When preparing to go back to work after having my first baby, I had a lot of questions and concerns about pumping. I honestly had no idea what I was doing and felt a little like I was just winging it. It took some trial and error to figure out how often I needed to pump to replace the ounces my baby was drinking while I was away from him.
You would think that one pumping session would equal one feeding that your baby takes. Seems logical, right? Well, unfortunately, that is not always true for every mom. Your baby is much more efficient at pulling milk out of the breast. A pump, even a strong one (like a hospital grade strength pump), is still not as efficient as your baby.
Some moms have no problem pulling enough milk out while pumping but others will need to pump a few times to equal one feeding. So when you are working with limited time during the day, it can seem difficult to pump enough milk for your baby.
How Often Should I Pump at Work?
So, how often should you pump at work?
The rule of thumb is to replace all feedings your baby takes while away with a pumping session. Depending on how old your baby is and if they are taking solids, you will want to pump every 2-3 hours while away.
So if you work 8-hour shifts and your baby is taking 3 bottles while away, you will want to pump no less than 3 times. Now, this may or may not give you the ounces you need to replace what your baby is taking during the day. It may take some trial and error to figure out how your body is responding to pumping more and nursing less during the day.
With my commute included, I was away from my son for about 10 hours a day. I pumped about 5 times total during the day.
This might seem like a lot but I had this thing down to a science. I actually only pumped at work twice. Yep, twice. Here’s my secret: Pumping while driving. Yes, you read that right, I pumped while commuting. HUGE time saver.
So my day looked something like this:
Wake up and get ready for work.
- Feed baby and get him ready.
- Get in car, hook the girls up to the pump, Pump while Driving. (Pump Session #1)
- Drop baby at daycare, Get to work.
- Pump on morning break (Pump Session #2)
- Pump on afternoon break (Pump Session #3)
- Leave work to get baby. Pump while driving. (Pump Session #4)
- Get home, dinner, nighttime routine, bed for baby.
- Pump after baby goes to bed (Pump Session #5)
As you can see, I did not pump 5 times while working. I only pumped twice at the office. The rest was done in the car or at home. I was lucky to pump anywhere between 3-6 ounces each pumping session. I had no issues replacing the 4 bottles my baby took at daycare during the day pumping this often.
But don’t be discouraged if you need to pump more often. Adding an additional pumping session in morning or at lunch time or at home in the evening would work as well to get some extra ounces. Remember, pumping (just like breastfeeding) is supply and demand. The more you do it, the more milk your body will make. So even if you start by getting only a little at each session, keep at it and with time and consistency, you will see an increase!
Helpful Tips for Pumping While Working:
- Morning Supply – You may have noticed your breasts are more engorged in the mornings. If you need those extra ounces, take advantage of this surplus! You can do a few things: 1) If you wake up earlier than your baby, pump for a bit then nurse your baby when she wakes. 2) Nurse your baby on one breast while pumping the other side in the morning. 3) Pump after nursing your baby even if you are going to pump again in the car.
Get a Strong Pump – Not all pumps are made equal. Pump strength can be the difference between pumping 2 ounces vs 4 ounces. Some moms can pump great with any pump. Others need that extra push to get more milk out. Buying a quality pump is key. (Spectra is a great option if you need a hospital grade strength pump!)
- Set Your Schedule and Stick to it! – It is easy to skip pumping sessions at work. But in the long run, you will just be setting yourself up to fail. If you have a consistent schedule, then make sure you stick to it. If your schedule fluctuates, then use your work calendar like Outlook to schedule yourself as busy during pumping times so co-workers don’t try to meet with you. Consistency will be key for keeping your supply up.
- Be Careful Dropping Sessions – In cases like when your baby starts solids, be careful of dropping pumping sessions too early. I found that even though my baby started taking solids, he still required 4 bottles at daycare, just like before. I was not able to start dropping pumping sessions until around the 12-month mark. He was eating heavier meals by then and required less milk. Remember, Food before one is just for fun. Your baby will still take a vast majority of their calories from breastmilk.
- Read my 8 Tips for Pumping and Working – If you want more tips for pumping and working, this article will give you some of my best tips for being successful!
It might seem like a lot when you are first starting but pumping while working will quickly become your new normal. You will probably need to try a few things before you find the right schedule for you and your baby. But be encouraged that despite the challenge of time, you can find a balance of working and breastfeeding/pumping.
If you haven’t checked out my Sample Pumping Schedule, click here to see it now!
It takes a lot of sacrifice and hard work to pump while working. I commend any mother who is able to do it! If you have any tips to share that worked for you, I would love to hear them. Drop me a comment below!