I’ve breastfeed at home and pumped at work for two children. Both experiences have been completely different and I’ve learned a lot since having Luna 4 years ago to what I know now with Apollo.
I didn’t pump enough milk for Luna after the first six months she was born. I don’t believe that it was an issue with my body producing the milk, but more that I wasn’t doing what was necessary to help my body get enough milk from a pump while I was away from her at work. I worked for a company that was so focused on the customer that I felt like if I had to leave the floor to pump that I was a bad person. I also didn’t have a designated room for me to pump, so I would rush to the family restroom because it was the only place that I could find with a lock and an outlet and hurriedly pump, hoping a family wouldn’t knock on the door and need the restroom. Unfortunately, that happened almost every single time I was pumping. Nothing throws you off from your pumping game more than children and their parents banging on the door or trying to open it repeatedly. I also worked for an incredibly young and naive manager, who didn’t care to understand that I was a breastfeeding mother and I had to pump every few hours. I remember one night before our inventory, I told her that I had to pump before we started for the night, otherwise I would go almost 5 hours without pumping. She rolled her eyes at me and told me to “hurry up”.
I also didn’t eat enough or give my body the nutrients it needed to produce more milk. Water and eating well are super important for milk production. Caffeine and snacking do not create more milk. I knew this too, but I would convince myself that my needs and my babies needs could be put on hold for my job. If there is one piece of advice I can give to any mother who is breastfeeding, exclusively pumping, formula feeding or whatever you decide to do, your baby comes first.
With Apollo, I feel a lot more successful with pumping at work. I’ve tried a few things out and I’ve compiled a list of things that have personally helped me. I hope this will help some mamas out there with pumping at work or increasing their milk supply.
1. Get a double pump and go hands-free. I’ve tried a few pumps, and the Pump In Style Advanced by Medela is my favorite. The actual pump is inside the front flap of the bag and it has a ton of space inside to store all of the parts. I really wanted this one because it comes with a little cooler pack that can fit four bottles of milk. It looks like a little lunch bag and fits perfectly inside the pump bag. I can also store the cooler in the fridge at work and it doesn’t scream “breast milk!” It comes in different styles as well.
2. Get a routine going. I pump every three hours at work. There are definitely days when I have to wait 4 hours, but I usually just make it known that I need to do it and go. I use our manager’s office at work and the entire store pretty much knows that when the door is closed and locked, that I’m pumping and they need to leave it alone. Keep everything that you need readily available so that you can relax and not rush around while you’re trying to pump. I’ve noticed a huge difference in how much milk I can pump based on how relaxed I am. If I’m distracted and working on the computer or going through my phone, I’ll pump a lot more and it will help the time pass. Looking at pictures of your baby will also help with let down and produce more milk. I always keep a bottle of water near me and make sure that I hydrate right before I pump or while I’m pumping. Water helps a lot!
3. Don’t lose hope! I try not to focus on how many ounces I pump. It can take a few tries/weeks for your body to get used to a pump. The way a baby gets milk out versus a pump is going to be different for your body and it may take some time for the pump to get milk out efficiently. Apollo still gets way more milk out than the pump, but it works a lot faster now than it did the first month I started pumping at work.
4. Plan your schedule around pumping, if you can. I usually look at what I need to accomplish for the day, staffing needs, and what is on the store’s agenda and mentally come up with times that I’ll pump that day.
Increasing Milk Supply:
1. Water, water, water. Drink so much water that you constantly need to pee.
2. Eat oatmeal. Oatmeal is naturally lactogenic. I eat oatmeal almost every day and have noticed a huge difference in my milk supply. I have a recipe for over-night oats that you can try, here.
3. Breastfeed your baby as much as possible when you’re together. Apollo still eats every 2-3 hours, but I know that it’s helping with my supply and its great bonding time for us. I always breastfeed him right before I go to work and right when I get home from work.
4. Pump right before you breastfeed and right after. Pumping sends signals to your body that it needs to make more milk. The more you pump, the more your body is going to try to produce milk because it thinks your baby needs to eat. If you can get in additional pumping sessions every day for multiple days at a time, then it should help improve your supply.
5. Contact La Leche League. They are experts at breast-feeding and can give you support and direction with almost anything involving breastfeeding, pumping and babies. They also usually have someone who will come to your home and work with you one-on-one.
6. Try a lactation supplement. Motherlove is a well-known certified organic herbal company that makes supplements to support lactation.
7. Get as much rest as you can.
8. Reduce your stress. Stress is incredibly disruptive to the body. Go on a walk, read a book, or take a long bath. Try to do whatever you can to minimize your stress levels.
9. Try not to miss a pumping session. I’ve done this before and this will decrease your supply because it thinks your baby is eating less. Make it your mission to get your pumping sessions in when you need it.
10. Don’t give up! You’re doing something amazing and special for your baby. You will look back on it and think about how beautiful it was and miss the experience when you’re no longer able to give your baby milk.
I really hope that this is helpful to my fellow mamas out there. I’m not a doctor, but this is what I’ve learned from personal experience. Let me know if you have any additional advice or tricks that have helped you!