What is your Pumping Plan?

breast pump__1455555645_108.89.137.58Returning to work after having some dedicated time with your newborn can be bittersweet.  You may be eager for the adult interaction and stimulation of your job, but you have grown so fond of your routine with your newborn, especially breastfeeding regularly.  This closeness is hard to leave behind when your maternity leave is over, but you and your baby can not only survive, but thrive from some separation.  Plus, you can continue your commitment to providing your baby the best nutrition possible by pumping at work and breastfeeding when you are home.  Successfully pumping at work requires a solid pumping plan, which is what we’re going to examine today.

Before Returning to Work

L377-Nude-prod-pagePreparing for pumping at work is the first step of your pumping plan.  Invest in a reliable pump that allows you to express milk as efficiently and comfortably as possible.  Practice using your pump for weeks in advance of returning to work to ensure you know the ins and outs of the machine.  Be sure to get plenty of bottles and milk storage bags, a cooler for transporting your milk, and pump cleaning supplies.  Stock up on nursing bras too, because you’ll want ease-of-access to your breasts when you have limited time during your busy workday to pump.  One handed clasps or pull-aside cups are easiest to manage.  Select styles that compliment your work attire and support your breasts with typical milk fluctuations throughout the day.

Next, talk to your supervisor about your plans to pump during the work day and what that will require from a logistical, time and space perspective.  Know your company’s policies and work with your boss on how you can meet your pumping needs while disrupting work flow as little as possible.  You may agree to an alternative work schedule that will ensure you can be in certain scheduled meetings or you may request assignments that have more flexible deadlines throughout the day.  Discuss how you can be most successful at work while also meeting your breastfeeding goals.

During the week before you return to work, do a dry run of spending time away from your baby, pumping and having someone else give your baby a bottle.  If possible, put your baby in day care or have your nanny start that week to work out kinks before the big day arrives.  Know that there will likely be bumps in the road but everyone will adjust over time.

Returning to Work

Upon returning to work, have a pumping schedule written down.  Give it to your supervisor so he/she knows where you are during those times.  If you feel comfortable, give it to co-workers who depend on you regularly or any of your direct reports.  Otherwise, let co-workers and employees know that you will be away from your desk occasionally to pump and you’ll get back to them as soon as possible.  You may want to have your smart phone available for urgent emails or phone calls should there be a “work emergency” during your pumping times.

Setting your pumping schedule should pretty much replicate your feeding schedule, at least for the first few months after returning to work.  Pumping at the approximate times you were feeding your baby will ensure your milk supply remains steady and you’ll have plenty for your baby to eat the following day while you’re at work.  You’ll probably continue breastfeeding on weekends and holidays so you’ll want your milk supply to be available at feeding times.

Be a stickler for keeping your pumping schedule on time.  This may mean your work has to take a back seat sometimes, but all for a good cause.  If you miss a pumping session, you may become engorged, which can be painful and may lead to blocked ducts or mastitis.  Also, if you repeatedly miss pumping sessions you could risk reducing your milk supply.  After awhile, your baby’s feeding schedule may change or you may find you can pump longer and less often.

Try to have a back-up milk supply in case you do get into a bind and cannot produce enough milk on any given day.  This may require several weeks of pumping prior to returning to work or pumping after your morning and nighttime feedings.  You will feel less anxious about your pumping plan if you know you have a back-up milk supply.

Being successful at providing breast milk after returning to work is easiest when you have a pumping plan.  Once your plan is in place, you can feel great about giving your baby the best nutritional start in life!