The Breastfeeding Diaries Part 4: Pumping and Working

February 6, 2013

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I don't know about you, but I dreaded going back to work once I had a baby. I couldn't imagine spending my days away from my sweet precious boy. One of the biggest things I worried about was how I was going to manage breastfeeding once I returned to work. Would it be hard? Awkward? Overwhelming? 

Well, the good news is that pumping and working hasn't been as bad as I thought it would be. And it's only a little bit awkward. But like so many aspects of motherhood, you just have to accept the weirdness and move on. Pumping takes a lot of work, but it's worth it. If I can't breastfeed Hudson than I want him to have the next best thing....pumped breast milk. The good thing about going back to work is it has added a bit more structure to my life. I thought I would be miserable, but it's actually been pretty manageable most days. I do miss Hudson during the day, but it has been nice to have a little time to myself. I can actually eat lunch uninterrupted and read a book for pleasure now! The first few days back I didn't know what to do with myself! I am also blessed to be able to work one day a week from home and it is amazing. But that means I need to pump and prepare four days worth of meals for my little guy.

Here are a few of my recommendations for a working mom:

1. Invest in quality supplies. You'll be using your breast pump and accessories a lot, so make sure you invest in items that will last. Some insurance companies cover the cost of a breast pump, so make sure you check with your insurance before you purchase anything. I have the Medela Pump in Style Advanced and it is great. It comes in a black bag that is easy to take to and from work. It also comes with a small insulated cooler to store your breast milk. I take my pump home with me every day. You never know when you might need it, so it's easiest to just take it home with you. It seems like the few times I left my pump at work were the times I felt like I needed it! Also, make sure you purchase at least one extra set of pump parts and accessories.

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2. Create a milk stockpile. I started pumping once a day when Hudson was around 4 weeks old. I would get up in the morning with him, nurse him, and then attempt to get him down for a nap around 9:00 a.m. Then I would pump...usually it was 30-60 minutes after I finished feeding him. Those first few weeks I would pump 2 ounces or so....and it was very discouraging. However, once your body gets used to this "extra" feeding session you will start to make more. Once Hudson was 10 weeks old I could usually pump between 4 and 7 ounces each morning. It's best to pump in the morning...that is when you usually have the most milk.

Clear out some room in your freezer for all of your milk! I have two drawers that are filled with frozen milk. To store the milk I use Medela Pump and Save Breastmilk bags. Make sure you include the date the milk was pumped as well as the ounce amount. It is a good idea to save milk in 2 or 3 ounce quantities. Now that Hudson is older I freeze most of his milk in 5 ounce quantities, but it's always helpful to have a variety. Pumping once a day for several weeks is a great stress-free way to build up your stockpile for when you return to work!

The stockpile is important because some days you may not pump enough to send with your baby. This does not mean you are not making enough milk for's just that your baby is more efficient at drawing milk out of the breast than your pump is. My goal is always to send Hudson to daycare with "fresh" milk pumped the day before. But this doesn't always happen.
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waterproof personalized bottle labels / removable date labels
3. Milk will be thrown out. Get over it. I send Hudson to daycare with four bottles. It takes some experimentation to learn how much milk to send with your baby. At first I over packed his bottles, just to make sure he had enough. Ask your daycare provider to record how much your baby drinks at each feeding and make sure you know your their policy on breast milk. The daycare Hudson attends will discard milk from a "used" bottle after one hour. That means, any milk Hudson does not drink from that bottle in one hour is dumped. This was so frustrating for me at first. That milk is like liquid gold and they are dumping it down the drain!!!! You'll want to try and pack just what your baby drinks.....but if your baby is anything like mine, it can vary from day to day. So, I send Hudson to daycare with four bottles, each with 5 ounces of breast milk (each baby is different, so pack what works best for them!). Hudson drinks anywhere from 3.5 to 5 ounces at a time at daycare. So I send him with 20 ounces....and a few are thrown out...I've just had to get over it!

Since I have a large stockpile of frozen milk, I can dip in to it if I do not pump enough. I typically pump between 15 and 20 ounces a day at work. My frozen stockpile allows me to send Hudson to daycare with 20 ounces, regardless of how much I pumped the day before. Since I know he doesn't usually eat all 20 ounces I am still reassured that I am making enough milk for him.  

4. Pump on the weekends too. Continuing to pump once a day during the weekends or any day you are home with your baby will help you maintain your stockpile. 

Here is my process for pumping at work:
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 1. Find a location to pump. Did you know that employers with more than 50 employees must by law provide pumping mothers with reasonable time and a private place, not a bathroom, to pump? So talk to your employer about where and when you can pump with privacy. I am lucky because my employer is totally on board with my plans to continue breastfeeding. I pump in my office. I purchased a curtain rod and curtain to cover my indoor window for privacy. When I returned to work I made sure to let my co-workers know I am not to be disturbed when the curtain is drawn. I have had zero problems so far! At first I felt awkward, but really, no one cares! And they have reassured me that they cannot even hear the pump. I also have a shade on my outdoor window so that people outside can't see the goods!

2. Pump as soon as you get to work. This is usually the most stress free time of the day. Plus, you have the most milk in the morning. 

3. Set up a pumping schedule. I pump three times a day at work:  8:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m, and 2:00 p.m. The whole process of setting up, pumping, and washing the pump parts takes about 15 minutes. I've put my pumping sessions in to my work calendar so that the time is blocked off...and so that I remember to pump! It is also helpful to set up an automatic reminder in your calendar or on your phone so that you don't accidentally forget to pump. (I've forgotten a few times and it is not fun!)
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4. Cleaning parts. I have two sets of pump parts so that one is always clean. I have a mini kitchen just steps from my office where I can wash my pump parts with hot soapy water. I store a bottle of soap and a bottle brush so that I can clean everything immediately after I use them. Then I store them on a drying rack concealed in my office desk. I like this method because it assures me no one is touching my pump equipment and parts but me. If you do not have the ability to wash your pump parts Medela makes breastpump accessory wipes you can use. Breast milk is good for 4 hours at room temperature, so technically you can pump twice using the same parts without washing them in between. Or, if you have three sets of parts you can wait until you get home to wash everything. I have easy access to clean my parts, so two sets works perfectly for me. You can also purchase some steam bags to sterilize your pump parts in the microwave. I have a few of these but usually don't use them....I just sterilize everything once a week or so at home using boiling water.

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5. Milk storage. I store my pumped milk in my work refrigerator in a small cooler that came with my pump. If you do not have access to a refrigerator you can store your milk in an insulated cooler with ice packs for up to 24 hours. Then just pop it in the refrigerator when you get home for the day.

So what does a typical "work" day look like? 
5:45 a.m. Alarm goes off and I quickly shut it off so that it doesn't wake the baby. Now it's a race to feed the cats and dog and do my hair and makeup before Hudson wakes up. (for a while Hudson was UP FOR THE DAY at 4:00 a.m. Those days were not fun).
6:00-6:30 a.m. Hudson is up! I prefer him to sleep until 6:30, but sometimes he is up early. Breastfeed Hudson. Then my husband plays with him while I finish getting ready and get dressed.
7:00 a.m. Get Hudson dressed for daycare. Load up the car with all of our bags: my purse, breast pump, my lunch, and Hudson's bag with bottles. All of these are packed the night before.
7:20 a.m. Leave for daycare.
7:25-7:35 a.m. Drop Hudson off at daycare. I usually spend some time chatting with the ladies that work in his room. Refill Hudson's stash of diapers and wipes in his cubby. Kiss my little guy goodbye and try not to cry (this gets easier as time goes on).
7:55 a.m. Arrive at work and unpack all. my. stuff.
8:00-8:15 a.m. First pumping session. Log in to the daycare live video feed and watch Hudson bounce in the bouncer. Wash pump parts and store milk in the refrigerator.
8:15-11:00 a.m. WORK 
11:00-11:15 a.m. Second pumping session. I really can't do much other than watch Hudson or read emails during this time. Wash pump parts and store milk.
11:15-2:00 p.m. More work.
2:00-2:15 p.m. Last pumping session. Wash pump parts...again.
2:15-4:00 p.m. Work/count down the minutes until I see my little guy.
4:00-5:00 p.m. Pick up Hudson from daycare. Get home and try to get something ready for dinner. Most days we have something that is easy to throw together like chicken/veggie stir fry, sandwiches, bbq chicken salad, tacos, or a crock pot meal.
5:00-6:00 p.m. Alternate between playing with Hudson and feeding him. My husband and I take turns entertaining him while the other one eats.
6:00-7:00 p.m. Give Hudson a bath, breastfeed him, and put him to bed.
7:00-8:00 p.m. Relax with my husband. Blog. Sometimes we eat dinner at this time too...depending on what kind of mood Hudson is in when we get home. 
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 8:00-8:30 p.m. Wash dinner dishes and bottles from daycare and then prepare bottles and my lunch for the next day. This means I have to label each bottle with the date and the amount. Our magic number of bottles is 8....the 4 bottles Hudson used that day can dry while a new clean set of 4 bottles are prepared in the refrigerator for the next day. If I'm a few ounces short and need more milk than I pumped that day at work, I usually have between 2-3 ounces left over in the refrigerator from a previous pumping session that I can combine with freshly pumped milk to make a 5 ounce bottle....or I pull a frozen bag of milk out of my stockpile to defrost overnight in the refrigerator. Usually this is either a 5oz bag or a 2-3oz bag that will be mixed with the fresh milk. As long both stashes of milk are the same temperature they can be combined. If you do this make sure the date you put on the bottle is the oldest date. 
8:30 p.m. Shower. I'm a nighttime shower girl. Plus there is just not time to do this in the morning.
9:30 p.m. Bedtime. At least this is the goal....doesn't always happen.
1:00 a.m. ish.....usually up once with Hudson. I breastfeed him and put him back to sleep.

 photo DSC_0296.jpg So....the days are long...but the good news is that breastfeeding doesn't really add that much time to my day. The worst part is washing bottles and parts....which is just a fact of life when you have a baby! 

Any questions? I know that each mom's routine is different, but mine works for me. I would be more than happy to answer questions about my process at any time! Just send me an email (located under "contact" at the top) or leave your question in the comments of this post. 

Next week I'll talk about my future plans for breastfeeding.
You can catch up with the first three breastfeeding diaries posts here:
Part 1: Getting Started
Part 2: First Days
Part 3: Getting Established

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39 Responses to “The Breastfeeding Diaries Part 4: Pumping and Working”

  1. This is such great information. Thank you for documenting and sharing!

  2. This is such great information. Thank you for documenting and sharing!

  3. Wow, your pumping at work setup is much better than mine was! What a sweet setup! I'm jealous! Teaching is not condusive to pumping as you can't just leave your kids three times a day. I ended up pumping during the morning announcements (in our student thespian lounge, so I had to kick kids out and lock myself in there) and then at night after Kennedy went to bed. I ended up pumping enough of what she needed that way and it worked well for us. I love the Medela Pump in Style. I have the exact same one and it has been the best thing ever. I also agree with the bags - love those. I didn't have as good of a stockpile, either. I don't know how I did it with just the supply we needed the next day, but for some reason it worked and we never needed to supplement!

    Great post, yet again!!!

  4. Yes, my days look similar to yours except my baby is at daycare close to work and doesnt take a bottle (STILL) so at lunchtime I head over and nurse her.

  5. This was great, thanks for sharing!

    My days are similar, minus the fact that I went down to part-time in October so I leave at 2pm. I wish I had this sooner since it took me a long time to figure out a routine with how much to pump, how to clean my parts, etc. I just invested in a second set of parts after 4 months of washing and drying mine. The thought had never even occurred to me until another pumping mom suggested it!

  6. You are such an amazing mommy and I am so proud of you for this!!!! I seriously wish I was still breast feeding...the doctor put me on antibiotics AGAIN yesterday so I would have had to quit anyway. Breaks my heart. Your little man is growing SO FAST! That last picture of him melts my heart, J!!!! I want to squeeze those cheeks!!!!! I love his little hands holding his toy...I can't wait till mine does that!!!! Thank you for sharing your BF many mommies need to read this!!!!!!

  7. Thank you for this! Such good information and nice to read that someone else is in the same boat as me. I agree ... Coming back to work was torture, but the added structure is nice and coming home each day is like Christmas!!

  8. Our days are incredibly similar! It's nuts how much planning and organization goes in to getting your kid fed! :)

  9. WOW, this really puts the whole working mom thing into perspective! I can't believe you get up at 5:45! Does it ever get easier?!

  10. another great post on BF! i love this series. i always wondered how working mommies do it! so much dedication.

  11. Great post! This one I have been the most interested in since I will be a working mommy too, and doing the pumping thing as well. Seems like so much, but I guess it just becomes routine. You sound like you have it down pat! Love that pic of Hudson. He is too precious!

  12. Another great post! Our schedules are very similar...besides my little man not going down until 8:30 or 9! That leaves very little mommy/daddy time and makes my bedtime much later than I would like. I have heard that putting them down earlier works better, but I'm just not sure how to know when! Carter is 14 1/2 weeks...any advice there?
    Oh, and don't you just love those bottles!? Washing all the bottles/pump parts makes me realize how nice it was when I was on maternity leave and got to skip that part! :)

  13. Great post! It's definitely hard making that transition from home to work. When I pumped at work I never washed pump parts but just stuck them in the fridge at work. I washed everything when I got home. I actually heard that room temp breastmilk was good for 8 hours but never wanted to test it. Glad your situation has worked out well for you guys!

  14. You are super mom! This was so informative Julie, thank you for taking the time to write all of this info down for us. It was been SO helpful!

  15. You have a great set-up for work! And I'm jealous that you have a 8-4 job! I work for a construction company - so it's a bunch of men everywhere. Not only is it ackward at times to pump at work, but we are so busy my workday is usually 7:30-5 or 6ish. It sucks that I don't have a lot of time at home. What do you do that allows you a straight 8 hour day and office?!

  16. This is such a big help! I go back to work at the beginning of April and this is a huge help in planning what I need - definitely ordering another set of pump parts - I didn't even think of that!

  17. Oh my goodness - reading this brings those days right back for me. The daily mental calculations of how much I'd pumped vs. how much to pull from the freezer, pumping, feeding, washing - repeat again and again and again! This is why I can't even think of having another one right now! :) You're a great momma and working so hard! Hudson's a lucky boy.

  18. Thank you for writing these posts! I don't have any children yet but I've learned so much and I plan on favoriting these in my reader so I refer to them when we do have children!

  19. This post is SOOO helpful even now! I've always wanted to know the details of a working mama's day. I pump 3x a day now as well and usually for about 20 minutes and then clean the parts. So it takes about 30 minutes or so each time. It looks like you pump for about 10 min or so? I am keeping this for the next time...super duper helpful!

  20. OMG! Such an awesome post!! I know I'm really going to appreciate these someday! HAHA :)

  21. Hi! Lurker here, just wanted to let you know if you refrigerate your parts after the 1st and 2nd session, they will be ok to use again and again instead of washing them. Then you can wash them once at the end of the 3rd session. Breastmilk can sustain in the fridge for up to 5 days, so it is no different than in the bottle than still on the pump parts. In fact, it is probably better for your pump... if you wash the pumps after each session and they are still wet when you go to use them again, you risk malfunction if water seeps into the pump. So I hope that helps!

  22. Loved this post! it totally brought me back to those newborn days! tear, they fly by!!!

  23. I just did a similar post! I find it so interesting how different everyone's system is! :)

  24. This is such a great post! Pumping at work can be challenging so it's nice to share tips! I have the same pump and love it!
    I went back to work for about 2 months before deciding to take a leave of absence and pumping was SO hard! My workplace wasn't accommodating at all and I had to pump in my classroom (with a wall of windows leading to the playground and germs of 27 first graders) or a dirty, dark storage closet! :( Very frustrating! Not to mention I was only able to pump once a day during my 20 minute lunch! I was SO stressed. I feel like it should be required for ALL workplaces to provide pumping breaks and a clean lactation room with a fridge and sink!

  25. Sounds like your days are busy, but you're doing a great job!

  26. im so glad to read this post, i prefer moms who breastfeed, sometimes i understand it isn't possible but despite going back to work you still prefer to give your son the very best from your breast, ooh a little ditty ;-) anyways thanks for tis one day it will be me and i will appreciate you writing this post

  27. Great post Julie. I have to really commend you on all your hard work, i can only imagine how exhausting it is some days! PS do you think it helps you produce more when you look at the live feed of Hudson while he's at daycare? My Mom always told me she thought that helped? Hudson is one adorable little baby, with one great Momma!!

  28. WOw if that isnt determination then I dont know what is. I couldnt do it. But then again I was only able to last about 4-5 months with bf'ing my little man. I am sad but proud at the same time. I have to say after reading this entire post I commend you ... but I have to say the sweet little boy that was at the end of the post was the best part! He's sitting up so well!

  29. goodness! we have a mothers room at work for pumping so i know i can do it, but i thought i'd only need to pump 2x a day. i want to try and start pumping to store as soon as i can and i thought i saw somewhere to do it at 4 weeks and that did not seem like enough time to have a stockpile. i'm so happy i saw that you started so soon!

  30. Julie- We literally do the exact same thing and have the exact same supplies! I CANNOT believe your childcare provider gets rid of milk after one hour?!! Isn't there a waiver or something you can sign? That doesn't even comply with normal BF standards...I'm mad for you.

    Such a great post from your friend on BF and her triplets!! Crazy, very sweet post.

    I wish our boys could hang together since they are so close in age and both have that yummy chunky chin :)

    Delta love xoxo,

  31. I just came across your blog and this series and this is perfect. I am expecting my first baby in September and while I wish I could stay home, I will have to return to work and I have no clue how I am going to get it all done. I'm a teacher and I barely have time to pee during the day and I can't even imagine trying to pump! My plan is to nurse for at least a year, so I am SO glad that I found this series and hopefully can find other mama's in similar situations. Thank you! xo

  32. New to your blog, came over from Running from the Law. This series is great!

    Haven't ready through the comments so disregard if it's already been said, just wanted to add another great tip is to freeze some milk in an ice cube tray. Each ice cube is 1 oz.

    I find it makes filling up short bottles easy.

    Keep up the good work!

  33. Wow, good for you! In Canada we are lucky enough to year a year off for maternity leave, so I was able to breastfeed at home for the first year. By the time I returned to work we were down to one or two feedings per day. It's inspiring to read stories like yours!

  34. This was so helpful for me. I am heading back to wrk next week and was worried about pumping while I'm there. My daughter is 7 months old now, so I'm hoping I only have to pump once or twice a day while at work.

    Thanks again for the helpful informatioN!

  35. First off congrats on breastfeeding for a year!!

    Thank you for this post! I'm heading back to work full time next week when my daughter is 5 weeks old and I am freaking out about pumping and having enough milk for her. I have almost 200 oz in the freezer but I don't know if that will be enough. I'm also worried about pumping at work so.I appreciate seeing your schedule and plan!


  36. First off congrats on breastfeeding for a year!!

    Thank you for this post! I'm heading back to work full time next week when my daughter is 5 weeks old and I am freaking out about pumping and having enough milk for her. I have almost 200 oz in the freezer but I don't know if that will be enough. I'm also worried about pumping at work so.I appreciate seeing your schedule and plan!


  37. I know I am way late in reading this. I found your blog on Thank you for posting this about breastfeeding and work. Its a bit of fear of mine that I wont be able to keep up with breastfeeding and working. You have just eased my mind a bit now.

  38. I just stumbled across your blog and I'm so glad I did! I recently returned to work and am getting into a routine with pumping, so it was so nice to hear about your day from start to finish. Thanks for sharing!

  39. My friend introduced me to your blog because I have many breastfeeding questions and just want to succeed. Thanks for the informations. My latest issue is that my 8 week old now prefers the bottle and don't want to nurse. How can I get her back to nursing especially at night? As a BF mom do you use pacifier? Also do you use supplements like fenugreek to increase your supply? I know this post is old but I really hope you reply me. Thanks


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