It’s back to school time, and, for some new moms, that means the start of having baby in daycare, pumping at work, and sending bottles to daycare.* I was recently emailing with someone about this and realized I’d basically written a blog post on the topic in the emails, so figured I’d make it official. My goal for this post is similar to that for other related posts: to lay out what worked for me (and what didn’t) in the hopes that it is useful for someone else, and also to ask people to say in the comments what worked for them. I often hear from readers that reading through the comment threads on these posts is really helpful for them. So, please comment!
Also: I have a related post on traveling to meetings while breastfeeding. In some ways, that’s pumping 201. This one will be at the 101 level, focusing more on the basics. I will include a similar disclaimer, though: this is just what I have done. I am certainly not a breastfeeding or breastmilk storage expert, I am not a pediatrician or medical professional, and this is definitely not medical advice.
I’ll start out by repeating the two general pumping tips that I had in that earlier post:
- Get a hands free pumping bra. It really is worth it, in my opinion. It will let you work on your computer (or, you know, read your favorite ecology blog) while pumping. Some people make their own out of an old sports bra and rubber bands, but I bought a pre-made one.
- When pumping at work, I put all the pump parts in a Tupperware in the fridge in between pumping sessions. This saves a LOT of washing of pump parts. Washing pump parts is incredibly annoying, so this is a very good thing.
Okay now on to new things. Continuing on the theme of washing all those pump parts: As I said just above, I would store the flanges and bottles in the fridge in between pumping sessions, then bring them home at night to wash them. With my second child, I decided to buy a whole bunch of flanges and bottles, thinking that then I could just wash all them in the dishwasher every couple of days. But our dishwasher in our current house left a weird film on them, so I had to wash everything by hand. This didn’t happen with the dishwasher in our old house, and I’m not sure why it would be different. So, if you’re considering that strategy, I’d suggest running the parts in the dishwasher before investing in all the flanges.
In terms of bottles, the advice I was given was to get the bottle with the fewest parts and just stick with that, so there’s less to wash. That advice worked for us for the most part. The exception is that we had a really hard getting my daughter to take a bottle. We waited a while to introduce bottles with her, partially because it took a while to get her nursing well, and partially because we were afraid of nipple confusion. (As far as I know, the current thinking is that nipple confusion is not something to worry about.) So, with her, we did initially use a bottle that is supposed to more closely mimic nursing, then switched to some really simple bottles. In the end, I don’t know how much of an effect the bottle had. I think the biggest thing was that she started daycare and the daycare workers were really good at getting babies to take bottles. It was really stressful to not know if she’d take a bottle at daycare, though. With my son, we introduced the bottle much earlier (at around 1 month) and there was no problem.
Another bit of information that ended up being really important for me to know is that breastmilk supply is higher for pretty much everyone in the morning. So, skewing my pumping sessions earlier in the day got me much more milk. I would nurse my baby on just one side first thing in the morning, then pump on the other side. It was a bit annoying to pump first thing in the morning, but it was a really effective way to get an extra bottleof milk. Adding on pumping later in the day yielded much, much less milk. A downside to this strategy is that it meant I needed to have a pump at home and at work. At first, I lugged my pump back and forth with me, but eventually decided it was worth buying a second pump.**
With my son, I started that extra morning pumping session before he went to daycare. That allowed me to build up a freezer stash, which was really nice because I found it much harder to keep supply up once he was in daycare full time. (If you tend towards oversupply, though, you might need to be careful to not overdo things.) If you have extra milk for a freezer stash, it’s really useful to freeze the breastmilk storage bag lying on its side, rather than upright. When you freeze it upright, it can wrap around the rack on the freezer, and, even if it doesn’t do that, all the blobby bags get really hard to keep organized. I would lay the bag flat in a thin tupperware to freeze it, then transfer it to a gift bag. The general idea is here, but I gave up on the system of pulling it out the bottom. I had different amounts in different bags, so a strict first in first out system doesn’t always make sense. Instead I just arranged them all side-by-side and then pulled out the oldest ones that would make up the right amount of milk.
In terms of sending the bottles to daycare, an issue we’ve had with both of the daycares we used is that there’s a tendency to want to give the baby a bottle right away if the baby starts to cry. I would do the same! And, of course, I want my baby to get food if s/he needs it, but I also don’t want breastmilk wasted when they heat up a bottle and then baby didn’t really want it because s/he was fussing for a different reason.*** This meant that they often wanted me to send a lot of milk (or formula). But it seemed like my baby didn’t really need more than 16 ounces in bottles during the day, given that I would drop off a just-fed baby around 9 and would pick him up around 5:20 and could nurse him right then. When talking about this with a friend, she recommended playing around with the amount of milk in the bottles, and suggested increasing the amount of milk in the bottles. That seemed totally counterintuitive to me, but it seemed to work. With both of my children, when they got a bit older (I can’t remember exactly, but think it was about 9 months), they seemed more satisfied with fewer larger bottles (e.g., sending 3 5-ounce bottles would keep them happier than sending 4 4-ounce bottles). I think I started out by sending 3 month bottles with my kids when they first started daycare, but I actually can’t remember at this point. Comments with tips on how readers allocated milk to bottles would be great! And, of course, formula can be a great option in some cases. With my daughter, I was willing to go to really great lengths to keep her exclusively breastfed. With my son, I was more open to supplementing with formula if needed, but he ended up not needing it. (Update: after writing this post, I had a third child. He did need supplementation, so I sent some bottles of breastmilk and some of formula.)
Do you have other tips related to pumping and/or having a nursling at daycare? Please leave them in the comments! As I said at the beginning, I get a lot of feedback from moms that they find the comment threads on these posts to be really helpful.
Update: This pingback reminds me that I forgot to address where to pump. I am fortunate that I have my own office with a door that closes and locks, so this hasn’t been a major issue for me. (That’s probably why I forgot to address it, especially since the person I was recently emailing about this also has her own office.) Occasionally, I’ve had to use a lactation room elsewhere (e.g., when in a full day retreat), but those are definitely harder to use (either because they’re busy when I need them, I can’t figure out how to get in, or they are not conveniently located). When my first postdoc had a baby while she was in my lab (and in a shared office), we arranged for an office in the building to be converted to a lactation room for pumping moms to use. It wasn’t an official lactation room, but the pumping moms in the department knew about it and were given keys to it. Official lactation rooms on campus are better than nothing, but, unless they’re really convenient to one’s office/lab, getting to them can become a barrier to pumping.
* Some people have a childcare arrangement that allows them to nurse the baby instead of pumping. That has definite perks, but isn’t an approach I’ve used, so I can’t really speak to it.
** A reminder for American moms that the Affordable Care Act means that health insurance must cover the cost of a breast pump.
*** Regulations make it so that the bottle has to be used up within a certain amount of time of being heated, and can’t be put back in the fridge. So, if the baby wasn’t hungry, that milk gets dumped. That’s pretty painful if you woke up early to pump that bottle!