A Pumping Mom's Guide to the Universe
After nearly five months of exclusively breastfeeding, pumping here and there to build my freezer stash, nothing prepared me for how hard it would be to return to work.
In addition to being emotionally, mentally and physically taxing, my decision to continue breastfeeding and pumping has also added new challenges and restrictions to an already tightened schedule.
I get up earlier in the morning, only to arrive at the office later.
I schedule pumping around meeting times.
I have to tell colleagues, unapologetically, "No, I need to pump."
I head home earlier than I used to, often bringing the work with me.
Thankfully, my managers are understanding and my company has comfortable and clean (albeit simple) mothers' rooms available on every floor, a corresponding schedule to avoid uncomfortable walk-ins, and key card access to keep non-mothers from "just taking a quick call" in them. (If you're unsure about your own building's amenities, ask human resources ASAP! And make sure you read up on your rights as a breastfeeding mother.) I understand that not all mamas are working under the same circumstances, and I'm grateful to be in this position.
Prior to my return to work, our pediatrician had warned me that my supply was likely to dip. Between increased stress and time away from my baby, it was only natural. So I stocked up on Boobie Bars, enlisted my husband to find some amazing craft stouts, and hydrated up.
Two months in, our daily schedule is still a moving target. That could be because Everly still isn't sleeping consistently through the night, but we're working on it. At this point, I feel fairly confident (ha!) in our routine and how to fit pumping in.
I'm not going to lie, there are some days that we are pulling more from the freezer stash than I'm able to replenish. But I'm a firm believer that the more I nurse and pump, the more I'm able to maintain my supply.
That, and drinking water like nobody's business.
So, today I'm sharing the schedule that's been working for us in the hopes that it can help other newly workin' mamas figure out their own process. Everyone's situation is different, so stick with what feels right for you!
Do I feel like pumping is a chore? Yep! Am I proud to continue feeding my daughter while working? Absolutely. Am I exhausted? It's unavoidable. Is Ev happy, healthy and growing? Thankfully, yes, yes and yes!
Milk queen, pumping on the job
Our Daily Schedule (...ish)
6:45 am - Wake, change and breastfeed baby
But if baby sleeps later, you better believe I'm going to do the same. Total honesty: I'll skip the shower if I have to.
7:00 am - Shower and start getting ready for the day
7:45 am - Pump
This shouldn't count as a full session, but should just be enough to empty your breasts before you leave the house and allow you to leave a bit of fresh milk in the fridge for the day.
Alternately, if baby didn't eat when she first woke up, I'll use this time to feed her. Sometimes, if she wakes in the early hours to eat, she isn't hungry first thing in the morning.
8:00 am - Finish getting ready, wash pump parts
9:00 am - Arrive at work
11:00 am - Pump break No. 1
This is typically when I get the most milk for the day and I feel like a superhero.
Hot tip: Keep your pump parts in the fridge until your next session, so you don't need to wash them.
2:00 pm - Pump break No. 2
This is typically when my supply starts to dwindle and I feel sorry for myself. I vow to drink more water the rest of the day.
Hot tip: Invest in these Medela wipes so washing parts can wait until you get home.
5:00 pm - Head home
Sometimes baby demands to nurse when I get home because she's hungry and/or misses me. (I'm never mad about that.) But if she can wait, I will try to hold her off 'til dinner time.
5:45 pm - Dinner time: Solids!
We started on solids at five months old. While we are gearing up for adult dinner, I'll feed her purees with an ounce or two of extra milk mixed in or in a bottle on the side.
6:15 - Bedtime routine and final feeding
Between 6 and 7 pm, I'll nurse her and offer an additional two ounces of milk in a bottle to help keep her full overnight. Our bedtime routine also consists of reading books, cuddling in her room and singing before placing her in the crib.
7:00 pm - Lights out for baby
Mama is going to enjoy an oatmeal stout* and watch Netflix.
*Personal preference, but I do feel strongly that both oatmeal and dark beer help my supply. To each their own!
10:00 pm - Pump and bedtime for mama
Once baby started sleeping longer stretches at night, I started pumping before bed. It helps add to the stash for the following day and keeps clogged ducts + mastitis + engorgement at bay.
That said, sometimes I can just feel it in my bones that she's not going to sleep through the night and I'll need to nurse her. If that's the case, I'll skip this pump. For what it's worth, I'm usually right.
Do you have a fool-proof pumping process that's worked for you? Hit me up in the comments and on IG! I'd love to hear about it.
This article contributed by Sophie Schillaci. Sophie is a seasoned entertainment journalist with a decade of experience in Hollywood across prestigious broadcast, digital and print platforms, including Entertainment Tonight, the Hollywood Reporter and more. After welcoming a daughter in 2018, Sophie created the motherhood lifestyle blog, Mom Needs Merlot, as a creative outlet and place of support for fellow new mamas. She welcomed a son in late March, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and is currently raising two under three. Follow the madness on Instagram.