Difficulty expressing when baby's not at breast

I am going back to work in three weeks and am worried about expressing enough milk while away from my baby. I want to be able to express easily at work and continue to breastfeed as long as possible. I use the Nurture III pump and have no problem expressing while my baby is nursing. When he is not at my breast I have a difficult time. Is the Nurture III a good pump to use when I go back to work or should I rent or buy a better one?


Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

It's wonderful that you want to continue nursing your baby when you return to work. Going back to work after having a baby can be very scary. Working moms may have lots of worries. They often wonder how this separation will affect breastfeeding, if they'll be able to express enough milk to keep up with their baby's needs, and especially, how they will handle all of it. Let me assure you, there is a period of adjustment, but many moms successfully combine long-term nursing and working full time.

It is always easier to express milk when your baby is at the breast. You are able to relax and allow your milk to eject. Your body has been conditioned to respond to your little guy's suckling. Now you will need to condition your body to also let-down to the pump.

A couple of weeks before returning to work you might want to begin to set up regular pumping sessions. Get very comfortable. Drape one of your baby's blankets (with his sweet baby scent) around your shoulders. You may find that starting out with a few minutes of hand expression allows you to let-down more quickly. Once your milk begins to spray you can switch to the pump. Relax -- think about your little one, look at his picture and visualize your milk flowing. Let the sound of the pump be your cue to slip into a deep relaxation.

When you are single pumping or hand expressing, plan on spending around 20 to 30 minutes (total per session). Switch sides when your milk stops spraying and slows to a trickle. Breast compression (massage from outer quadrants toward the nipple) can also encourage your milk to flow. You will probably find that double pumping is quicker and easier, and often results in a greater quantity of expressed milk in less than 15 minutes.

When expressing milk at work, privacy is of the essence for moms (especially for those who have a bit of difficulty letting-down). See if there is an empty office or conference room where you can shut (lock) the door and feel secure that no one will barge in on you. I know that can be difficult at many workplaces. Follow the relaxing routine you will have established for pumping in those weeks prior to returning to work. Don't forget to bring a piece of your baby's clothing or a blanket and his picture. Enjoy a drink and easy-to-eat snack or your lunch. You might want to bring along a portable CD player and listen to your favorite relaxing music with headphones. Close you eyes, shut out the world, think of your sweet baby and let your milk flow.

The Nurture III is a good breastpump and it allows you to double pump. This pump works very well for many working moms. Once you've set up regular pumping sessions and begin conditioning your let down response see how this pump works for you. If you find you are still not able to express enough milk you may want to set up a short-term rental of a hospital-grade electric breastpump, such as the Lactina Select or the Classic. Remember, one pump is not perfect for all breastfeeding situations. My very best wishes for a long and happy nursing relationship!

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