Breastfeeding and Going Back to Work

If you have chosen to breastfeed and you will be returning to work, finding your routine for pumping at work can be a little daunting. The Affordable Care Act now requires medical insurance plans to cover the cost of a breast pump in full for new mothers. The “Break Time for Nursing Mothers” law also requires employers to provide you with breaks throughout the day and a completely private place that is not a bathroom to pump. Open communication and an understanding of your pumping needs and routine can go a long way with your employer.

It helps to think things through and plan in advance what your day at work will look like as a breastfeeding mother. We have compiled some ideas to make pumping and storing breastmilk at work and at home a little bit easier.

Pumping Hacks

Invest in a hands-free pumping bra, so you can multitask while pumping. Whether you want to keep working, field emails or just relax and scroll through social media it is so convenient to have your hands free. Our favorite pumping bra is the Medela Easy Expressions Bustier.

We used to recommend refrigerating your pump parts between uses, to save time and get back to work faster. The CDC now recommends against this as of July 2017 and has changed it's guidelines to reflect the need for pump parts to be washed in hot soapy water, in a separate bin or sink from dishes if possible after every single use. Babies have gotten critically ill from pump parts that weren't cleaned well enough, so it's just not worth the risk. If you need to save time, you can put an extra set of pump parts in your bag and wash them all at the end of the day. 

Keep an extra set of tubing in your pump bag, along with a small towel or burp cloth for spills or drips on your lap. You can also keep a stash of bags, nursing pads, and a set of your baby’s pajamas to smell if you need a little help getting your milk flowing. Some mothers also benefit from looking at pictures of their baby or watching videos of them with sound to get their letdown to happen a little faster.

Breast Milk Storage Guidelines

 Freshly pumped milk should be refrigerated as soon as possible and is good for up to 8 days in the refrigerator. It can be stored in a refrigerator freezer for 3-4 months and in a deep freeze (or freezer that is 0 degrees or colder) for up to 12 months.

Previously frozen, then thawed milk is good for 24 hours but should not be refrozen. If it has been warmed but not fed yet, it can be given to the baby any time within 4 hours, then should be discarded after that. If the milk hasn’t spoiled, it can always be used in the baby’s bath or on their skin rather than pouring it down the drain. You worked so hard for it!

Only breast milk that has been freshly pumped or is still frozen should be stored in a cooler with frozen ice packs (up to 24 hours). Any milk that has already been warmed or thawed from a freezer shouldn’t be stored in a cooler with frozen ice packs. Of course you may need to carry the day’s bottles in a cooler with frozen ice packs to daycare or the babysitter’s house but it should be immediately transferred to the refrigerator.

Helpful Systems and Routine Ideas for Pumping

Whatever you find works best for your family is what you should do. A lot of mothers choose to pump each day and use that milk the following day for feedings, rather than trying to build a big freezer stash before going back to work. So, what you pump on Monday goes into bottles in the refrigerator to feed on Tuesday.

You can calculate how many ounces of breastmilk you need based on how many hours your baby will be away from you. Usually the guideline for the average baby is about 25oz total for the day, so if you calculate how many times in 24 hours your baby nurses and divide 25oz by that number, it will tell you about how many ounces will go in each bottle. If your baby nurses 10 times in 24 hours, a good “ballpark” number of ounces for each bottle would be around 2.5oz. If they are in childcare for 9 hours of the day, you could plan to leave 4-5 2.5oz bottles. These are just general guidelines and amounts will vary for each baby, but your pediatrician or IBCLC can help you find the right numbers. Remember, the composition of breastmilk changes to meet your growing baby’s needs, so between 1 and 6 months of age, the amount of milk they need in a day remains relatively steady and doesn’t really increase with their age or weight. This video is a great resource for childcare providers on “paced feeding” to help babies adjust between the breast and bottle.

It might help to go ahead and fill their bottles the night before and store them in the refrigerator where you can easily grab them and go in the morning. Remember to feed milk on a first-in first-out basis, giving the oldest milk first to make sure it is always as fresh as possible.  Labeling the bottles with the baby’s name and having the bottles pre-made/measured at home can help to eliminate any mix-ups or miscommunication at daycare. Our favorite labels are from HappyBrooke on Etsy and are dishwasher safe, and adorable! At the end of the week, some mothers will freeze any extra milk they pumped above what their baby needed for bottles, to build up a stash in the freezer for emergencies, travel or date nights.

Pumping During Travel or Business Trips

New legislation passed by The House last week summarizes rules already in place for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) allowing breastmilk, bottles and breast pumps through airport security and onboard airplanes. This new legislation, the “Bottles and Breastfeeding Equipment Screening Act” (BABES Act) will give TSA 90 days to inform airline screeners and personnel that parents are permitted to bring pumped milk, breast pumps, bottles and other necessary items onboard their flights. This exemption was already in place, but there were reports of families being forced to throw away pumped breast milk, pumps being damaged or not permitted as a carry-on, and flights being missed.

When flying, your breast pump is considered a medical device, so it should not count against the two carry-on items (always check before flying) rule and breast milk and formula do not count against liquid limits. You are permitted to pump breastmilk in airports and on aircrafts. Some airports like Miami International Airport have even provided Mamava Pods for privacy and convenience to nurse or pump breastmilk. You can download their app to see locations and find a pod near you on your trip. When flying with milk, have your ice packs already frozen.

You can call ahead to request a refrigerator for your hotel room or travel with a cooler. It might also be helpful to buy an adaptor for your pump to be used in the car or a battery pack for use on airplanes when battery operated devices are allowed. Some companies will even reimburse employees if they need to ship milk overnight while traveling for business. Always call your airline and hotel in advance to get clarification on guidelines, services and accommodations for nursing mothers and give yourself plenty of extra time when traveling with your breast pump and milk.

With some careful planning and forethought, you can find your rhythm and routine for pumping at work or pumping on a business trip. You’ll be a pro in no time.