insulated lunch bag for your milk, but if it’s not a long drive, you could do without. Keep things as simple as possible! For more detailed milk storage guidelines, click here
The person/facility that is watching my baby is asking for more milk. How much milk does my baby need?
The amount baby needs is based on their age and their weight. In the United States moms typically return to work between 3-6 months postpartum, which would be about 3-4oz per feed. Breastfed babies tend to top off at 4oz around 5-6 months of age, and rarely need more than that at one feeding. Consider visiting a breastfeeding support group or a lactation consultant in your area to get an accurate weight, a weighted feed, and to discuss the amount needed for your baby. Another helpful tip to prevent baby from being overfed with the bottle is to communicate how to feed baby with a bottle in a way that closely mimics breastfeeding. What happens sometimes is that babies take milk faster in a bottle than they do from the breast, which can lead to that baby’s tummy not having enough time to tell it’s brain that they are full. To prevent this from happening, keep your bottle nipple a size 1 (rarely do breastfed babies need to go above this level), and practice Paced Bottle Feeding. Don’t be afraid to advocate for this even when working with seasoned caregivers and daycare centers! For more information on Paced Bottle Feeding click here
What are my rights as a working Mom?
This changes from State to State, but most places of work are supportive of Moms and pumping. This should include service industry jobs. We encourage all Mama’s to set up a meeting with HR and your manager to discuss where you will be pumping, how often you need to be pumping, and to ensure that you have a private space. This includes a place to store milk if a breakroom fridge is not available. For more information about your working mama rights, I encourage you to visit Thrive Mama website click here
For more information on going back to work, if you have questions, or if you just need to be reminded that you are capable of doing hard things, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, visit my website for upcoming online classes that cover this topic!
Michelle Clookie is a Lactation Consultant, and also works for the Postpartum Health Alliance supporting families in their parenting journey. As a Lactation Consultant, Michelle works to help families reach their unique goals for feeding their babies, and is passionate about normalizing all things motherhood. Michelle also works to provide Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder (PMADs) awareness by providing families, and clinicians with education through the work she does with the San Diego Postpartum Health Alliance. Before shifting her work focus after her first born, Michelle spent 9 years in non-profit working as a Training and Development Director. Michelle, along with her husband Jeremy, live in San Diego with their daughter Charlotte (4 years), son Beckett (2 years), and baby number 3 due this Fall!
You can follow on Instagram or visit her website www.michelleclookie.co