Monday, May 21, 2018

Back to Work: Pumping after Maternity Leave

I have been back to work (with Kenny in daycare) for nearly a month now, which is hard to believe!  Since I've had a few people ask me about pumping as a working mother, I figured it merited a blog post.  Caveat: I'm a first-time Mom who feels completely unqualified to offer advice to anyone on motherhood, but I am willing to share what has worked for me!

I'm very much of the attitude that a fed, healthy baby is the most important thing, so I keep formula samples that we get in the mail just in case.  We used two bottles' worth while I was hospitalized for preeclampsia, but other than that Kenny has been exclusively breastfed.  My original goal was nursing for three months, with a hopeful goal of six months.

Before Kenny was born, I ordered a free breastpump via my health insurance.  I chose the Spectra S2, a closed system pump, based on reviews and recommendations.  During maternity leave, I would mostly use a silicone hand pump on my nightstand to relieve engorgement.  Any milk that I saved, we'd use in an occasional bottle for Kenny when we were out and about.  We figured it was good practice for him.  As work began to approach, I would try to do a morning and evening pumping session to build up a stash for daycare ahead of going back to work.

My pumps, my pumps my pumps my pumps... check it out

Before I went back to work, my Mom and I helped Kenny "rehearse" for daycare by bottle feeding during the day for four days.  This accomplished two goals: training him to accept the bottle repeatedly and determining how much he eats.  The tough part of nursing on demand means you aren't on a consistent schedule or counting ounces like they do at daycare.  But we were able to estimate what I needed to pump and have in each bottle based on those few days!

Now that I've been back at work for a few weeks, I'm averaging 3-4 pumping sessions during the work day.  Sometimes my first session is at home before I leave.  I find I really need to maximize that first session, because my supply is best in the morning.

I also bought a barely used Spectra S1 rechargeable pump via Facebook Marketplace, because keeping one pump at work and one at home for home/travel minimizes the amount of stuff I have to haul on my commute.  Since Spectras are closed system, I feel confident that there isn't a risk of contamination after sterilizing the parts, but you should be careful when purchasing used pumps.

Aside from my pump, its power supply, and its parts, I use the Kiinde Twist system for milk storage and feeding.  Thanks to the gift of a starter kit from a friend, as well as recommendations from other working Moms, I fell in love with this disposable pouch system.  It really minimizes what we need to wash daily, and Kenny takes the bottles very well.

I also always have a reusable sterilizer bag, a Sharpie for marking my Kiinde Twists, nipple balm (I like the kind you don't have to wash off before breastfeeding!), and quick clean wipes for pump parts in my bag.  Not to mention extra pump parts, just in case!

Since I have two pumps, I have two different "kits" for pumping.  I keep my Sarah Wells pump bag with my Spectra S2 at the office.  The bag is wonderful and has an insulated pocket, and I can easily move everything between my desk and the mother's room if I need to.  Our room has outlets, so that is why I keep the S2 at work.  I also have a Medela 12V battery pack that I purchased when the S2 was my only pump, just in case I have to take it with me somewhere!  I use a Skip Hop Wet/Dry bag for storing my pump parts in the fridge during the day.  I wash the bag and dirty parts once a day, sanitizing at home and bringing dry, clean parts back to work the next day.  This bag and the Skip Hop insulated bottle bag for keeping milk cold are the only "equipment" I take back and forth most days!  (Our mother's room has a fridge, so I keep the bottle bag in there.)

My travel/home pump bag is an adorable inexpensive diaper backpack with a convenient back access perfect for the Spectra.  What's different about this kit?  It contains a car charger and Ziplocs, since I am not using the wet/dry bag and prefer something disposable on trips.  I also have a freezable lunch bag that folds flat.  I freeze it empty before I travel, and I can have my hotel keep it in a freezer until I go home.  I transfer my cold milk from the fridge to the bag.  The bag also kept milk frozen for a 4.5 hour car ride; I haven't tested it for longer yet.  I also put a "medical equipment" tag on the outside of my milk bag, because I was worried the TSA wouldn't let me take the milk through security, but so far (in Precheck, at least) I haven't had any issues.

Hotels are happy to store things in their freezers and fridges for you!

There are fantastic checklists for pumping bags that you can find online and in some books I recommend below.  But what I am finding is that a key obstacle to at-work or travel pumping is your wardrobe!  I pretty much only wear cross-front dresses or tops that are cross-front/button/zipped or loose enough to lift for pumping.  I also wear pumping bras during the work week.  I've found these were a game changer in making pumping sessions more efficient and speedy!  I have two other doodads for hands-free pumping (a strapless bra and an attachment for nursing bras), but the pumping bras are best.  While traveling, I also take an infinity scarf with me in case I ever need a modesty cover.

You also need to make sure to have nursing pads to prevent leaks during the work day, in case you have to delay a pumping session.  I like the washable kind, but I have disposables as a backup too.  Sometimes the washable ones can be a little lumpy looking if you don't position then right.

Pumping is a time suck, but I have found that I don't mind the 15-20 minutes of time I get to play on my phone or read!  I definitely keep myself entertained.

I read Work. Pump. Repeat. while I was pregnant, and I still reference it!  It gives great travel tips, pumping bag lists, etc.  I'm in the middle of reading The Fifth Trimester right now, and I love it.  Both books are focused on working mothers, which I find so helpful!  I also love bringing my neglected magazines from home; I never get to read them anymore unless I do that!

My favorite apps are pretty self-explanatory...  I use Baby Tracker to track my pumping quantities/times and when I nurse.  I also love looking at photos of Kenny while I pump; I believe it helps with letdown!  Podcasts and Audible are great too.  Honestly, while some people hate pumping, I find that the 3-4 times I do it per day at the office feel like a bit of a break from the grind once I get started!  It's nice to have an excuse to scroll Facebook or Instagram for 15 minutes.

Texts with my friend

At home, Kenny nurses on demand.  On the weekends, I don't typically pump unless I need to replace a bottle we fed Kenny (keeping up supply) or to relieve engorgement.

My coworker, who is currently the only other mother I see in the mother's room these days, said to me, "You'll notice there are a lot of mothers in the office who have young babies, but you and I are the only ones in here."  What she means is, this is hard.  Pumping isn't something I really look forward to, but I don't mind it much once I get down to it.  I've had to put it on my calendar to make time to go.  But at this point it's a choice I've made, and I'm happy with how things are going so far!

Do you have any good pumping/breastfeeding stories?

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