Pumping Strategies for the Working Mother
Posted on May 17, 2012 by Robin Kaplan
Written by Wendy Wright, MBA, IBCLC Co-Owner Lactation Navigation – Workplace Lactation Consultants, LLC
The primary focus of my lactation practice is in the workplace. Why?
- Mothers are currently the fastest growing segment of the U.S. workforce.1
- In the past 20 years, the percentage of new mothers in the workforce has increased by more than 80%.2
- The current level of new mothers in the workforce is 60%.2
- As we have all witnessed, working outside the home negatively affects initiation and duration of breastfeeding.1
- One third of working mothers return to work within three months of the birth of their child and two thirds return within six months.1
The three questions I am most frequently asked are:
- How often should I pump once I return to work?
- How much milk will I need each day?
- How should I package milk and store for future use?
Below are my answers – understanding that each woman’s situation is unique and she may or may not be exclusively breastfeeding. For the purposes of this article, all women are working full time and exclusively breastfeeding!
How often should I pump once I return to work? Returning to work before your baby is six months old requires expressing milk approximately every three hours when separated. For example, for an 8-hour shift you will be separated from your baby for about 10 hours (work, lunch break, commute). Over the 10-hour period, it is recommended that you express milk three times. Some sample schedules may look like these below. Notice that I have added in morning (pre-work) and evening (post-work) expression sessions. These are to assure that mother has enough milk to provide for the time separated and also designed to keep supply high and the mother comfortable. Some mothers may find that they are able to breastfeeding their babies before they leave for work and right when they get home, making it unnecessary to pump before and after work. It really is what works best for the mother and baby.
Once your baby is taking well to solids, you may have the opportunity to reduce the number of pumping sessions each day. Remove the session that is the least productive for you. Each session should empty the breast – approximately 15 minutes pumping time.
How much milk will I need each day? Breastfed infants consume approximately one ounce (30ml) per hour when separated from their mother from age 6 weeks until age 6 months. So, if you are separated for 10 hours Monday – Friday, I recommend providing the caregiver with 10 – 12 ounces (300-365ml) of breastmilk, although some babies may need more. It is important to review appropriate feeding cues with caregivers so breastmilk is not offered at every cry, fuss or frustration. Remember, this is only one third of the milk the infant will consume each day – the rest of her consumption will be directly from the breast and she will take what she needs when you are back together. Many infants will reverse cycle feed thereby getting their primary calorie consumption in the evenings and nights. Mothers should be aware of this and welcome it as a terrific method for maintaining supply.
How should I package milk and store for future use? The method that seems to work best for the busy working mother is to start each week on Sunday night by removing 10 – 12 ounces (300-365ml) of frozen breastmilk from the freezer and thawing overnight in the refrigerator. Milk can then be packaged for the care provider in small bottles (2.5 ounces for example (74ml) for consumption throughout the day on Monday. The mother will then express milk on Monday. Monday’s milk will be stored in the refrigerator overnight and provided for baby on Tuesday. Tuesday’s expressed milk will again be stored overnight in the refrigerator and provided on Wednesday, etc. On Friday, milk is packaged in 1 and 2 ounce bags (30-60ml) and frozen, clearly labeled with the date. Using this pattern, the baby will only receive frozen breastmilk once each week and the freezer supply will be efficiently rotated. There is a tendency for less and less milk to be expressed as the stressful week progresses. Freezing in small packages will allow mom to pull one or two ounces from her freezer on Thursday or Friday if needed without having to defrost and potentially waste 5 ounces (148ml) of frozen breastmilk.
Additional information may be found on-line:
Reassurance and support can make all the difference for these mothers. Encourage networking with other breastfeeding mothers at work and plenty of skin to skin time together when mother and baby are home.
1. United States Breastfeeding Committee. Workplace breastfeeding support [issue paper]. Raleigh, NC: United States Breastfeeding Committee; 2002.
2. U.S. Department of Labor Women’s Bureau. Employment status of women and men in 2008. Available at: http://www.dol.gov/wb/factsheets/Qf-ESWM08_txt.htm. Accessed May 15, 2009.
3. Society for Human Resource Management. 2007 Benefits Survey Report. Available at:http://www.shrm.org. Accessed April 17, 2008.
Wendy spent 15 years in the biotech industry in the Bay Area and worldwide prior to breaking out on her own and founding Lactation Navigation in 2007. Wendy has a B.S. in Health Services Administration from the University of Arizona and an MBA with a Marketing emphasis from the University of Cincinnati. Wendy’s daughter is twelve and her son is five. Both kids love to swim and enjoy bicycling. She is dreadfully fearful of spiders and enjoys spicy food any time of day. Lactation Navigation allows Wendy to combine skills learned in the corporate setting over the past 15 years with her love of breastfeeding. It allows her to spend time with her children and also with new mothers. It also encourages health and happiness for other families, and brings bottom-line profits to progressive companies.