I’m less than 2 months away from having to return to work. While pregnant, a lot of women think it’ll be “easy” to return to work after being out of work for 6 weeks or so. Once that adorable little person comes into the world, your desire to return to work quickly diminishes (and if it doesn’t, that’s okay too!). Then you start to think about who will take care of your precious baby, the cost of putting your child in daycare or in-home care or hiring a nanny, and pumping.
Pumping can sometimes be more stressful than finding someone to care for your little one because if you don’t produce the milk, you may feel like you’ve failed in some way. First, I want you to know that you haven’t failed. While I believe that breastfeeding is the preferred method of feeding, there are MANY reasons why a parent decides to use formula. Actually, I’ve used formula as a supplement with my other two children because I couldn’t produce enough milk. Every day at work when I would pump for my second child, I was worried about my supply. There were times when I was pumping barely enough to just get through the next day.
With my third child here and my stress about returning to work and pumping is starting, I have a tip for all of you working mamas. As soon as you can, START PUMPING. After #3 was born, I started pumping as soon as I got home. It helped to relieve my engorgement AND I had milk to store even if it was only 1/2 an ounce in the beginning. I never did this for my other two children and for some reason, I felt like this was the best thing to do now because I wanted to be able to allow someone else to feed my son if I wanted to sleep or run an errand or need to attend to my other two children. I did this for the first 3 or 4 weeks after the baby was born and then, honestly, I got lazy. BUT during this time, I was able to store nearly 100 ounces of milk in the freezer including the colostrum! I have every intent of returning to this routine within the next couple of weeks. I want to be able to keep my supply up and have milk stored for when #3 goes to in-home daycare when I return to work.
Interestingly, doctors will tell you (only if you ask), to pump AFTER you nurse your baby. For me, this was VERY difficult and VERY discouraging because I would get 1/2 an ounce at best from BOTH breasts. And after feeding for 20-30 minutes, I have to burp the baby and get him to sleep. Trying to pump afterwards would extend the feeding routine to close to an hour!! Imagine doing this every couple of hours and you wouldn’t have time to get rest. It’s really demanding and depressing when you aren’t getting milk to fill those bottles.
So how did I do it? I kept the pump plugged in and set it on the bedside table with clean parts ready to go. I used breastmilk storage bags and taped them to the flanges so that when I pumped, I would be able to pump directly into the bag without having to mess with bottles and washing. I had a Pump Ease Hands Free Bra (I also recently purchased a 3-in-1 bra from The Dairy Fairy, which has had a positive impact on this entire process) from pumping for my other two kids. Whenever #3 got hungry, I’d put on the hands free bra and set up one side for pumping and the other side for nursing. I turned on the pump, latched #3 and let the milk flow. Nothing stimulates the nipple better than an infant so I had 2-3 let downs each feeding after the second or third week. Before I got lazy and stopped doing this, each session would produce about 4-6 ounces of milk from one side. Can you imagine doing this EVERY TIME the baby nursed (I only did this a few times during the night because I was too tired)? You’d be able to save up at least 24 ounces within a 12 hour period (4 ounces every 2 hours)! After baby was satisfied, I burped him and put him down to sleep. I pulled off the flange and the bag of milk and, if necessary, transferred some milk into other bags so that each bag would have NO MORE than 3 ounces each. I got most of the air out of the bags and laid them flat to freeze. Why flat? 1) Takes up less room in the freezer (I currently don’t have a deep freezer) and 2) quicker to thaw when you or someone else needs to feed the baby from a bottle. I would repeat these steps for the next nursing session.
Pumping doesn’t have to be stressful. Hopefully when you’re nursing, you aren’t stressed and you’re just enjoying the bonding time with baby. This helps with the flow of milk too. Good luck!
Do you have any tips on how to build a supply of milk?