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Have you ever wondered how much freezer stash do you need before you return to work, and what would happen at the end of your pumping journey?
Will your stash be enough?
Will you run out of your stash before reaching your breastfeeding goal?
Or, will you have too much excess such that you need to throw them away after they got expired?
I am starting a case study series to feature several stories of breastfeeding moms who had done it.
The purpose of this series is to give you a real picture, of how the life as a breastfeeding-working mom looks like (of course, from breast milk perspective).
And I will try my best to select variations of stories, so that you can understand that each mama has a unique story, and so you too.
For the first one, I would share my own pumping story.
Take a deep breath, ladies…, and enjoy!
Table of Contents
2 July 2014
My baby turned 6 months old.
It’s about the time…
I should return to work pretty soon.
So, I started finding a new job, deciding on a babysitter, and being serious in preparing my breast milk stash (read my full story in building my stash here).
When I started working, I had 80 bottles of frozen EBM (~3.5 oz each).
My baby was 9 months old by then.
My initial goal was to reach 1 year exclusive breast milk (with no added formula) on top of solid food.
So here’s how my pumping routine looks like:
- At work (weekday): 10 am, 2 pm, 6 pm
- At home (weekday): 6 am, 10 pm
- At home (weekend): 6 am, 10 am, 6 pm, 10 pm
I noted down all my EBM ‘earning’ since I started building my stash.
I continued to use that same list to record my pumping-at-work earning.
And here’s how the EBM earning breakdown looks like:
- At work ~ 280 ml
- At home ~ 70 ml
- Total daily earning ~350 ml
- Baby consumption (daily): 4 bottles @ 100 ml each = 400 ml
- Daily deficit: 50 ml, 5-weekday deficit: 250 ml
- Weekend pump: 75 ml x 2 days ~ 150 ml
- Weekly deficit -100 ml- 1 bottle EBM
If we just rely on this calculation, that would make my monthly deficit ~ 4 bottles and when my baby turned 1 year old, I should have had 68 bottles of EBM remaining.
But, there were downtimes here and there…
- I was getting lazy to pump on weekend (typically I won’t miss the 6 am and 10 pm session, but not the mid-morning and afternoon sessions),
- there were times when my baby drank more than 400 ml a day ( I remember those weeks when she finished 500 ml a day, I was totally freaked out if I could achieve my one-year goal),
and so I lost a little bit more of my frozen stash.
After my little one turned 1 year old, I dropped one pumping session at work, making it only two sessions, at lunch time and right after work (6 pm).
Some reasons include: err.. my working time is not so effective, and I was already behind my deadline.
Once I pumped only twice at work, I could see that I can finish work faster (and started getting trust from my boss and colleagues, which is important to me, since I was a new staff).
But, slowly but surely, my milk supply diminished.
Yes, initially I was still able to pump 120-ml in each session at work, but soon after that, the number was getting smaller, such that I could only bring about 180-ml from work (yes, this is from both pumping sessions, not each).
This is a tremendous decrease, considering that I used to get 280 at work.
After only 3 months, my freezer stash depleted rapidly, leaving only 24 bottles.
My EBM earning breakdown at this point:
- Daily deficit climbed up to 1.5 bottles
- My weekly deficit to be 5×1.5 -2 (from weekend pump) = 5.5 bottles.
That means, if I did nothing, I would run out my EBM stash in 5 weeks and would need to supplement.
I was not ready for that..
So, at that moment, I was so determined to bring up my supply again.
What to do?
Here’s a few things I do to increase my milk supply
- I decided to bring back one extra pumping session at work.
After all, I realize one of the main reason why I express less and less is because the limitation my breast storage capacity.
No matter how long I go in between pumping sessions, I never get more than 150 ml (or 120 ml to be exact).
Oh, how I envy those mamas who are able to express 400 ml in one sitting.
So, I was back with three sessions again.
- I aim for more let downs per pumping session.
Initially I started out with only 2 let-downs. But seeing that my supply is decreasing, I started to aim 3 (and even 4) so that I could express more milk. I wrote a complete guide on power pumping in this article (the how-tos, when, and even case studies).
- More weekend pumping sessions
No more skipping sessions, I pump early in the morning, mid-morning, evening, and at night.
The mid-morning and evening were the hardest because we typically used weekend times to go out with the kids.
So whenever we went out, I squeezed pumping session before going out, and after returning.
4. I don’t do wee hour pumping
Because my daughter was still nursing through the night. And I want to get enough rest so that I would not fall sick easily.
If my daughter were to sleep all through the night, I would consider waking up for pumping.
5. I wished I could do power pumping, but do cluster pumping-nursing instead
Sparing some extra time for power pumping is very difficult for me (one hour for one session, and at least two sessions daily to get a good result? Err…)
Let’s compare this cluster method with power pumping.
Power pumping scheme: 20-min pump, 10-min rest, 10-min pump, 10-min rest, 10-min pump.
My cluster pumping-nursing combo:
- Morning: 10-min pump, 10-min rest (I used this time for breakfast), 10-min pump, 10-15 min rest (wake and bathe baby), 10-min nurse before leaving for work.
- Night: 10-min nurse, 10-min rest (prepare baby for bedtime), 10-min pump, 10-min rest (clean pump parts), nurse to sleep.
What’s the result?
After 4 weeks of serious attempts at boosting my milk supply, I was able to pump roughly 50 ml more milk every day, making my deficit lesser.
Remember I told you that I had 24 bottles EBM left?
After all of these attempts, I managed to keep my EBM balance at 25 bottles, yay..
At that point of time, I was able to extend my pumping goal, to keep providing full EBM until my baby turns 18 months old.
One thing to notice though…
Even though my supply increased, it didn’t come back to its ‘old normal’.
And thus, to avoid milk supply issue in the future, I kept on 3 pumping sessions at work, without the cluster pumping-nursing routine.
What about my work?
I can not say, ‘I’ll do everything for my baby, my job is not important..’
Well, no, I can’t simply neglect my work responsibility.
Here’s the workaround.
I tried to be more strategic in scheduling my task.
You see, my job mostly requires me to test out a system / a program (that process a bulk amount of data), and the actual data processing. This process takes as short as 10 mins to hours (depending on what I’m testing on).
So, before I left my desk for pumping, I made sure that I have my system ready and just hit the button to run the process, and hopefully by the time I finished pumping, I had my data ready to be analyzed.
Having said that, I also tried to be more flexible with my pumping schedule.
Though I set daily reminder for my pumping, the first session may not always start at 10 am sharp, it can be 10.15, or even 11 am. Same goes for the other two sessions.
This way, I can keep a better balance between work and pump.
October – November 2015
I decided to resign from my work after 13 months and focus on my children (this was already planned even before I started working, and thank God I could make it a reality – so, it’s nothing to do with my breastfeeding journey).
Knowing that I only left with one-month notice period, I could safely drop one pumping session at work, making it only two.
My last frozen EBM was consumed at about 2.5 weeks before my last day.
And finally, I kept providing chilled EBM for my daughter until my last day.
It’s funny that theoretically the amount of my pumped milk would not suffice for her consumption.
But, getting closer to my last day, my baby was very fussy in taking EBM via bottle and just prefer direct latch and hence she took less bottles in a day.
4 December 2015
My last day! And I was still pumping!
I am glad I made it.
I was finally able to provide full breast milk for my second child even though I worked full time.
We continued direct latch after that and she finally weaned at 27 months old.
A few lessons learned from this story
- I don’t think I would be able to reach my breastfeeding goal with the current stash amount and those scheduled pumping sessions if I would start working when my baby was less than 6 months old. Different babies nurse differently, and my baby was nursing every 1 to 2 hours as an exclusively breastfed baby. There’s no way I could afford to pump that frequent at work. And that’s why I opted to only return to work after she is way older.
- I was pretty strict to myself in my commitment to give her the most breast milk I could have. I guess, this is part of my ‘revenge’ for NOT being able to exclusively breastfeed my first child. If I were to be more flexible and was fine with introducing fresh milk after she turned 1 year old, I would feel less stressful, less cranky, and be a better mom.
- Remember how my supply plummeted and how I was able to gain back 25 bottles of frozen EBM? From pure maths calculation, that would not be possible. With only 50 ml extra earning daily, I should have had a balance of 13 bottles instead of 25. how could that be? I believe that’s a miracle from God, for He makes things easier for us. Thinking about this, I recalled my conversation with my breastfeeding friend about tips to increase milk supply. She said, “of all the things I do, the most powerful one is to ask God, so that He made ourselves able to reach our breastfeeding goal and able to provide breast milk for our babies.” How true it is. Any of you can relate?
I hope this story can give you a real picture about how much freezer stash you would need prior to work, and how the actual pumping at work looks like.
Wanna share your story with us?
Leave a comment below and tell us about your pumping journey!