How Do Moms Pump Enough to Return to Work?

Many moms want a safety net of pumped milk in the freezer for their return to work away from their babies. While it’s only necessary to have enough milk saved for the first two days back at work, many moms want to save several days or even weeks worth of feedings during their maternity leave.

Please read What to Expect When Pumping to trouble shoot and get the most out of your pumping experience. This article addresses how to juggle pumping during your maternity leave and during the working day.

When to start building a “stash”

Most women start with over production. The first 10 weeks of breastfeeding are the easiest for milk collection. This is also a critical time for conditioning the body to respond to a pump. Ideally, moms should nurse on cue and spend a great deal of time resting skin to skin with their babies for the first 2 weeks. Once baby has regained birth weight, around day 10-15, it’s time to try pumping.

Milk collection is easiest in the morning hours when the milk making hormones are highest. Beginning at this favorable time will help make pumping a more positive experience. After nursing the baby, pump either one or both sides for 20 minutes each. Even if the milk stops flowing, continue pumping for 20 minutes per side.

Weeks 2-4, pump one time per day in the morning after nursing. Expect to collect 1-2 ounces each day. Remember: 20 ounces is enough milk for about 16 hours of mother-baby separation.

If you wish to increase your daily milk collection, add a second daily pumping session weeks 4-6. Pumping only twice a day will help you collect several days worth of milk before returning to work.

If your baby cues to nurse after pumping, just nurse. The breasts are never truly empty until you wean. The more milk removed, the faster the glands work to produce more milk. No pump is as efficient as a baby who is properly latched. There is no need to feed the baby the pumped milk in place of nursing.

If your maternity leave is longer than 6 weeks, continuing pumping 1-2 times per day as is possible for the duration of your leave. This helps maintain a conditioned response for more efficient pumping in the future.

When to Pump at Work
No two work environments are the same. No two work days are the same. Not every work environment allows for predictable or scheduled pumping sessions. Things to consider:
– aim to pump every 1-3 hours. This is a range. Babies and breasts are flexible.
– don’t feel trapped on a schedule
– if you anticipate a long meeting or event you cannot break out of, consider pumping once an hour for 2-3 hours beforehand and/or afterward
– your body does not require you to pump on a set schedule just as your baby does not feed at set time
– a hands free pumping bra can help you pump during your drive to and from your work location
– hand expression may help moms who have a short break but can’t make it to the pumping room
– taking a lunch break to nurse your baby may be easier than pumping as frequently at work

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