Busy on the job and need to power pump at work to maintain your breast milk supply? Not only is it possible, but you can ROCK IT. I’m a crazy busy L&D nurse, and I’m giving you my best hacks for getting in and out of the pumping room in 15 minutes or less!
The Need for Power Pumping
If you stumbled upon this article thinking that it’s one about the concept of “marathon” pumping sessions to trick your body into producing more milk, feel free to move on. When I’m talking about power pumping, I’m really talking about maximizing both pumping time and milk volume.
A little background: if you’ve been on this site before, you already know that I’m a labor and delivery nurse. Nurses in general are incredibly busy people, and L&D has the dubious reputation of being the most unpredictable. It’s not uncommon at all for me to go an entire 12 hour shift without a break.
For a breastfeeding mama, 12 hours without pumping just isn’t an option.
It’s time to get creative.
During my shifts while I was a breastfeeding mama, I had to not only find the time to pump, but get the most milk possible in the least amount of time. And I was wildly successful. Now, I’m not discounting mamas with milk supply issues– some of this might be luck of the draw. As far as my story goes, I pumped at work for at least a year with both of my boys and my supply never dropped. I continued nursing each of them for several months after that.
It took practice, and it took some inventive hacks.
I know that you are a busy mom, too! Whether you are squeezing in extra pumping sessions in at home to add to your stash, or you are a working mama who needs to maintain your supply while you are away from your baby, I can give you the tips to pump like a boss in 15 minutes or less.
Ready? Let’s start the timer.
Power Pumping Hacks
1. Time it right
This was the hardest part for me. Hopefully your work situation allows you to take breaks when you need to. Mine didn’t always. (Often, I pulled the rolling computer into the lactation room with me to “watch” my patients and then called out for help if I needed it.)
You want to find your ideal window for pumping when your breasts are filled enough to give good volume, but not so engorged that they have a hard time letting down.
This was my general pumping schedule:
For a baby 0-6 months old:
Pump right before your work day/shift starts, then about every three hours after that (3 times in a 12-hour shift). Feed your baby as soon as you get home.
For a baby 6-12 months old:
Pump right before your work day/shift starts, then about every 4-5 hours after that (2 times in a 12-hour shift). Feed your baby as soon as you get home.
2. Fuel up
Pumping mamas need energy to fuel their bodies to produce milk. Hydration is so important, but healthy snacks and meals are a priority as well. Multi-task by making sure you hit the lactation room with a full water bottle and something to munch on.
Pro tip: I always kept a supply of Larabars in my pumping bag in case I didn’t have any other handy food. Quick and easy energy!
Note: I’m not recommending that you combine your lunch break with your pumping breaks. You don’t have to do that per Federal law, FYI. I do recommend that you take every opportunity to stay hydrated and fuel your body.
3. Optimize your accessories
When you are in a time crunch, it is not the moment to pull out the hands-free pumping bra and basically have to change clothes every time you pump. Ain’t no one got time for that.
I had my pumping accessories down to a science. I wore a sleep nursing tank kind of like this one under my scrubs every single shift. I love them because along with my $2 hack for hands-free pumping, I could pop those suckers on and get to pumping in no time at all, leaving my hands free to eat, text, or even chart. (Basically, I found that any style of nursing bra or tank that crosses over in the front worked best because it tucked the pumping flanges in better than the bras that unclip and expose the whole breast.)
Your milk storage accessories help, too! For my second baby, I discovered the Kiinde system. SO AMAZING! The milk storage bags screw right onto the pump. When you are done, just screw the cover on, write the date on the side, and toss it into the fridge. Genius. No bottles to wash, no need to transfer the milk into storage bags. NO CRYING OVER SPILT MILK. (The system also includes nipples that pop right onto the bags and a warmer to gently heat the milk. It really is an all-in-one system, and I loved it.)
4. Relax and get those hormones flowing
This is the fun part, and possibly the most important point to keep in mind for quick pumping. Find what relaxes you and triggers your hormones and maximize it.
Start by being warm. If the room tends to be cold, make sure you have a sweater or a blanket with you.
Distract yourself. Watching the milk drop by drop does not help speed things up. On the contrary, it can stress you out more and slow things down. Call a friend and chat, scroll through your Facebook feed… do whatever your jam is.
Better yet, distract yourself with things that light a fire under your mama hormones. Videos of your baby laughing are amazing for this. Pictures help, too.
My most successful pumping session ever was the week of the 2016 Presidential election, when I watched the video of Kate McKinnon (as Hillary Clinton) singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” as the cold open for SNL. I ugly cried and pumped more milk than I ever had before. Whatever opens your tear ducts will open the milk ducts, too!
5. Don’t wash your pump parts
Yup, I said it. If relaxing is the #1 tip for getting the milk out fast, this is the #1 tip for getting out of the lactation room ASAP. As quick as you are washing out your pump parts, I’m sure it still adds five minutes to your total time, right?
Hear me out.
You pump milk and put it in the fridge. That keeps it safe until you get home and feed it to your baby, or freeze it, or whatever, right?
Does it not also make sense that if you store your pump parts in the fridge between pumping sessions, the milk left inside will not be contaminated?
I’m going to let that sink in for a moment. I know that my brain about burst when a coworker gave that tip to me.
****Very important note– if your baby is full-term and healthy, there should be no issue with this practice. However, if you are pumping for a pre-term baby in the NICU, or if your baby is sick or has a weakened immune system, current guidelines state that you should continue to wash your pump parts before each pumping session.****
To go along with this amazing hack, I have another tip. I personally went through a lot of Ziplock bags and felt pretty guilty about the environment. Would that I had thought of this back then! Get a reusable wet bag (or a few of them). Keep your pump parts in them in the fridge throughout the day, then just toss it in the wash when you get home.
6. Know your pump
I was fortunate to work in a hospital where our lactation room was supplied with hospital-grade pumps for our use. Crazily enough, though, I had trouble with the hospital pumps with my second baby, and found that I had better results with my personal Medela pump. Whatever pump you use, make sure it’s a double-pump so that you are pumping both breasts at the same time.
Pro tip: don’t forget to check with your insurance company to see if you can get a breast pump for FREE!
Whatever pump you have, make sure you practice with it to find your own sweet spot. Make sure the parts fit your breasts, and adjust the speed and suction to a point where it’s strong but not hurting.
Knowing your pump and using it effectively takes practice, but it will help you cut down on the time you spend pumping while maximizing the amount of milk expressed.
7. Massage your boobies
Yes, distract yourself from watching every drop of milk fall, but pumping is not a completely passive activity. As you are pumping, systematically massage each breast from armpit to areola, both sides, top and bottom.
Doing this will not only stimulate your letdown reflex, but will mechanically empty each milk duct and direct the milk towards the nipple.
Massaging your breasts while pumping takes practice, but you’ll be amazed at the difference in speed and volume, and how exceptionally EMPTY your breasts are afterwards. Sweet relief!
For your health, too, breast massage while pumping is important. A pump will never extract milk as efficiently as your baby will, so massaging while pumping is an important way to prevent complications like clogged milk ducts and mastitis. Love your boobies!
Power Pumping Results
Pumping at work has the potential of being a stressful activity. You want what’s best for your baby, but it can be difficult to find the time. You may not have an ideal location for pumping, and your coworkers might not understand why you are suddenly taking so many “breaks.”
Being deliberate about your pumping time and incorporating these hacks can take so much stress out of your pumping sessions by helping you get in and out of that lactation room in 15 minutes or less! (But if you can afford more time, by all means, take it, mama!)
I know it’s hard, and it feels like this season will last forever. Take heart, mama, and trust me– before you know it, you’ll be kissing that pump goodbye forever… and maybe even feeling a little sad about it.
Your turn! What difficulties have you come across when pumping? Comment below and we’ll brainstorm for solutions!