I have a love-hate relationship with my breast pump. I love to nurse and I love to work, and my breast pump is the contraption that makes these two things not mutually exclusive. However, I am not a huge fan of pumping. It is not painful, and I have no problem pumping reasonable quantities of milk out... but there is always something I'd rather be doing. I realize I am being silly. I am one of the lucky working moms who has a private office (with a door that locks!) so , with the help of my hands-free bustier, I can read email, type documents, and generally get work done while pumping. But I still dislike having to interrupt whatever I'm doing, get out all my equipment, and hook up and pump three times a day. I'm such a wuss.
I've also noticed that the whenever I talk to other Moms who plan to go back to work but haven't done so yet, their questions are about one of two topics: how we're doing with day care and how I handle pumping. So, here are my words of wisdom (or at least experience) on pumping, in no particular order:
1. Definitely get the hands-free bustier. I've heard of some women using an old sports bra and cutting holes in it. I think this would work fine, too, but the important thing is that you use something that you can get on and off without also removing your shirt. It is weird enough to sit in your office pumping without having to go completely topless.
2. I pump three times during the work day day, for roughly 15 minutes each time. Sometimes, this doesn't produce enough milk to send with Pumpkin to day care the next day. On those days, I also pump before I go to bed and/or first thing the next morning.
3. Save up some extra milk ahead of time. Your supply fluctuates with your cycle, the amount of sleep you're getting, your stress levels, and your general health. It is better to have some extra frozen bags so that you can handle the inevitable low milk days without freaking out and/or chaining yourself to your pump.
4. If your supply drops too low and you want to try to increase it, you might try fenugreek. This is an herb that is actually also used as artificial maple syrup, and will make you smell like maple syrup- that is how you know you're taking enough. Really.
5. I found that I got terrible dehydration headaches my first few days back at work, until I got smart and started drinking an insane amount of water. Now I keep a water bottle on my desk at all times.
6. Supplying all of the calories and nutrients for another person, even a little one, is hard work. I found that I got very tired my first few weeks back to work. Eating lots of protein helped.
7. Sleep deprived moms trying to adjust to a new routine are prone to bouts of forgetfulness. Or at least I am. It is very, very annoying to get your pump out and discover that you're missing some crucial piece. I have shown up at work without the cord for my pump, without the flanges, without the little cooler bag with the bottles, and just today, without the little membranes that make the pump actually work. I have found two solutions for this problem so far:
(1) I'm not a morning person, so I restock my bag at night. Of course, it helps if I actually check that the pieces I'm putting in the bag have all of the required attachments (I didn't do this last night).
(2) I try to carry back ups for as many of the pieces as possible. I have a battery pack that I can use if I forget the cord. I have some bags that I can use if I forget the bottles (Medela sells some that tape right on to the pump). Clearly, I also need to put some extra membranes in my bag.
I have also considered leaving extra supplies at work, but I haven't done that yet.
8. Speaking of extra supplies... buy them! It sucks to have to do the dishes before you can pump, particularly when you just want to get everything done so that you can crawl into bed.
9. I don't think you have to pump at the exact same times every day (after all, the baby doesn't eat at the exact same times every day). However, you should probably try to space the pumpings out during the day. I try to pump every 2-3 hours. I have a job that involves a lot of meetings. Some days, I have back-to-back meetings for most of the day. This has led to the occasional need to pump during a teleconference while my phone is on mute. This feels really, really weird, even more so when I have to turn the pump off, go off mute, and say something. I now put "meetings" in my calendar if I see a day getting booked up. This helps protect my pumping times.
10. I have trouble with milk dripping out of the flanges while I am disassembling the pump apparatus. I finally came up with the idea of taking a large cloth napkin in my bag to use to keep my pants from getting milk spots. I also use this to wipe down the pump parts- I wash them each night, but not between the pumpings during the day.
As I said at the top, I don't really like to pump. However, it does break up the day nicely. And it allows me to keep breastfeeding Pumpkin, which I love. It is worth the hassle.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor or a lactation expert, and nothing in this post should be construed as medical advice.