Unfortunately breasts do not come with markers on them. When you are an exclusively breast-feeding mom you never really know how much your baby is getting. We teach in lactation to watch for the signs that tell you your baby is getting enough milk. You look at swallowing patterns, wet diapers, and the overall health and weight gain of your baby. When you are pumping mom though, we are meticulous in knowing how much milk comes out of our tatas. Have you ever actually stopped and looked at that milk? I’m sure you have. I’m sure you analyze every drop that comes out of your body. Did you know that the left and right breast can make different amounts of milk? One research study found that stereotypically moms always make more milk out of the right breast. Which is interesting in light of the fact that most women have a slightly larger left breast. (Click on text to read the research articles) It really goes to show that size does not matter for production. Size is related to fat in the breast tissue and not the actual glandular tissue that produces milk. I love breastfeeding. And I try really hard to rotate which side I start on when I’m breast-feeding my daughter. When I am at work or use a double pump to pump both of the girls at the same time. It has been always consistent for me. My right always make slightly more than my left. Usually not very much more, but enough to be noticeable. And science still doesn’t really know why!! Oh, our fascinating bodies!!! Happy Pumping!!!
Us pumping mamas tend to freak out about how much we pump. Can I get an amen?!? When our supply drops we freak the freaky freak out. But what if we weren’t pumping. Would we actually notice any of these drops, or what our babies just happily do what they do and not even give us education that something has changed? Would we even have periods because we would be exclusively nursing And supply changeseould be a non issue? Yesterday I took my deep breaths and talked myself off the “I have no milk” ledge. Today my period is officially over. And low and behold my milk supply is back up. Remember, hormones do funny things to our bodies. Do what you can but don’t freak out over every little change. Stay the course. Love yourself. Love your body.
Is been one of those days. Let me tell you about it. I found a cockroach on my breast pumping bag this morning (I had it next to our 1920’s era fireplace where I was pumping last night). I lost my employee badge and can’t find it anywhere. I forgot my lunch on the counter. When I got to work I realized all my pump parts were sitting in the bottle drying rack at home. My stress was so high I pumped less than 3 ounces my first session (I was thankfully able to use the lactation room in the NICU) which only made me stress more. Then I remembered my own advice. Don’t partner with worry or stress. I have to actively choose joy and peace. I made myself a cup of mothers milk tea and a cup of oatmeal (at least those are always in my pumping bag) and took a deep breath. I made sure to eat a good lunch (I had a certificate for a free lunch in the hospital cafeteria) and treated myself to an ice cream for dessert. I’m already up to 3 ounces at my second pumping. Peace comes from within and not from external circumstances. Joy is a choice that needs to be embraced. Breathe in, breathe out. You’ve got this, mama.
More specifically, having a period because you’re a woman sucks. Not only are there mood swings and cramps to deal with, there’s also my monthly dip in milk production. Time to make some lactation cookies with extra chocolate chips and a cup of Mrs. Patel’s Milk Water Chai Tea. At least my daughter hasn’t seemed to notice. I was with her the past four days on a mini vacation and she’s been more interested in eating off my plate than my chest. Today I went back to work and knew it would be a lower volume day. Although I always note thamy the milk I pump during my period is a little creamier and more fat sticks to the sides of the bottle. I hope showing these pictures encourages you that is OK to have high and low volume days and not get discouraged. Love your body. Love the process. Worry and stress don’t help anything. Keep eating healthy, drinking plenty of water, taking your prenatal vitamins and taking supplements as needed. Happy pumping!
I’m sure every workplace has their own unique style of pumping room. It is a place of sanctuary and safety for many nursing moms during the day. At the hospital where I work, we have an employee lactation room on the first floor. Inside are two somewhat comfortable chairs, each with its own table, two curtains to separate them, and a sink. We are actually very blessed to be in a baby friendly hospital where they at least attempt to take care of their breast-feeding moms. I have read about pumping room horror stories, though, of “pump rooms” that are nothing more then broom closets or electrical rooms with folding chairs. The law states that all employers must provide a non-bathroom room for breast-feeding employees. But their definition of “non-bathroom” is occasionally taken liberally. The room in which you pump can definitely impact your milk output. If the room you are in makes you stressed, you will see a decrease in milk production. If you are in a calm environment and don’t feel rushed, your milk will have a higher chance of letting down. Do you whatever you need to do to make your pump room as comfortable as possible. Make sure to surround yourself with plenty of pictures of your baby and since it is your break, if you can FaceTime or Skype your baby.
I do have a funny story about my work pump room. The tables are older and one of them had a broken table leg. The table looked like it was going to collapse at any second. I put in a complaint through the proper chains. I came in the next day and the table was gone. But the two chairs were facing each other with the table in the middle as if anyone pumping at the same time would have a pump off! I don’t Think the maintenance department quite understood the purpose of the room 🙂 with a quick phone call to HR we were able to get a second table and move the chairs back to the proper positions. What are your funny pump room stories? Feel free to share your pump room pictures.
I’m a lactation consultant. I’m also a first time mother. My daughter will be nine months old next week. I went back to work when she was just twelve weeks old. I’ve been pumping since then. No one told me how much work that would actually be. Pumping while at work is literally a full time job in and of itself. For most moms that plan to continue breastfeeding after they go back to work, you need to plan to pump when you would typically feed your baby. Feed the baby or feed the pump. That’s how you keep up supply.
But that can be tricky when you’re working. I try to pump three times in an eight hour shift. Every two and a half to three hours. For ten to twenty minutes depending on my break. I’m typing this over my lunch break as hard plastic suction cups suck on my tender bits. It takes scheduling and planning. Some days are easier than others. Some days the milk flies better than others. The most important thing is to not give up and not get discouraged. In the end the benefits definitely far out weigh the risks. Like reducing my risk of breast cancer. Reducing the risk of allergies, eczema, respiratory and ear infections for my baby. Saving the environment from extra trash. Not to mention saving almost $3000 a year from formula costs. You definitely need to keep your goals and your humor about you to persevere.
This is a comparison of several days. My baby has always had enough. Every once in a while I will pump at night before bed to give me a little extra milk if I have a lower day. As you can see, first pump of the day (on the left) always gives me the highest amount with amounts dropping as the day goes on. That is normal for every mother whether she pumps or nurses.)
what have you found to be most helpful for keeping your supply up while pumping at work? Feel free to comment!!!
We’ve talked a bit about increasing milk supply and about pumping. So now that we have all this yummy milk, what are we going to do with it? Let’s talk about milk storage.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers ranges of time that milk can safely be left at for certain temperatures. Use this link to go directly to their website. But there is a simple rule that fits within these ranges and is easy to recall, even when you’ve had less sleep than a college kid in finals week. Just remember 5-5-5.
- 5 hours at room temperature. If the room is very warm (more than 85 degrees F), 3-4 hours is a safer time range.
- 5 days in the fridge (the back of the refrigerator is the best place to store your milk since it is the coldest.)
- 5 months in a regular freezer (the separated compartment in a typical fridge/freezer unit) According to the CDC, milk frozen for longer than the recommended time ranges is safe, but may be lower in quality as some of the fats in the milk break down.
Other time ranges that don’t fit as neatly within the 5-5-5 rule, but are still helpful:
- Human milk can be stored for 6-12 months in a chest or upright deep freezer.
- Human milk can be safely stored with ice packs in insulated storage bags for up to 24 hours.
As part of my routine, if I work the next day, I put my milk into separate bottles and stick them in the fridge when I get home from work. That way my husband can feed them to my baby the next day while I’m at work. If the next day is a day off, I put my milk into disposable milk storage bags to stick in the freezer until the next time I work. The bags are labeled with the date they were pumped and always put in order from oldest to newest milk. This method saves going through a bunch of milk bags and saves both time and money. There are several brands of milk storage bags. I’ve found I really like the Dr Dudu bags. They’re larger size and with the double zipper I don’t need to worry about leaks in my lunch bag during the work day.
Milk from different pumping sessions/days may be combined in one container – use the date of the first milk expressed. I frequently pour all of my milk from one day of work into a larger bottle. This helps even out the calorie count and fat content since we know different pumping seasons yields different milk content. Avoid adding warm milk to a container of previously refrigerated or frozen milk – cool the new milk before combining. Breastmilk is not spoiled unless it smells really bad or tastes sour.
Safely Thawing Breast Milk
As time permits, thaw frozen breast milk by transferring it to the refrigerator for thawing or by swirling it in a bowl of warm water. You should avoid using a microwave oven to thaw or heat bottles of breast milk. Microwave ovens do not heat liquids evenly which could easily scald a baby or damage the milk. Bottles may explode if left in the microwave too long. Excess heat can also destroy the nutrients in your milk. It is recommended that you do not re-freeze breast milk once it has been thawed. Although I read on kellymom.com that if the milk had only been partially thawed and there are still ice crystals in it, you can safely refreeze the milk and thaw it on a later date.
When the fat in your milk separates in the fridge or freezer, make sure you swirl the milk to incorporate it back into a smooth, creamy mixture. Breast milk has living components in it which help protect your baby’s gut and promote digestion and immunity. Shaking breast milk actually denatured, or breaks down, the shaped molecules of the protective proteins, leaving them in pieces. Lactoferrin, lysozyme, and other protective components work their protection magic when they are in their original shaped molecular structure.
Other helpful website for breast milk storage Kellymom.com
Every working mother I know it’s concerned about her milk supply. We are terrified that if we don’t make enough milk while at work our babies will starve to death. I’ve had my moments of discouragement where I, too, feel like a failure as a mother because I had a low pumping day. Of course this stress only causes a further decrease in supply which becomes a vicious cycle of stress and poor pumping. While I can’t turn my boobs on line a faucet to pump specific amounts of milk each pump session, there are several things I do to promote the best possible milk supply.
1. Hydration. The best hydration is to drink to thirst. Since times in the busyness of my day, though, I forget to stay well watered. I keep a water bottle in my pumping bag and try to drink while pumping. I also work feeding patients. So each time I go into the kitchen at work I try to grab a cup of water.
2. Nutrition. Eating the right kinds of foods also help with adequate milk supplies. Fresh fruits, vegetables and plenty of protein help keep my body working at its best. Oatmeal is also a staple in my diet. Oatmeal contains a protein that may increase prolactin, the hormone that facilitates milk production in mammals. Other whole grains such as quinoa and sesame also contain this same protein.
3. Supplements. Fenugreek, mothers milk tea, and fennel are all known galactogogues, a fancy word for milk makers. I try to drink a cup of tea every night. I’ll admit I’m not the best at taking the fenugreek, but I definitely notice a boost in my supply when I do. Another supplement known to help breast milk production is brewers yeast. Brewer’s yeast comes from a single-celled fungus and is a byproduct of beer making, though it can also be grown as a nutritional supplement. A good source of iron, chromium and selenium, brewer’s yeast also contains several B vitamins, though not B-12. Brewer’s yeast has a history of use as a galactagogue, which is a food, herb or medication that increases milk supply in nursing mothers. Some mothers find drinking a single beer can immediately increase milk supply (although drinking beer is best left to evenings or weekends). You can also buy a powdered brewers yeast from the store or Amazon. It can be added to smoothies, cookies, or other recipes. Here’s one of my favorites!!
While we may affectionately call them jugs, breasts do not work like standardized cartons of milk. As I already discussed in specious post, the volume of breast milk pumped during the day varies by many factors. If stress and eating and hydration and life aren’t enough to alter your milk supply, Mother Nature throws in another curve ball. Once your period returns, hormones also impact your breast milk production. A few days before our periods start, our blood calcium levels drop. This drop in blood calcium can cause two things to happen
- It can cause a drop in milk supply. Not every women experienced this, by side notice that starting a few days before their periods, their milk supply drops a bit. This lasts until a few days after the period has started.
- It can slightly change the flavor of your milk. Again, this isn’t true for everyone. But Aunt Flo can slightly alter the flavor of your milk, making it less palatable for your baby. This alteration starts a few days before your period, and lasts until a few days after your period has begun.
The result? If your pumped milk is looking a little lean, you may just be about to ride the crimson tide. Make sure you’re eating a week balanced diet with foods rich in calcium when you start PMS’ing. Chocolate is high in calcium, right? Happy pumping.
PS this picture is from my morning pump. My baby started on the right side this morning and didn’t really want anything to do with the left side. See the difference?
Every pumping session is a new session. Calories in breast milk range from 13-35 calories per ounce. The average amount of calories in typical breast milk around 20-22 calories. This fluctuation is due to changing fat content. The amount of fat in human milk changes depending on the degree of emptyness of the breast (empty breast = high fat, full breast = low fat). The longer a mom goes between pump sessions, the more water is in the milk and the lower the fat content. This is because the mom’s body thinks the baby is getting dehydrated and the water content is to rehydrate the baby. A breastfeed baby can take in the same amount of calories from different volumes of milk. For example, 4 ounces of 15 calorie pumped milk early in the morning has the same calories as 3 ounces of 20 calorie breastmilk pumped only a few hours later. This is unlike formula. Standardized formula has 20 calories per ounce.
For more info on the nutrition facts in breastmilk, check out these websites!!