You've established a good groove breastfeeding your baby, and you love the bonding time. But life is about to throw a wrinkle into your routine. Maybe it's time to go back to work. Or perhaps you're headed out of town for the weekend or for a business trip.
Whatever the case, you can continue breastfeeding your baby and pump breast milk for those times when you must be away. Here are some tips to help make pumping easier, even in less-than-ideal situations:
1. Choose a pump to meet your needs. Most women prefer an electric pump if they pump regularly. You can rent a hospital-grade pump, which comes with many safety and convenience features, or buy a personal pump. Electric pumps cost about $150 to $330. They have many options, including pressure adjustments, size, weight, portability, hands-free operation, noise, milk storage, battery back-up and carrying case. A manual/hand or battery-operated pump can work if you only pump occasionally or want a spare for travel or situations where you may not have an outlet handy, such as a restroom stall at the train station, a remote campsite or a power outage. A manual pump can cost less than $30. A lactation consultant can help you decide what's best for you.
2. Check your coverage. Talk with your health insurance provider to see if your plan covers breast pump rental or purchase, either in part or in full. You can also ask about paying for your pumps and accessories with money from your flexible spending account. Your accountant can tell you if your breastfeeding supplies are a deductible medical expense.
3. Time it right for you. Find time in your schedule when you can pump. If you're busy packing your older kids' lunches and giving the baby a bath at night, the evenings might not be an ideal time to pump. Instead of quietly sipping your morning coffee as you watch the news before the kids arise, use that time to simultaneously pump.
4. Stockpile when you can. Pump when you have the time to create a reserve batch. Sticking around the house all day on Saturday? Get in an extra pumping session. Meetings all afternoon? Schedule an extra morning pumping session.
5. Go hands free. Pump as you talk on the phone, type and more with a hands-free pump or a pumping bra/bustier. Multitask while you pump or sit back and breathe for a minute.
6. Back it up. Stash an extra set of supplies at work and in the car. You may want to keep a breast pump exclusively at work so you don't have to tote one back and forth daily. Having extra parts and supplies means your breasts won't become engorged, even if you left your supplies at home.
7. Make an appointment with yourself. Back-to-back meetings, a long flight, a night on the town—whatever the case may be, block out time to pump. Even if your day is jammed, pumping for just five minutes can help maintain your milk supply and provide some milk. Afraid you'll forget? Set an alarm on your phone to remind yourself of your "appointment." You can also set an alarm 30 minutes in advance to give you a heads up that you'll be pumping soon.
8. Take shortcuts. If you're nursing on one breast, then pump the other one. If you're pumping, pump both breasts at the same time. Purchase breast milk bags that attach to the breast pump and can then be unhooked, sealed and stored. Steam accessories in microwavable steamer bags or a microwave sterilizer. There's no harm or shame in taking these shortcuts that can maximize your valuable time.
9. Dress the part. Difficult to transition your attire to pumping mode? Wear wrap dresses or tops, button downs or nursing tanks underneath blazers or cardigans that make it easier to pump. Didn't dress the part? Pump beneath one of the many stylish covers on the market.
10. Relax. Know that you're doing something fabulous for your child by breastfeeding. But if it doesn't work, relax and enjoy feeding your baby, no matter how you do it.