Pumping at Work

To Maintain (Or Increase) Milk Supply,
Milk Removal Must Be Frequent

pumping at work

Anytime you are away from your baby it is very important that you not go longer than 3 hours without pumping. If you are trying to increase your milk supply it is recommended to pump every 2 hours at work. Breastfeed your baby right before you leave for work – ideally at the caregiver’s (try to always offer, even if baby only latches on for a few minutes). Then, once at work, schedule pumping every 2 hours – if you aim for pumping at work every 2 hours, you’ll likely be able to do it at least every 3 hours – if you plan for 3 hours and something comes up you’ve now gone over the maximum time and your supply will likely diminish.

Try to have your caregiver avoid giving your baby a bottle for the last 2 hours before you are scheduled to pick up (provided weight gain, and diaper output are not an issue). Then, breastfeed baby immediately when you pick him or her up from your caregiver, ideally breastfeed at the caregiver’s to avoid any delay. Remember, the more you can have baby at the breast the better. When you have the caregiver avoid giving a late bottle you help ensure that baby is hungry and will nurse well as soon as he is picked up.

When Pumping at Work a Little is Better Than None

Each time you pump when you are away from your baby you want to aim for 20 minutes, or until the milk stops flowing whichever is longer. However, even if you can’t fit in a full pumping session – pump at work whenever you can, even if it is only for a few minutes. That little bit of milk removal will still help. It’s much better to pump for a few minutes than not at all. To maintain your milk supply it is essential that the milk be removed frequently.

Create a Successful Environment for Pumping At Work

Be sure to create an environment for pumping at work where you feel safe and comfortable – a place where you are able to fully relax. You should be in a private, clean area (not a bathroom) that has a lock on the door so you don’t have to worry if someone is going to walk in on you. If you will be pumping at work in a room that has windows be sure you can close the blinds.

Many women don’t think about all the things in their environment that may be causing them to feel tense while pumping at work - which makes it very hard for the milk-ejections to happen, and the milk to really flow. Look around your pumping area, and listen to your body – if you are tense anywhere, try to relax, if it’s from your environment, make the changes necessary to remove the tension. Many states now have laws to help women who are pumping at work. If you are having any difficulties with your work environment check out http://www.ncsl.org/ for the laws that pertain to your state.

Try To Achieve As Many Let-Downs As Possible

  • Most pumps have a “let-down cycle” when you first turn the pump on the suction pattern is different; this is to trigger your let-down. When your milk flow has slowed you can turn this cycle on again to start your next let-down. Some pumps will allow you to simply press the button. Some pumps you’ll need to turn off and turn on again. Some women even find that turning off the pump and waiting 30 seconds to a couple of minutes can help to trigger an additional let-down.
  • Smells can be very powerful triggers. Try holding one of your baby’s outfits or blankets that haven’t been washed, and still smell like your baby. You might be surprised by how strong of an emotional reaction this can bring!Baby
  • Look at pictures or video of your baby. Think of the songs you sing to him, or giving birth to him. Let-downs are often triggered by emotions, or even the feeling of getting goosebumps!

Experiment When Pumping at Work

Every woman is different, and responds differently to different things. To get the most out of pumping at work – experiment, and find what works best for you. Some women really enjoy viewing a slideshow of their baby while pumping at work. However, some women are so bothered at the thought of being away from their baby, that thoughts of their baby can actually inhibit the let-down reflex.

Some women find imagining milk flowing like rivers from the breast to be helpful, or thinking about water flowing, or water falls. Yet others find that distraction works the best to get the milk flowing. Try talking on the telephone with a friend to keep your mind completely off pumping at work. In pretty much all cases however, staring at the pumping bottles, and feeling stressed about the amount of milk you are (or are not) getting is very detrimental to the whole process.

Really Get the Milk Flowing

If you can, apply a heat compress about 10 minutes before you are going to pump. This can help to open your milk ducts and help relax everything to really get the milk flowing while you are pumping at work.

Once your milk has started flowing, use hand compressions to increase the flow of milk. Start with your hand by your rib cage and cup your breast with your fingers under your breast, and your thumb on top of your breast. Gently squeeze your breast between your thumb and your fingers. As you do this the milk flow should increase. When the milk flow begins to slow again rotate your hand  slightly and squeeze again. Work your way all the way around the breast, and then start moving forward toward the nipple and continue with the hand compressions, particularly focusing on any pockets of milk.

Before Returning To Work,
Add a Bonus Pumping Session Before Bed

If you need to store milk for returning to work, add a pumping session two hours after your baby goes to sleep each night (or right before you go to bed – whatever fits best with baby’s nighttime schedule). Keep this session about the same time each evening. After about 2 weeks your body will produce extra milk at this time, and you’ll start being able to build up a supply of milk for hungry days and growth spurts. Plus you’re letting your body know it’s time to increase production. This will help with pumping at work. 

Last Edited 5/28/13

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