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Pumping In Preparation of Returning to Work or School

Full 20 min pumping… and I still made it!

Getting Started

During the first 2 weeks, pump to relieve engorgement. Practice hand expression often, you never know when you might need to use the skill. Save the milk by storing these small amounts in closed containers in the refrigerator throughout the day. After you have pumped and refrigerated that last bit for about an hour you can then combine all the milk for that 24 hour period and freeze. Try to store the milk in 1-3 ounce portions for easier defrosting. Be careful not to overfill containers and bags, leave at least a one inch space at the top to allow the milk to expand during freezing, seal tightly, and lay bags flat in the freezer.

After about 2 weeks you can add pumping to your daily routine to begin building a stash. Think about the times your baby doesn’t need to nurse. During naps, sleeping a 3-5 hour stretch, or after an early morning feeding are good choices. Try to choose a time to pump that will be good for you every day. Once a day is fine to build a stash, if you are looking to increase your supply you may want to add 2 times.

Supply and Demand

Remember your body has been making what your baby has been demanding over the last couple of weeks. When you first add pumping to your daily routine you may get just a little, .25 ounces – 1 ounce, that’s normal. Again, just combine that milk with the above recommendations. After 3-5 days you will begin to see an increase from the extra demand of milk. You are tricking your body into increasing supply just a small amount.


By starting a couple of weeks postpartum or at least two weeks before you return to work you will give yourself time to learn how your pump works and how your body reacts to the pump. The pump is not your baby and you may be uncomfortable and/or feel clumsy handling it, its ok that’s normal. If you feel pain that is not normal and indicates that you may need a different size breast shield or that you are using a setting that is too high on the pump. Start gently slowly increasing to the highest setting that is comfortable. Practice putting everything together. Getting comfortable can decrease the stress during that first day back.

Duration and Frequency

Don’t time yourself while pumping read a book or watch TV. For best results keep an eye out on your milk and after that last drop of milk pump for a couple more minutes. When you have gotten into your pumping routine then time how long it takes to fully express your baby’s milk, requesting breaks that are about 5 minutes more that it took to express may be a good idea. Try not to pump less than 15 minutes or longer than 30, pumping a short time may not remove much milk or too long may cause breast soreness.

After you have returned to work you will need to keep up with your milk demand. Think about how often your baby is nursing. If your baby nurses every 2 hours ask to for frequent breaks, For example 15-30 minute breaks every 2 hours (one of these breaks could be your lunch time).

*If you are not covered by the ACA pumping break laws, or you are a student you may want to think about getting creative. Try keeping those extra pumping times that you started during your maternity leave, especially ones in the early mornings when prolactin hormones are highest. Pump as often as you can even if it is for just 5 minutes just to relieve any engorgement. You will probably want to look into co-sleeping and reverse cycling so that you are meeting more of your babies needs when you are at home rather than when you are away.

Lisa Horstkamp ©2014


About Blessed Are The Mothers

My name is Lisa Horstkamp and I am a private practice lactation counselor and a Birth and bereavement Doula. I became a certified doula with stillbirthday as of October 2015. I am a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) with The Healthy Children Project of April 2015. CLC Scope of practice: SBD Doula Principles of Service (Scope) I'm a southern woman born and bred. I am raising my "Southern Bell" and "bubba" the way I see fit. I started out breastfeeding my oldest but without good support I ended up using formula and not meeting my breastfeeding goal. I breastfed my youngest for 33 months, until he no longer requested, far out reaching my original goal of 6 months. It would not have been possible without the abundant support from my IBCLC and other breastfeeding moms in the support group at our local hospital. I'm on path to become an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant in the next few years and looking forward to increasing support for my area.

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