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Health Information | 03/14/2014

Breast Milk Pumping Made Fast and Easy

By  Dr. Brenda Anders Pring

If you plan to breastfeed your baby after you return to work from maternity leave, figuring out how to pump away from home may seem at first a bit daunting. You wonder: “Where can I pump at work?”  “How do I fit it into my work schedule?”  “How can I do it efficiently?”  I’ve been there myself, so don’t worry, there are many things you can do to make pumping easier and faster for you.

Here are a few of my tips:

Coverage of breast pumps - Your health insurance plan must cover the cost of a breast pump. It may be either a rental unit or a new one you’ll keep. Your plan may have guidelines on whether the covered pump is manual or electric, the length of the rental, and when you’ll receive it (before or after birth).

Pump options - A high-quality dual electric pump will allow you to pump milk on both sides at the same time. Some new techniques for pumping include easy manual suction pumps, pumps that are completely discrete, such as freemie®, or collection shells that capture excess milk.

Purchase a pumping bustier. The bustier zips on and is designed to support the breast pump cups so you can keep your hands free and do other things at the same time, like reading, eating, or typing. Pumping bustiers range price from $10 to $35, and while not covered by insurance, can be a worthwhile investment. You can buy a pumping bustier online or at stores that sell maternity items or breastfeeding supplies.

Pump every 4 hours during the day to maintain your milk supply. Try to feed your baby as close to the beginning of your workday as possible. That way, you can have one pumping session at lunchtime when work is typically quieter and then just one more in the late afternoon before heading home, pumping twice versus 3 times at the office. I recommend setting a regular alarm because it’s easy to get busy and distracted. For that same reason, I also recommend setting that alarm about 30 minutes before your ideal pumping time to free yourself if you can from whatever is going on.

Block out the time you need. You’ll need about 15-20 minutes if you have a pump that can do both sides at the same time, as you should pump for 10-15 minutes in total. If you have a pump that only does one side, you need to plan for more time. (Remember, too, that is federal law for any employer with 50 or more employees to provide you with a private, clean space, separate from a public bathroom, where you can pump.)

Have extra sets of supplies to simplify washing and clean up. If you can, purchase one set of supplies (phalanges, valves, and bottles) for each day you work.  On Sunday, place all the clean sets into a big freezer bag and bring them in for the week. Each day, you can reuse one of the sets for every pumping session as long as you store the parts in the refrigerator with the pumped breast milk. By keeping th

em cold, you don’t have to wash them between sessions, saving yourself time and not having to worry about dealing with the public and possible less-than-sanitary condition of the office kitchen sink! Organize the freezer storage of breast milk bags. When you bring your milk home, make sure it’s labeled with the date and the volume, and then lay it flat in the freezer, perhaps on a box so it freezes very compactly. You can then place all of the frozen milk bags into a cardboard box to keep them tidy and organize them so the oldest milk is on top.

Updated August 2021

About The Author

Dr. Brenda Anders Pring

Dr. Pring is a pediatrician at Harvard Vanguard Copley. Her advice comes from her experience both as a physician and as a mom. She has 2 children whom she breastfed through her medical residency, working over 80 hours a week with shifts requiring 30 hours away from her baby. Prior to her medical career, Dr. Pring worked in Washington in the federal government and continues to work as an advocate for child health policy. In addition to her pediatric practice, she is also a lecturer at the Harvard School of Medicine.

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