BACK-TO-WORK TIPS: HOW TO TRANSITION FROM EXCLUSIVE NURSING TO PUMPING
Getting used to breastfeeding can be daunting at first, then you get the hang of it and it's easy and convenient. But what do you do when your maternity leave is up and you have to go back to work and pump?
Here are some invaluable tips from working & pumping mom Olivia Rogers for a smooth transition from the breast to the pump:
1. Practice pumping.
When you get your breast pump, practice using it. The first few times I used it nothing came out. Then I turned it up too high and it hurt but milk came out. It took me a bit of repetition.
2. Pump for stash.
Treat it like your schedule. Once your baby is 2 weeks old, start your stash. After nursing at 8 or 9 am, I’d wait 30 minutes to an hour and pump off. It may seem exhausting, but it only takes 15 minutes and you will be glad you did when you do return to work. I only got 1-2 ounces the first few days, but after that it was 4 ounces. I’d stop at 4 just so I didn’t express too much. So from weeks 2 until 12, I was pumping an extra 2-4 ounces a day so the stash is ample. Sure I skipped a day here and there, but I was consistent. (I used the Naya app to track my inventory.)
3. Pump for sanity.
Three to four times a week, I would pump to drain my breasts right before I knew the baby would want to nurse. Then I would go for a walk, to the gym, or to get a pedicure while...
4. ...my husband gave the baby a bottle.
We did this at least 3 times a week if not more so that the baby would get used to taking breast milk from the bottle. It was tough at first but it got better. And you must leave the house so you do not hear anything and try to swoop in and nurse.
5. Practice being away from the baby.
Just an hour. The first time I left, I stared at the phone waiting for a call from my husband. But we have a rule, don’t call unless you need something for real –like the toddler scratched his retina and he needs to go to the ER – things like that.
6. Find other ways to soothe your baby.
I’m serious. I got in trouble with my husband for always resorting to nursing when the baby cried. He said ‘I can’t do that and you can’t do that to me.’ So when I knew it wasn’t time to nurse I tried other things – I learned white noise and a pacifier work wonders. Breastfeeding is my crutch but I learned that other things do work as well!
7. Go on a date with your partner at least once before you return to work.
Have someone you trust come over. Be ready to go. Nurse and run out the door and enjoy 90 minutes of freedom. Drink and laugh.
8. Practice getting ready for work and out the door.
I forgot how to get dressed in the morning – I’d been wearing leggings and an open top for 11 weeks. So I put on a timer and timed my shower and getting ready routine. If you are dropping off your baby at a caregiver, practice that timing too. And then add 15 minutes to the required alarm clock time.
9. Make a list of what to take to work every day and tape it up.
For me this is: cooler, ice pack, lunch, coffee, computer, shoes, pumping bra, wallet, phone, spare storage bottles/bags, sharpie (to label the milk), breast pump and parts (they are always drying overnight and you don’t want to forget). Make a list of what to take with the baby to daycare every day: diapers, wipes, extra clothes, and bottled breast milk. Then look at the lists every morning before you leave the house.
10. Try on your work clothes at 11 weeks.
What fits? What can you pump in? Do you have enough pumping friendly tops/dresses for rotation? Do you need to go get a pair of black pants to wear every day that have an elastic waistband but look totally classy? Envision your outfit is like a uniform so you are ready to get out the door that first day. (Check out Teat & Cosset's pumping friendly collection here.)
11. Learn a schedule that works for your sanity.
I go to bed right after the baby – 8 pm. I get up at 5 am, nurse, work out, get ready, nurse and leave for work at 7:30 am.
12. Go back to work for half days in the beginning - or on a Thursday or Friday.
Tell your employer that you will need to pump 2-3x a day and need a space to do that. Know your rights and be open and clear. Set a schedule to pump and stick to it - put it in your calendar so it is blocked off. I pump right when I get to the office at 8:30am, before lunch at 11:30am and at 3:30pm. I also have to make a list not to forget all the things that go home with me every day – especially the milk in the fridge! While the first day will be tough, you will be ok. Be prepared for a baby that wants to comfort nurse for 2-3 hours when you get home and enjoy the couch time. And just remember when you are nursing at 3 am and have an alarm set for a few hours later, it does get easier. They are only babies once.