Saturday, September 20, 2008

Pumping & Working: Essentials to making it work

One of my good friends will be returning to work in a week and will be pumping for her 4-month-old daughter. I told her I would make her a list of items and tips she'll need to make working and pumping easier. Below is my list, but please feel free to add anything I may have overlooked.

  • A good double electric breast pump. It goes without saying that if you want to keep your supply up, you'll need a quality pump. Most lactation consultants recommend the Medela Pump in Style and the Ameda Purely Yours. If your supply starts to dip, you can consider renting a hospital-grade pump. I am also hearing really good things about the new Medela Freestyle, a hands-free pump.
  • Pictures and videos of your baby, clothes your baby has worn, your baby's blanket. All of these items can help elicit your let-down reflex. If you have a cell phone that takes videos and pictures, make sure you have some photos or vids of your baby nursing that you can play while you pump.
  • Burp cloths. My son never spits up so I have a ton of these things in his linen closet and never had a use for them until I returned to work and began pumping. These will save your clothing. Breast milk does stain (I learned this lesson the hard way by ruining two pairs of pants) so be sure to put the cloths in your lap before you pump. When you remove your breasts from the horns, some milk may drip down into your lap so use the cloths to catch it. You can also them to wipe up any milk that spills on the table/desk where you're pumping.
  • Speaking of horns (or flanges or breast shield....same thing!), it's smart to invest in an extra set. That way, you don't have to wash pump parts at work. Since breast milk is sterile, you can store the horns from your morning pump session in a fridge at work or even in a plastic ziplock bag until you're ready for your lunch time pump. Then you can use the extra set for your afternoon pumping session(s).
  • Make sure the horns are also the correct size! Check out how the right fit should look here.
  • Extra accessories. Keep them on hand, both at work and at home. I can't tell you how many times I've forgotten to pack one little tiny part that then makes it impossible to use the pump. The white part that aids in suction is the membrane and the yellow piece it clips onto on a Medela pump is the valve. On an Ameda pump, the white piece is the valve. Medela accessories can be purchased at Target and Babies R Us, but Ameda parts can only be found online, so stock up before returning to work. You'll also need to replace the valves and membranes every 6 to 8 weeks to ensure the integrity of your pump and your output. If you notice you are pumping less, sometimes just replacing these parts can get you back on track.
  • Extra collection bottles/milk storage bags, just in case. You never know how much milk you're going to get in a given day.
  • A cooling pack. If you don't have access to a fridge, you can keep your milk cool enough with a freezer pack. Even though I have a fridge, I prefer to keep my milk with me at all times.
  • A fun magazine, book, or web site to read. Many moms, myself included, find that "bottle watching" really wrecks your output. If I concentrate and worry about how much milk I am getting, I inevitably get less than if I surf the internet or read Us Weekly.
  • Learn how to go hands-free. If you can't splurge on a Freestyle, you can purchase a bra especially made for pumping moms, like the Easy Expressions. You can also rig up any regular old nursing bra to be hands-free with a couple of rubber bands.
  • Pump at least 3 times a day. Ideally you should pump for every missed feeding, but if you can't, 3 times is in a typical 8-hour work day should be enough. If you get busy, squeeze in a 5 minute pump. Some pumping is better than none!
  • Herbs. Fenugreek works wonders for boosting milk supply, as does goat's rue. You can purchase them at a health food store, or try a tincture like Mother Love's More Milk Plus.
  • Determination and a good attitude. Working and pumping is tough, but worth all of the effort to give your baby the best..your milk! It helps to think of pumping as a way to connect with your baby even when you're apart. You will definitely run into issues at one time or another but don't let them prevent you from continuing your nursing relationship with your baby. If you find pumping becomes too difficult, always remember that some breast milk is better than none and nursing doesn't have to be an all or nothing proposition! Your body will make enough milk for you to feed your baby when you're together and you can give her formula at day care if it makes your life easier and preserves your sanity.
For more tips and information on the many common concerns working and pumping moms face, check out the following:

Work and Pump site

Pumping & Relactating Moms forum

Breast milk calculator

Nursing Mother, Working Mother

Optimizing Milk Supply
when Returing to Work or School

101 Reasons to breastfeed your baby
, when you need some inspiration and encouragement

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