Posted on August 17 2021
Having a set plan and keeping to a schedule are keys for a successful pump-at-work process.
It has been six months, your little one is starting on solids, you’re out of maternity leave, and it’s time to head back to work. But you’ve a full-proof breastfeeding and pumping schedule and you would love to keep that going. How do you go about it? How do you keep your milk supply consistent? The key, above all else, is to have a set plan. Most employers nowadays are more comfortable with the notion of mums expressing their milk in the workplace. Certain companies have dedicated rooms catered solely for this purpose too. However, there are still plenty of working mums who face difficulties when trying to keep their milk supply going when they are back at work. Here are some tips before you head back to work and pumping at the office to support your breastfeeding journey.
Discuss with your bosses and plan ahead.
Having a very specific plan in place before you walk through your office doors the first day back at work will make the entire process easier. Pumping is the best alternative to continue your breastfeeding journey since you’re not able to physically breastfeed your little one at work. The best way to kickstart this process? Speak to your boss, agree to a pumping plan in advance and explain that you will need to keep up a breastmilk pumping schedule as close to the routine you have at home so as to continue to give your baby the nourishment they need. This pumping every three to four hours, twice during the eight-hour workday. If there isn’t a specific nursing room at your place, discuss with your superiors on where you can set up shop that’s fitted with an electric outlet and access to a sink. You will also need a place to store your breastmilk at work so decide on where you can do so and how you will label it.
Learn how to hand express your milk.
Let Dad have a go at bottle-feeding so that your baby will not just associate you with being nursed.
Chances are if you’re fully breastfeeding at home and perhaps pumping at the same time, you might not realise that learning the art of hand expressing your milk is a useful skill. There may be times when you forget a pumping session (considering you’ve got a million and one things to do) or your pump might konk out on you. You can save yourself a worry session if this happens at home or work if you can readily hand express your milk and keep up your ever ready milk supply.
Get your baby used to a bottle.
Let’s face it – some babies are easy; as long as there’s milk from the breast or a bottle, they are satisfied. Others will wail their little hearts out if they are not presented with mum’s boobs. If you’re heading back to work, it is recommended that you start your baby on a bottle about a month after birth. It’s also best that you leave the bottle feeding to your partner or caregiver so that your baby will not only just associate you with being nursed. For Lydia Teo, a mum of two who works in the banking industry, taking time off from the office to nurse her baby has become a norm. “My baby doesn’t take a bottle so I have to excuse myself from work to nurse him, which can be stressful and time consuming,” she says. “Perhaps I should have started him on the bottle sooner!”
Breastfeed your baby before heading out to work.
Latch your baby before you go to work and as soon as you’re back, do so again. A well-latched bub at the breast is still the most effective way of keeping up your milk supply. No amount of pumping can do the job as well as your little one. While every baby is different, if you’re away eight to 12 hours a day, you can expect that your baby will take about 10 to 15 oz. of milk during that time. Your baby will start taking more solids from six months old and daily intake may slowly decrease. Breastfeeding before and after work helps to ensure that you’ll always have a steady flow of milk.
Invest in a good quality pump.
Having the right pump that is comfortable and suits your needs is a game changer when it comes to the whole business of going back to work while maintaining your breastfeeding journey. Most of the time we would go for the double electric pump because well, it does the job way faster! Invest in a high-quality one that supports frequent pumping and preferably one that tucks away neatly into a portable tote. How do you know which flange size best suits you? Some research is needed here. Determine the diameter of your nipple. The standard flange size is often 24mm, but you may need to select smaller or larger flanges based on your measurement. Compare the diameter of your nipple to the available options. You know that the flange is a perfect fit if you do feel any pain while pumping. A top-of-the-line pump will set you back quite a bit, but the ease of use and peace of mind it brings is worth every penny. Christine DeSouza, a financial advisor says, “Take time to shop around for a breast pump. If you can find a double electric pump that also comes with a battery pack, you’ve hit a jackpot! It makes it so much easier to bring to work and keep to your pumping schedule.”
Wear ‘pump-friendly’ work clothes.
There are tons of nursing-friendly outfits out there, but what about ‘pump-friendly’ chic work clothes? “The trick is to look for dresses and tops that will allow you pumping access without taking the whole garment off or exposing literally half your torso!” says Natalie Toh, a full-time educator. You might need to hold off on certain outfits, but for the most part, you can don just about anything if they are simple and crinkle-free. “Camisole bra tops are a must-have!” Natalie goes on to say. “Don a jacket over it and you’re all set for a formal meeting.” Don’t forget the all-essential breast pads too! Leakage is unavoidable in the first few months of breastfeeding, so prep yourself by keeping boxes of absorbent breast pads at your desk and change them each time after you pump.
Find hacks and develop a fuss-free routine.
The minute you’re a working mum, you’ve got to find ingenious ways to make the whole pumping process at work smooth sailing. Come up with a schedule at work, streamline your process of setting up all pump equipment, milk storage and repeat. Your daily kit at work should include your breast pump (plus battery pack if any), extra bottles, milk storage bags, breast shields, breast pads, wet wipes and tissues. If you do not have a refrigerator at work, you’d need ice packs to keep the expressed milk cold. You might want to include a snack (perhaps yummy lactation cookies) and a bottle of water too. Where possible, consider keeping a spare breast pump kit at your workstation. “I found these special breast pump wipes to clean the pump at work after use. That saved me a lot of time,” says Leanne Tan, an editor of a publishing company. Mum of three and business owner Nurin A. says “Using quick microwave steriliser bags at work to clean pump parts is super-efficient. Once I’m home, I’ll freeze the expressed milk, wash the flanges thoroughly and pack for the next workday once again.”
Nourish yourself and stay well-hydrated at work.
Take steps to eat well at work and ensure that you are drinking enough water so that your energy levels are maintained, and milk supply is consistent. Where possible, pack wholesome nutritious meals from home that are organic, chemical, and preservative-free. Stash some lactation cookies at work or bring ingredients to make yourself a yogurt smoothie. A healthy gut is also crucial to enrich your milk with beneficial bacteria that your baby needs to build a healthy immune system.
Let’s be honest, there will be boo-boos here and there when you first start out. You may feel a little self-conscious, nervous and worry about expressing enough milk to bring home for your baby. Juggling a career and balancing it with your role as a mum takes a little getting used to. Take a day at a time and do what you can. Just know that the tireless effort you put into pumping milk every day at work is worthwhile and you’re giving your little one the best start in life.
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