Returning to work: Stockpiling your breastmilk

This post is part of a series sponsored by Philips AVENT in support of the launch of the double electric Comfort Pump.

Pumping breast milk was still a mystery to me as I made secret lists of baby names and notified my boss of my pregnancy. I learned about it when my co-worker Mimi, newly back to work after having her first baby, invited me over to her house to show me the ropes of having a newborn. That those ropes would include a tour of her freezer was totally news to me.

What rookie moms need to know about going back to work while breastfeeding:

1- You will need to own a breast pump. This is a device with a small motor that uses suction to extract milk from your breasts into bottles. (Not shown in this picture is the plug.)Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, goes the pump, squeezing your nipples, making milk flow through the funnel into the bottle. When you are finished, you’ll unscrew the bottle tops that have the funnels attached and replace them with a regular flat cap for storing the bottles in a lunchbox or small cooler during the rest of your workday. At home, remove the flat cap and replace with a rubber nipple. Now someone else can feed your baby breast milk from the bottle.

2- Pumping will require a private place to be and a 15-20 minutes break a couple of times each day. Your company is probably legally required to supply this for you and if you are not the first woman to go back to work and continue nursing at your workplace, your HR person will know exactly what you need and help you make it happen. If you work at a big enough place, ask someone who has already taken a maternity leave to show you how she does it. [Read the stories we’ve compiled in our pumping project to feel less alone.]

3- Stockpiling milk during your maternity leave is a really good idea. Thanks to Mimi’s advice, I began pumping about a month before returning to work. My goal was to have enough milk in my freezer to provide a cushion so that when I went back to work, I didn’t have so much pressure to produce the same amount of milk my baby was consuming in my absence from the get-go. Pumping takes some practice. Getting used to the pump at home will help you relax more when you return to work.

4- Buy some Sharpies. You may develop a different system, but here’s what I did: Locked myself in the “Maternity” closet at my office; pumped into the bottles that came with my breast pump; stored them in a small lunch bag in my office’s refrigerator; brought the lunch bag and my pump home each day; transferred breastmilk into resealable bags for storing in the freezer; washed and dried bottles and pump parts for the next day. I would use a Sharpie to mark the date on the bag. When my husband or nanny used milk from the freezer, they would use the oldest bag first. Breast milk can be reheated from a frozen state for up to four months.

5- You get what you get and you don’t get upset. KIDDING! You will definitely get upset at some point. Frustrating things that pumping moms face are: inconveniently timed work activities that compromise your pumping schedule; having to remember to bring all the components to work each day — and that one time you forget the lunchbox and have to hide a bottle of breast milk in a mug of ice in your desk drawer; producing less milk than you hoped for; co-workers not understanding your need to pump. Other pumping moms will have experienced those disappointments. Feel free to complain to us.

While this post is sponsored by Philips AVENT, all advice and experiences are my own. Heather and I pumped for five breastfed babies between us and we strongly believe that whether you’re going to pump for a couple of months or a whole year, you should treat yourself to a good double electric pump. You’ll be glad you did. (Read more about the Philips AVENT Comfort Pump on >)

Photo Credit: dianaschnuth via Compfight cc

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