Bringing a new life into this world is one of the most incredible experiences in the universe, but if you’re a working woman who has also spent months or years building a career, it can also be one of the most challenging. Society would have us believe the two states — mother and career woman — are mutually exclusive, but that’s not true anymore. Breast pumps, bottles and freezers make it easier than ever to have your cake and eat it too — if you can stick to a breast pumping schedule to optimize your output. Here are some tips and tricks to help you organize your breast pumping schedule.
Make a Note of Times
Whether you want them to or not, your little ones will set a feeding schedule that works for them. They’ll eat every couple of hours, to begin with, but these hours will always fall around the same time every day. If you’re trying to organize a breast pumping schedule, especially if you’re going to be away from your little one, start taking note of the start time for each feeding.
You’ll want to pump around the same time every day to help maintain your supply. By keeping track of the start times, you’ll have a baseline for your next step.
On the days when you’re home, you’ll want to pump between breastfeeding sessions to help augment your supply, but on work days, try to focus on pumping at the same time when you’d usually feed your baby.
Write a Schedule
Step two is to use the times you’ve been writing down to create a pumping schedule. Now, how you make your plan is up to you, but I usually find having multiple different calendars or planners helps keep me accountable to the schedule I’ve chosen.
For me, I split my schedule between my Google calendar and a paper planner I carry in my diaper bag. The Google calendar is fantastic because I can tell it to send loud and obnoxious alerts to remind me to pump, to wash my dishes or to take the trash to the curb for pickup.
I will blame forgetting those mundane tasks on my mommy brain until the day I die.
Write your schedule, and plan to pump multiple times during the day for 10 to 15 minutes at a time — or longer, depending on how long it takes to empty each breast or both of them together.
Choosing the Right Pump
Once you have your schedule in place, it’s time to choose the perfect breast pump. You’ve got a ton of options to choose from. There are manual options, electric ones, ones that require you to hold them in place and others that perform their function hands-free.
If you want to pump quickly and efficiently while still having your hands available to work, hold your little one, cook or clean, a hands-free pump might be your best option. Take some time to talk to a local lactation consultant to help you figure out which pump is right for you. Not every choice will work for you, and success in many cases will depend on your breast size and what accessories you choose to purchase. Having a consultant who is familiar with all the options can be a blessing.
Know Your Rights at Work
Finally, before you hand your pumping schedule to your boss, make sure you know your rights when it comes to breastfeeding or pumping in the workplace. The Affordable Care Act offers some protection, requiring your employer to offer you break time to express or pump milk whenever you need to, though these don’t have to be paid breaks.
Employers are starting to get smarter when it comes to taking care of their breastfeeding mothers and pregnant employees, but some are still mentally stuck in the 1950s and believe Mom’s better off staying home with the kids.
If your workplace has that mindset, make sure you know your rights and demand support from management. You don’t have to stay home to continue to feed your baby breastmilk. You just have to be willing to fight for those rights.
Don’t Give Up
Finally, don’t give up. Pumping isn’t easy even on the best of days, so you’ll need to persevere through the bad ones. Writing up a pumping schedule you can give to your boss can make the process a little bit easier, especially if you’re working for someone who doesn’t want to let you pump during the day. Don’t forget to study your rights and fight for them, if need be.