Returning to work – How I built my BM stash

I am full time working mom and I have returned work after 2 months of giving birth to my son though I was CS. Just in case, I needed to go home. I used the 2 weeks to practice my baby cup feeding the breast milk stash that I built before I went back to work. For those 2 weeks, I did not go home since my baby and his caregiver adjusted quite well.

I am proud to say I have exclusively breastfeed (EBF) my baby for 3 years even though I am a full time working mom with a stressful work. I expressed milk at work until my son was 2 years old.  Now, I just feed him at night or when I am around him. EBF meant my son have not tasted formula milk at anytime and for the first 6 months of his life, all he drank was breast milk and not even water. I introduced solid food on his 6 month.

Breast feeding is a default, exclusively breast feeding for 6 months until weaning is a mindset. I made the decision to EBF when I got the right information by attending a breastfeeding class when pregnant with my caregiver/yaya. Like every working mom’s concern, I want to learn how to feed my baby when I went back to work or when I am away from my baby.

First set a target output. How much breast milk (BM) does your baby need in a day?

Breast milk consumption is based on weight of baby with this formula, baby needs breast milk of 150ml/kg/day. 30ml is approximately equal to 1 oz, hence, 5oz./kg/day. But remember each baby is different from the other. So how does the equation work 5 oz. per kilo per day (5oz./kg./day)? First, get the weight of your baby, example, your baby weighs 4kg. so he will need 5 oz. x 4 kg = 20 oz. in a day. Count the number of feedings, example 10x a day so about 2 oz. in each feeding. Some use the rule, 1 oz per hour. example for my baby when he was 9 months, he weighed 8.2Kg so 8.2Kg x 5 oz.= 41 oz. so he may need about about 1.7 oz per hour. If he feeds every 2 hours he needs about 3.4 oz. When I am way for 10 hours from my last feed then he may consume about 17 oz. But since he is eating now, he just consumes about 12-15 oz. from 6:30am to 6:30pm or 12 hours. Hence, the 1 oz. to 1.5 oz. per hour rule works.

So when you build your stash count the hours you will be away from your baby. But start small or short hours away from baby. At 6 weeks your breast milk output will stabilize so it is the suggested time to pump. However, if you are planning to go back to work at 8 weeks, then better start pumping at 4-5 weeks so you can slowly build your stash. Some recommend that start pumping at 6 weeks which I did. However, if you want to build a huge stash, meaning you will be away for a longer time or want to donate, it is ok to pump after 1 month of direct feeding but it’s recommended to pump after 6 weeks when your supply becomes steady.

Breast Milk and feeding cup. Practice being away to slowly build my stash. On my 6 weeks I started pumping milk using my Medela Base Manual pump.

Second – choose how to express – hand, manual, single electric or double electric pump.

For working moms especially those who are busy or have stressful jobs, better invest on a heavy duty double electric breast pump. I used Medela Base Manual pump in the first 3 months of me going back to work, then I got tired and acquired Medela Freestyle double electric pump. It is a bit pricey but it is very reliable and it has a service center at Medela House. Imagine if your breast pump gets busted in future, how will you pump? Medela House loans pump if your pump it not repaired right away. That is why it is good that I still keep my manual pump just in case my electric pump it out of service or no electricity in the future. But there are many brands out there just chose wisely by researching its performance and also asking from others who used them. Some working mom do hand expression, I really recommend to learn how to do it. Hand expression has no cost and if you get is right, you maximize and empty your breast very well more than any electric pump will do.

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Third -begin small and slowly build up your stash

The key is practice and don’t expect too much. Your first pump, you may only express about 5-10ml or 0.3oz. That is ok. Should you pump before you feed or after you feed your baby? I suggest, before you feed when you breast is full but not engorged or too hard as it maybe be painful for you, expression milk should not be painful. My first pumping session where I used Medela Base Manual pump, I pumped after I fed my baby and I got so small and later I notice I have a tinged of blood. So it was a shocking experience, I do not recommend it. Pump for a least 5 minutes only.

First plan to go out for 2 hours. So pump every 2-3 hours with a target of 2 oz. to 4 oz. of breast milk.

Second – Think of you baby and your ability to produce. Don’t self-doubt that you can produce.  If you are not producing, get professional help from lactation consultant to address your concerns.

Three – breast milk handling, storage and feeding means cooler or ref and cup feeding.

Use the 5-5-5 rule in breast milk storage:  5 hours in room temperature, 5 days in the ref or more if placed in chiller. and 5 weeks if you freeze the BM.

Feed your baby with expressed milk using a small cup.  let your baby lap or use her/his touch to drink the milk and later, your baby will learn to drink from a cup.

Four – Best tools for you

You may express using your hand, manual pump, and single or double electric pump. Also, consider using nursing bra and breastfeeding clothes for each access but discreet. You may consider using nursing covers.  I used Medela Base Pump for 3 months but got tired and taking so much time so I upgraded to Medela Freestyle double electric pump. I also use the Sweetpea nursingwear but I made a Do-it-yourself (DIY) breastfeeding clothes to save and be fashionable and using available ready to wear clothes but I made some alterations.

Five – Support in the Office with RA 10028

Inform and enlist the support of your office including your boss, HR and colleagues that you decided to ebf and you will need pumping breaks as prescribed in RA 10028. As per RA 10028, a lactating mother is given a 40mins to express milk  per 8 hours of work.  These 40 minutes are paid. And if you need more time just talk to your HR and boss and work something out.  Express your desire that your focus is your daughter. If you show that your priority is your family, your baby and not work, they will adjust their expectations.  Be a good mom first and then be a good employee so work hard when at work.

Six – Slowly build your stash, express when engorged and when baby is not feeding and you feel full.

Expressing milk anyway you can before going to work. remember 1 ounce equals to 1 hour of feeding baby. So if you will leave for a few hours, make sure the number of hours away from baby is the number of ounces you have in you ref.  Example if you will go to out for 4 hours, make sure you have 4 ounces of milk at home. Then express at least once ore twice when you are out to replenish the ones consumed by baby.

Seven – Keep a strict schedule at work. Express every 2-3 hours not more than 5 hours.

Express every 2-3 hours. If you arrive early at work, express for 15mins. Then express during break time like 10am , lunch time at 12pm. at afternoon break time at 3pm and at 530pm or before leaving work. The goal is express at least 2 ounces to 5 ounces in each time. So if you express 4x a day and get 3 ounces each time then you will bring home 12 ounces of milk which is enough to feed your baby the next day. The first milk expression of the day is usually the largest amount then as the day goes on, the express milk gets less and less but don’t fret.  Just look at how much you bring home each day. I was able to express 3 ounces on each breast so 6 ounces each time so I bring home an average of 24-30 ounces each day. I donate the extra milk I get each week.  I just make sure I have 40 ounces each week.

Eight – Law of supply and demand.  The more you express effectively, the more your breast will produce. If you express less, your breast will express less.  And directly feed your baby when you are around.