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


Finding Your Perfect Pump

The perfect pump is the one that helps you have a healthy breastfeeding experience. With all the brands and attachments on the market, how do you choose? Here is a breakdown of what’s out there, and what the label really means.

Manual vs. Electric

Manual breast pumps often pump one breast at a time using a squeeze or trigger device to create suction. The strength and speed of the suction is adjusted and regulated by the woman’s hand pressure on the pump device.

Electric breast pumps use an electric motor to create suction. These motors may have battery or plug-in power options. Electric pumps come in single and double, meaning they may pump only one breast or both breasts at the same time. Most of the pumps other mothers will recommend are double electric pumps. They are commonly used by mothers who work outside the home or have extended separations from their nursing baby. Electric pumps have speed and suction adjustment options that work in a variety of ways. Some have dials. Others have manual rhythm settings.

One of the first breast pumps pre-1900 made from glass and brass. Modern technology has come along way.

Open System vs. Closed System

Electric pumps use a motor to create suction. The motor system is either “open” or “closed.” An open system pump connects the pump flange to the motor directly with tubing. Air and fluid can be exchanged in the tubing.  A closed system pump has a membrane between the pump flange and the tubing. Air and fluid cannot be exchanged in the pump tubing. All hospital grade pumps are closed system pumps. The benefit of a closed system pump is that the membrane protects milk from being contaminated by fluid or particulates from the motor or tubing.

Closed system pumps are the only type of pump that can be approved for multiple users. Currently, only Hygeia makes a closed system pump that is FDA approved for multiple users AND is available commercially for purchase. Hospital grade closed system pumps are only available for rent.

Many top manufacturers sells open system pumps. These pumps generally work very well, have strong motors, and come with many features that make pumping on the go easier. The only caution is that there is a possibility of milk back-flowing through the tubing and into the motor housing. There is no way to sanitize the motor. Mold may grow in the motor housing. The tubing, flanges, and bottles can all be sanitized. This is one reason it is not recommended to buy a pump secondhand or use a friend’s pump that is not FDA approved for multiple users.

Pumping bras make hands-free pumping easier for working moms.

International Code for Marketing Breast-milk Substitutes

The US does not have laws in place to enforce the International Code for Marketing Breast-milk Substitutes. Companies may or may not voluntarily comply. Some pump manufacturers comply while others do not. You can read the full Code here to get a better understanding of how the Code seeks to support maternal and infant health. Mothers “vote with their dollars” when they purchase a breast pump, so choosing a company that truly supports breastfeeding is important to many mothers.

Hand Expression

All nursing mothers benefit from learning and practicing hand expression of their milk. Hand expression is safe, sanitary, does not require electricity, and is completely free. A mother just needs a bowl or bottle to collect her milk. Mothers can learn different expression techniques from taking a breastfeeding class, working with an LC, another breastfeeding mother, and educational films. Mothers who use hand expression can collect milk for their babies as effectively or more so than mothers using a pump, when they have mastered the technique.

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