I have officially been breastfeeding my baby boy for exactly TEN MONTHS and one week now!
I feel so proud of myself due to all the troubles I had breastfeeding my first born: using a single pump, substituting formula, introducing the bottle too soon, not pumping enough, etc. Read more on that at Breastfeeding Mistakes: Learning From My Past Experiences. I only made it to five months with her. I was uneducated and made a lot of stupid mistakes. One of the main reasons my milk supply dwindled was because I went back to work without knowledge of how to pump successfully. I didn’t understand how it was even possible to keep breastfeeding while you were away from your baby for more than 40 hours each week. But, let me tell you that it is VERY possible to succeed and I know you can do it too!
Buy a Quality Breast Pump!
The most important thing to have when deciding to go back to work and continue breastfeeding is to have an efficient, double, electric breast pump. I have personally used two different Medela breast pumps and would recommend this brand to anyone. The one I am currently using is called the Medela Pump in Style Advanced with On the Go Tote. I also used an Ameda breast pump. If you are considering choosing that brand, please read my Ameda Breast Pump Review, because that pump left me in tears… many, many, MANY times. As a sleep deprived, new mom, a bad pump is the last thing you want to be dealing with. Many health insurances cover 100% of the costs to purchase a brand new, efficient, double, electric breast pump, so call your insurance company before buying one!
You need enough bottles to be able to store eight hours (or however long you work) worth of breastmilk while you are at work. If you are going back to work full time, it is nice to have an extra set of storage bottles in order to avoid washing bottles by hand everyday. I use four bottles per day and currently own twelve bottles. Do NOT forget to pack the lids… I have done that three or four times and had to scramble to find a plastic baggy or other container to hold my milk for the rest of the day. It’s nerve-wracking and you don’t need that added stress!
Breastmilk Storage Bags
I hate paying for these storage bags but they are an essential item you will need to buy when you have a breast milk surplus. You should (and will want to) definitely start pumping right away after establishing a solid breastfeeding routine with your baby. This will not only allow you to start building your breastmilk supply for the babysitter, but it will also give you some relief from engorged breasts. I use Lansinoh Breastmilk Storage Bags. You can usually get a better deal on Amazon compared to buying them at your local department store. For example, 100 bags are selling for $16.99 on Amazon and $19.99 at Meijer (my local department store).
Extra Breast Shields with Valve and Membrane
I own three of these, which means I always have to wash at least one set each day. It is just more convenient to have a total of four breast shields with the valve and membrane so you are not required to wash them every… single… day. Sounds silly, but it gets repetitive really quick.
Hygienic Wipes for Breastfeeding Accessories
It is very convenient to use hygienic wipes for a quick and easy clean up after pumping. Otherwise, you will have to bring your breast pump parts to the break room or bathroom sink to rinse before using again. Sometimes, I use regular paper towel in a pinch, but the most sanitary way to keep your milk clean is to wipe the breast shield, valve, and membrane in between pumping sessions.
Pump Bag & Cooler
The Medela Pump in Style breast pump that I use has a nice tote and cooler that are included in the purchase. It can get annoying to have to carry a large pump bag to work, along with your purse and lunchbox, but it is definitely convenient and recommended. This way you do not have to use the public refrigerator to store your breast milk. You wouldn’t want an older, male coworker accidentally drinking it. Haha! Also, not everyone will know what you are doing when they see you leave to pump for 15 minutes, three times a day (which is the number of times you absolutely must pump!).
Rechargeable Batteries or Car Charger
I think the best way to pump efficiently is to plug your pump into an outlet. However, that is not always possible. If you are like me, you will often need to pump on the go because your baby refused to eat right before you had to leave… and that means you now have to pump on the go! (Blessings from your beautiful baby). If you plan on buying batteries, just start right away with buying rechargeable batteries. Otherwise, you will spend more money buying extras. The batteries last a good amount of time and are worth the investment. I never bought a car charger because I had rechargeable batteries, but that might be worth the investment too depending on your preferences. If you go to the manufacturer’s website, you can buy extra breast pump accessories there.
I store extra nursing pads everywhere… in the pump bag, diaper bag, purse, car glove box… If you are going back to work, you don’t want to attract everyone’s attention by walking around with milky wet spots around your boobs. One time, I had to stuff my bra with toilet paper and tissues. It is not the best method for avoiding leaks… You will be lucky enough to find time to brush your hair and teeth and avoid getting spit up on before leaving for work, so just store some nursing pads in your pump bag… for your own personal sanity.
Create a Positive & Determined Mindset
It is very easy to stop breastfeeding early, especially in the first few months but don’t give up! I nursed my son every 1-2 hours for the entire first month! It is extremely emotionally and physically exhausting but you can do it. Start by creating a positive and determined mindset. I made breastfeeding my only option. I refused to default to formula because everyone else was doing it or because I was given a billion and a half advertisements/coupons simply for having a baby. I was not going to feed my baby something unnatural and expensive because I gave up too soon. Do you know how guilty I felt for failing to breastfeed my first baby at five months?? I still feel guilty and she is 3.5 years old! There is always help whenever you need it. Your doctor can give you contact information to get in touch with a lactation consultant and breastfeeding support group. If you feel like your milk supply is running low or your baby is having latching problems, contact them! That is their job! I know you want what is best for your baby and once you get in the habit of breastfeeding at home and pumping at work, it is easy. Breastfeeding is SO much easier than making bottles. I never use bottles with my 10 month old son. Bottles are reserved for babysitters only. When you feel like you want to give up, just remember that all of your hard work is for your baby. Babies don’t breastfeed forever. You will miss the bond you share with your baby while breastfeeding if you stop early. It’s hard enough emotionally to stop when they naturally wean. I have been pumping on and off for 10 months, I know how tedious it can get but it is worth it. So, simply do what you need to do when it comes to pumping and get it done. 🙂
Best of luck to all you working (and non-working), breastfeeding mamas!