Before reading any further first give yourselves a big pat on the back! You did it! You made it this far! Despite a challenging start for some of you, you all persevered and are ready to face the next stage in your breastfeeding career, returning to work as a breastfeeding mom. When most mothers hear the words breast pump they cringe. A lot of mothers have negative experiences with the pump and it can become a tremendous source of stress and frustration. These seven tips will help demystify the pump, help you avoid the most common pitfalls and help you get the best results for your efforts!
1. Babies and Breast Pumps are Different Yet the Same:
Both babies and pumps need to stimulate a “let-down” for there to be a significant outflow of milk.During a “let-down,” two maternal hormones travel via the bloodstream to the breast :1) prolactin- the hormone responsible for milk production and 2)oxytocin-the hormone that causes the ducts in the breast to dilate and the muscles surrounding the ducts to contract. This creates a pumping action within the breast to help expedite milk delivery. What most moms don’t realize is that the “let-down” is a learned or conditioned response.If a mom typically breastfeeds then her body is conditioned to have a “let-down” when the baby breastfeeds. On the other hand, if a mom typically pumps, her body is conditioned to have a “let-down” with the pump.Changing the stimulus from baby to pump or vice versa can slow down the “let-down” response and leave a mom feeling frustrated.Keep in mind that it takes time for your body to learn a stimulus and just keep practicing- remember in all areas of life practice makes perfect, or in this case- more milk!
2. Establish Realistic Breastfeeding Goals:
Each working mom is returning to a job with its unique set of challenges.For some moms it may be simple to keep to a regular pumping schedule while for others it may be nearly impossible. Even if a mom can only provide enough expressed breastmilk to cover a half or even a quarter of her baby’s feeds- it’s time well spent! Just remember it doesn’t have to be all or nothing!
3. The Magic Number is 3:
How often should a mom pump at work?This number is calculated based on the number of hours the mother is away from baby (this includes travel time) divided by 3. Always try to breastfeed the baby just prior to leaving and try to arrange the baby’s feeding schedule so that she is due for a feed as soon as you return home.
4. Breast Versus Bottle:
How much milk does a baby need? A breastfed 1-3 week-old baby drinks between 2-3oz per feed. Starting at around 1 month this will increase to 3-5oz per feed.Babies who are bottle fed typically take in larger volumes due to the fast flow of an artificial nipple.When switching from breast to bottle, use a slow flow nipple to prevent over-feeding and try to draw out the length of the feed by stopping every ounce to burp the baby. This will mimic the length of time they would be spending at the breast and give their brains time to realize they are satiated.
5. Pumping Mechanics:
Learn how your pump works and how playing with the settings (letdown mode versus expressive mode) can help increase your flow.Remember babies use rapid gentle sucks at the breast to stimulate a “let-down”, and then use slower, stronger sucks when the milk is flowing.Always make sure you are well hydrated before pumping and begin with a good breast massage- this helps with the oxytocin release.“Let-downs” also have a psychological component so thinking about your baby- looking at her picture or calling the babysitter to see what they are up to- can help expedite the “let-down” process.
6. Making it Last:
What’s the secret to maintaining a full milk supply while at work?Consistently pumping every 3 hours regardless of the amount of milk expressed.Often, mothers will decreased their number of pumping sessions to save time and get larger volumes at each pumping session.This is a common mistake!!! Remember full breasts make milk more slowly. Over a short period of time this will lead to a decreased milk supply.Don’t get discouraged by small amounts of milk.Pumping , not milk is what matters when it comes to protecting your milk supply.
7. Sorting out the details
Find a place where you have privacy and where you can feel relaxed. Set aside 20 minutes for each pumping session-15minutes for pumping and 5 minutes for clean-up. For moms really short on time, consider investing in some extra pump parts to eliminate the need to clean in between pumping sessions and save all the washing for home. Store any pumped breastmilk in a fridge or in a small cooler bag with ice packs to maintain maximum freshness.
Hope this article will help working mothers achieve their goal of continuing to breastfeed even after returning to work.
Remember as with all areas of life- it’s all about striking a balance that works well for both you and baby! Wishing you continued success!