Pumping at Work: Tips on Supply

 Want to keep breastfeeding after you go back to work? A mom with plenty of pumping experience shares tips for maintaining milk supply while pumping at work.
 It’s been quite some time since I have pumped. Quite a while since I had to verify I had the right amount of milk for the next day’s feed, made sure that each part was properly sterilized and packed in my pumping bag. And I don’t miss it one little bit. I only pumped because I was at work and it was the way to get to the next nursing session. No matter how much I love breastfeeding and no matter how much of a breastfeeding advocate I am, there is no part of me that enjoyed pumping.
Thankfully, I did make it one year of pumping for each of my children. This is a combined estimate of well over 700 pumping sessions. Seven. Hundred. I’m not saying this to brag. But I can admit that I am proud. That was hard work.
Despite the fact that I made it, it did not come without challenge. So, in celebration of World Breastfeeding Week, I have a few tips for pumping and maintaining supply. The theme this year is Breastfeeding and Work: Let’s Make It Work! It only seems appropriate for this working mama to share a few thoughts I have on the topic of pumping at work! And please always remember, what worked for me may not work for you. Never hesitate to contact a local lactation consultant.
World Breastfeeding Week 2015 logo

I know you’ve heard this before, but try to relax as much as possible.

  • Take deep breaths and tell yourself you CAN and WILL pump enough milk for your baby. It’s so easy to get stressed and anxious during breaks at work. The time is short, you have work to do and you wonder if it’s worth it because you may only make a few drops of milk. Try your best to have a “little engine that could” attitude. You still may only make a few drops. But you can go to the next pumping session with the same positive attitude and hope for an increase.
  • Close your eyes and try to block out all the sounds and images of where you’re pumping. Try to make a mental image of your baby. The thing that worked the best for me is visualizing my baby nursing.

Try to get more milk out! I know if it was that easy, you would, right!?

  • All pumps are different and the only one I have experience with is Medela. It has a pulsating feature that is supposed to mimic let-down and after it’s on for two minutes it switches to regular pumping. About half way through each pumping session, as I was starting to get less out, I would switch back over to the beginning setting that simulated let-down. Sure enough, I would have a second let-down and produce a lot more milk.
  • Squeeze those boobies while you’re pumping! This can be a little challenging if you are also trying to eat your lunch but you are likely to get a lot more milk out if you use gentle pressure while your pump is doing its thing. This is especially helpful towards the end to assist with emptying.

Small things can have a big impact.

  • Flange size: If you have an improper flange size attached to your pump, you will not get a good supply out, no matter what you do. This is an absolutely critical aspect of pumping but one that is often overlooked. A local lactation consultant, special boutiques or local breastfeeding groups can help you check your fit. Want to keep breastfeeding after you go back to work? A mom with plenty of pumping experience shares tips for maintaining milk supply while pumping at work.
  • All pumps are not created equally. Some are just not as good of quality or the pumps are worn out if being used after the first baby. It may be worth it to rent a hospital pump just to check if the higher quality pump produces a larger supply.
  • Location really does matter. If you’re not comfortable where you’re pumping, your supply will not be as good. This is part of the reason it has been so important to get proper lactation rooms (not bathrooms!) at our work places. A room that works for one mom may not work for you. I could never get any milk out at home, no matter what time of day it was. If I went to work the next day, my supply was back up.

You will likely experience some level of supply issues during this journey:

  • On Monday you may be feeling like a super hero because you pumped so much your bottle started overflowing. But by Friday, you may be squeezing your breasts throughout the entire pump and are still barely getting enough to give your baby the next work day. This is totally normal! Milk supply does drop throughout the week but typically returns to previous amounts after a lovely weekend of nursing.
  • If you make it to 6 months of pumping, this is awesome! Go YOU! If you keep going, you may find that around 9 months, a whole new set of supply challenges can come up. By this point, most babies have started on some solids and have become more interested in the world around them and a dramatic supply decrease can occur. While your baby is now very efficient at your breast and can overcome these challenges, your pump may not be as efficient. When supply plummets, it can be very discouraging. If you want to keep pumping, keep using all the skills you have learned. And if you still can’t get your supply back up, reach out to your support system. Just because you have been breastfeeding for months doesn’t mean you can’t ask for help now.
  • Your pump will never get out as much milk as your baby. If you are simply not producing during pumping sessions anymore, this doesn’t mean you have to quit breastfeeding altogether. You can opt for bedtime and morning nursing. Or bedtime only. You can add in all day weekends to your once daily feed during the work week. It’s not ALL or NOTHING.

After more than 700 sessions pumping breast milk at work, this mom has tried and true tips to help you maintain milk supply and continue breastfeeding for as long as you want to.

Being a new mom is tough. Being a working mom is tough. This is true whether you’re pumping or not. This is why our support system is so important throughout this entire journey of motherhood. Try to remember to reach out to your support system if your supply dips, you’re feeling discouraged or are having another challenge. I can almost guarantee there is another mama who has been through something similar that is willing to offer some encouragement. And it’s perfectly reasonable to cry over spilled milk if it’s breast milk that you just painstakingly pumped!

12 thoughts on “Pumping at Work: Tips on Supply

  1. You have no idea how much I needed to read this right now. ” If you are simply not producing during pumping sessions anymore, this doesn’t mean you have to quit breastfeeding altogether.” Thank you for this insightful, encouraging post!

    1. I’m so glad it was helpful to you, Jen! I hope that your breastfeeding journey can continue, for as long as you and your baby desire, and never forget to turn to encouraging mamas when you’re having a rough time!

  2. I echo what Jen posted. Between sleep deprivation, plummeting supply, and feeling guilty about being away from my baby (and for not getting enough done at work, all at the same time!), I’ve been contemplating giving up. So glad I found this site and this post.

    1. I’m very glad you found us too, Victoria! Sometimes the stress can be overwhelming but knowing that there is more than one option or one way to nurse and also that there are other moms that have been through it too can be such a relief. Good luck to you! And try to remember, the sleep deprivation and guilty feelings do get better!

  3. We struggled getting a good latch, so we exclusively pumped. What I found was that the equipment was key. My first pump was the First Years MiPump, and my milk supply almost diminished when I went back to work after 3 months. I got a Spectra S2 and my supply was back to normal within a week! Don’t be discouraged, it’s probably not you–it’s your pump! Pumping at work is entirely possible. I got 30 to 36oz daily (pumping at home and at work) until I decided at 7months that I had enough of being attached to a pump and started weaning. Key points: Low stress + good nutrition + excellent pump = happy baby and happy mama!

    Kiki Crabapple

    1. I needed to read this! my supply the past couple of days has gown way down! I need to look into a new pump, the one I have was given to me and is probably at least 3 years old. I have been getting discouraged because I feel like I do everything right!

      1. So happy you got encouragement! If you live in the US, your pump is covered at 100% under the Affordable Care Act. Contact your insurance, you probably have a “free” pump waiting for you!
        Kiki Crabapple

  4. I just moved into seven months and my supply is dwindling but this really gave me the confidence boost I needed to keep it up. Thank you

    1. I know I’m late in responding to your comment and your baby has now moved into 10 months. I’m glad you were able to get a confidence boost when you most needed it! Whether you’re still pumping today or not, I hope you know how awesome it is to get to 7 months (and maybe beyond!)!

  5. So I started back to work this week and feel completely overwhelmed between daycare, my work load doubling, and pumping I am struggling a little and tonight I was searching for a little help thank you so much for this article makes me feel like I’m not the only
    One who is struggling!!

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