Everyday is a new day with its own stresses and joys. The more we can take time to enjoy each day, the less we are prone to worry and stress, the better it is for our overall health as well as our milk supply. The past few days I have been working in the neonatal intensive care unit at my hospital. It is my favorite place to work. I love coming alongside mommies and their new babies and helping them feed them in their most critical time. My job on the acute floors can sometimes be stressful. I am helping elderly patients and families make end-of-life decisions. I assess patients feeding skills and decide if the patients can still eat and the options they have for nutrition and hydration. This definitely impacts my milk supply. I always see more of my own milk when working in NICU. Of course when some of those hungry babies cry I can occasionally feel my mommy hormones stimulating my own letdown. Where is your happy place? Have you noticed certain aspects of your environment or work impacting your milk supply? Where do you find your peace when pumping? This really does make a big difference. Happy Pumping!!
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?