This is the pumping schedule at work I followed when I returned to work at 4 months post pardum until 13 months when I stopped pumping (but still kept breastfeeding). Because you’ll be relying on your pump to not just provide you little one food but also keep you healthy and comfortable, you need a reliable pump. Check out my comparison of the two most popular insurance-covered pumps here.
My Pumping Schedule
5:30 a.m. – Dream feed.
When I was pumping, I found that I liked dream feeding Charlotte as soon as I got up. After nursing her, I’d drink a 16 oz. glass of water. That was also my reminder to put my ice pack from the freezer into the insulated section of my pump bag and put a bag of stored milk in the fridge to defrost for the following day. After that, it was time to get myself ready. This break allowed my daughter to get more sleep and allowed me quiet time to get ready. It also allowed my body time to “fill up” again so I was ready to pump again.
I had started dream feeding when my daughter started sleeping longer stretches through the night. I could feed her before I went to bed and buy myself 6 hours of solid sleep before she was hungry. Since she was used to it, it was easy to nurse her and lay her back down to sleep sated and happy while I got ready for work.
6:30 a.m. – Pump on my drive to work.
Pumping during my drive to work made my pumping schedule at work much easier. Because of hormones, most women will produce their most milk in the morning. Some women use Freemie cups for discrete pumping in their car. Great in concept, they didn’t quite work for me so I just used the ugly old horns. I also have a small SUV so I was up a bit up off the road. A few times I did look over and see a truck driver looking at me, but more quizzical than anything. Honestly, the whole time I was more concerned about someone seeing my white stomach than my pump bottles hanging off me.
I used a car adapter to power my pump, though there are also battery packs (you can find a list of my favorite breastfeeding and pumping items here, including car adapters). Many people report the battery packs don’t get full suction power and run through batteries quickly. The car adapters for Medela and Spectra pumps are less than $10. I’d attach everything in the privacy of my own driveway…or day care parking lot…or grocery store parking lot. I kept using the two shirt method so I could easily pull up or unbutton my shirt and have my stomach covered. Put a small hand towel under the bottles to protect my shirt and pants. If you’re uncomfortable, you could also place a light scarf over the whole set up to provide a little privacy.
Using the letdown button on a pump is not a perfect science. When pumping at home, I’d carefully monitor my output for when to press the button again. However, in the car I’d often tune out and forget I was pumping. I found I’d just use landmarks to remind me to press the letdown button again. Get on the interstate – time to press the button. Get off the interstates – time to press the button again. Go through the annoying light by the gas station – last press of the button. Left turn to work – detach the tubes to let them start drying.
7:00 a.m. – Arrive at work and de-tube.
Sometimes I would arrive at work early enough that no one was around so I could easily get everything put up in my car. If I was running late, I found a quiet side street I could pull on to and idle while I put my stuff up. Regardless of where I was cleaning up, I’d pull my tubes out a minute or two before and keep the pump running to allow the tubes to air dry a bit.
When I was ready to clean up, I’d pour all my milk into my storage bottle (a large stainless steel canister with an airtight lid). I like using one canister and one set of bottles a day because it meant less to wash each night. I’d attach my bottles back to my horns so they were ready to go for the next pump. Horns with bottles attached got placed in my waterproof bag and placed in the top of my pump bag for easy access. The canister of milk was put into the insulated cooler compartment of my pump bag. Next, I’d put the girls away and get my shirt settled. Lastly, I’d roll up the loose end of the tubes and slide the above the pump and zip up the pump bag.
I didn’t always have a fridge with easy access at my work. If you do, you can through your waterproof pump bag in there instead of washing it. When I did use our fridge, it was always full, so I put my stuff in the empty freezer. This is a great reason to invest in a fabric waterproof bag for your pump parts instead of using a clear ziplock. I usually just kept my bag in a cool place (read, “the drafty spot under my desk”).
11:00 a.m – 12:30 p.m. – Pump at Work.
I was lucky my first year back to have private use of my room during lunch and two other periods a day. I made a little sign for my door (“Private meeting in progress, please mooove along” – a gentle nod to my co-workers what was going on). My sign covered the window of my door to provide me privacy, too. Using a wearable pumping bra, I could easily be up and pumping in 2 or 3 minutes.
I would always spend the first minute or two looking at pictures or videos of my daughter which helps to stimulate milk flow. Additionally, it also helped to keep me focused on why I was sitting alone in a room with a pump attached to me. After a few minutes I would either work on my laptop or read a book to relax and take my mind off the pumping. I’d also set a goal of finishing a 20 ounce bottle of water again to help stay hydrated.
3:00 – Pump Again.
Same pump routine. Same 20 ounce bottle of water. Sometimes I’d pump in my room before going home. Sometimes I would actually pump on the way home. Whatever works.
4:00 – Arrive Home.
Step 1 – wash hands. Step 2 – before my daughter could see me, I’d put my milk up (more on that below). I would put my cold pack back in the freezer, put all my parts in a big bowl with hot soapy water, and drink a big glass of water. Step 3 – Finally get to see my baby! I would have to fight going in and seeing my daughter first thing because the minute she would, she’d want to nurse. This is pretty common so be prepared. If you’re picking up for day care, be prepared to comfort feed before you head home. Too many times I would rush to see my daughter and end up nursing and then playing, and allow my milk to sit out longer than I would like.
8:00 – Bed and washing time.
Until my daughter was 8 months, I nursed to sleep. Dad and I would do our nighttime routine together. Then, when it came time to nurse, dad would go out and wash my bottles, canister, and pump bag. I finally broke down and bought a second and third set of horns which made life a lot easier because we could just load into the dishwasher and run every other night. When I was done nursing, I’d come drink my 16 oz. of water and pack my bag for the next day.
9:30 – Bed time.
I made a point of going to bed early as often as I could and drinking a 16 ounce glass of water before I did so I was well hydrated through the night.
For more information about pumping when you return to work, check out my post here.