How to NOT FAIL at your Pumping Schedule

A pumping schedule is probably one of the top things on your mind if you’re returning to work after having a baby and want to continue breastfeeding. Pumping schedules are really important! But what’s more important is consistency instead of perfection. This post will cover New Little Life’s founder Allison Tolman’s pumping journey with her first baby, and what she wished she would have known, or done differently. So, read on for Allison’s tips on how to not fail at your pumping schedule!

(This post was originally a video. Check it out, here!)

Allison’s Plan

When I went back to work after my first baby, my employer was supportive. I had my own office and I had a perfect pumping schedule. There was a fridge close by and I was determined to make it work! I had very strong goals, but guess what? It still didn’t work! My goal was to breastfeed for as long as my baby wanted. I had planned to pump for the first year and then after that we could just breastfeed during the evenings and weekends and go from there. My plan didn’t work and I didn’t quite meet my goals.

-Allison Tolman, IBCLC

For the first few weeks back to work, I was pumping enough for the next day at daycare. The breast milk I pumped at work was just enough for the following day, no extra, but it was fine! I had no problem with that. But it kind of slowly started to go down, just little by little. Then, all of a sudden, the daycare woman at the in-home daycare (she was great and had been doing this for a long time) said my baby needed a little more.

Supplementing with Formula

I didn’t know how to do that! Adding an extra pumping session didn’t work because I still got about the same amount of milk. So we just went ahead and supplemented him with some formula. So daycare started with one bottle of formula a day and eventually it was two.

While I did hit my year mark of pumping, at the end of that year my baby was about half and half formula and breast milk. Some breast milk is better than none, right? But for me it was a little discouraging. I was trained as a nurse and I was also a clinical lactation counselor so I had lactation training! Even though I worked really hard to get where I was breastfeeding, it was not easy for me to fail at my goals.

(If you want to know more about my breastfeeding story, you can go and watch this here.)

Setting Your Pumping Schedule Up for Success!

If you’re feeling frustrated, like you don’t understand what’s going on, or how to fix things, this post is for you. I know what it’s like to feel that way! Every day was stressful and I just didn’t know what to do to make it better. But I’ve learned a lot since then, and I’ve been able to use my personal pumping experience to better help you!

So, let me show you some of the things that i think made the biggest difference in my story to hopefully help you with yours.

Get Some Help

First, I didn’t actually have that great of a plan. Here’s some things I did:

  • I made a pumping schedule
  • I tried my pump a couple times on maternity leave
  • I was stubborn and thought I could figure it all out myself

I kind of thought it was just as simple as you put the pump on and the milk comes out. If I pump at the same times of day that he usually eats it should be fine, right? On the weekends and evenings we’re feeding so the milk supply should be what it is, right?

Wrong! Well, right and wrong. I was right to have a pumping schedule, and right to pump at the same times of day that my baby ate. But I was wrong that my milk supply just was what it was, or that pumping was as easy as just putting on the pump. And I was wrong to think that I could just figure it all out myself.

You Don’t Know what You Don’t Know

One of the hardest things about being a first time working mom is you kind of just don’t know what you don’t know. I definitely can relate to that feeling! With my first baby, I kind of just thought i could do it all myself. I had a pumping schedule and a supportive work. All the things seemed to line up perfectly, but it just wasn’t that simple.

Although I am satisfied with the amount of work and effort that I put into my first pumping journey, every day was a reminder that I was not quite good enough. It could have been better if I had had someone to help me walk through it.

pumping schedule pumping schedule pumping schedule pumping schedule pumping schedule pumping schedule pumping schedule pumping schedule pumping schedule pumping schedule pumping schedule

Who To Ask For Help

Second, even if I had recognized that I should ask for more help, I didn’t know who to ask. I had seen lactation consultants at the hospital. We had worked really hard on getting breastfeeding going because it was challenging for me and my baby.

So, I knew lactation consultants were there but they didn’t know a lot about pumping. (I can tell you now that I’m trained as a lactation consultant and we get zero training on pumping!) You really just have to learn it on your own or find someone that has taken the time to learn it and figure it out for you.

Then, I knew insurance would be a pain. I didn’t like know many visits they’d cover. And the all around logistics of getting to and from the hospital with my new baby seemed like too much work. Especially since I wasn’t sure how much it would actually help.

(You can find this support inside the Pumping for Working Moms Program, schedule a call to join us today!)

pumping schedule

Understand Breast Pumps to Help Your Pumping Schedule

Third, I wish I would’ve known more than just the basics about pumping. Plugging in and attaching the pump and getting some milk out is one thing, but really understanding a breast pump can make a big difference in your pumping experience, which can also impact your pumping schedule!

Flange Sizing

Do you know the importance of flange sizing? (Check out this video, here, for more information about flange sizing!) I didn’t when I first started pumping. Pumps come with flanges already, so I assumed that would just work for me. Those flanges weren’t uncomfortable for me, I mean they didn’t hurt, but it wasn’t amazing. But I wish I would’ve known that you can pump with total comfort! And that’s a realistic thing you can aim for!

Flange sizing isn’t only about comfort, either. It also affects milk supply. Because milk was coming out while I was pumping I assumed it must be working. But, my flanges were too big which affected the way my pump removed milk. Following my pumping schedule perfectly still wouldn’t have helped me since I was using the wrong flange size.

Replacing Pump Parts

Did you know that you need to replace some of your pump parts every month or so (depending on how often you pump)? Duckbill valves or membranes are pieces that need to be replaced regularly because they get stretched out. Using worn out valves and membranes can affect your supply. So even following your pumping schedule, if your valves are worn out, it will affect your supply. When I started pumping, I didn’t know that.

Other Important Basics to Know

I also didn’t know the basics of how to care for my pump like how to effectively wash parts and stuff. Even though, I’m a nurse and I have common sense so it was good enough, but I wish I would’ve had reassurance that I was doing it right.

Another mistake I made because I didn’t understand pumps, was I used a hand-me-down pump. That’s a BIG no-no! Pump motors wear out, all the breast pump accessories are only meant for one user, etc. But even if I had bought a new pump, it would’ve been really overwhelming to choose one. There are hundreds of pumps on the market! It might be even worse nowadays then it would have been for me eight years ago.

pumping schedule

How to Expect the Unexpected

Fourth, unexpected things affected my ability to follow my pumping schedule. I didn’t anticipate that unexpected things would come up! Saying that now that sounds silly because, of course, life is unexpected! Things like last minute meetings, or missed alarms, or not knowing that your pump parts are dirty until after you pump, all happened to me! It is all difficult to navigate.

I remember at the end of my work days, the last thing I wanted to do after just dealing with milk and work all day, was go home and read blogs on how to deal with milk and how to fix my problems. Even when I did research, I didn’t ever feel confident that implementing what I had read would help me. Which is why I kind of just settled with doing the minimum.

Find Answers to Your Pumping Schedule Questions Early On

Maybe you can relate. I was a little ignorant and naive as a first-time mom but I also knew that I was smart and capable and that I was determined. But, I had questions come up every week and I didn’t know where to get the answers. Because I didn’t find answers, my questions would roll around in my brain and just cause me anxiety. Those stressful, frustrated feelings affected my pumping journey!

I could have fixed this small problem really early on and my outcome would have looked a lot different! Hopefully this blog post will give you some ideas on what you can do to have a better pumping experience than I had.

What I Wanted As a First Time Mom to Help Me Stick to My Pumping Schedule

A step-by-step process of what to do would have helped me so much as a first time mom! It was a time/brain space thing for me. I could have come up with my own research, schedules, etc. but I when I tried I was always running out of time, or just plain worn out from working and mom-ing all day.

I wanted a step by step list, starting on my maternity leave of what I need to do to start preparing to go back to work. Then, when I go back to work, what are the things I need to be thinking about and what are the things I need to not be thinking about.

Other Questions Moms Have About Their Pumping Schedule

A lot of moms on maternity leave stress or feel guilty about whether they should be pumping more. You barely get breastfeeding established or you’re still trying to figure it out or you still have four months left on your maternity leave. Having a professional to say you don’t actually have to be thinking about that right now just live your life, would be so freeing!

I also see a lot of moms are unsure of how to combine breastfeeding and pumping. That’s a hard thing! There’s a lot of information out there on breastfeeding and there’s a lot of information on exclusive pumping. But what about these moms that are trying to combine them? You’re breastfeeding and you’re pumping at work but do you need to pump at home a little bit too? How do we combine that? It’s confusing!

Why I Do What I Do

It was really this same experience that landed me where I’m at right now. Before my first pumping experience, I had finished my board certification to become a certified lactation consultant. But I realized that even lactation consultants don’t get trained on breast pumps. So I took it upon myself to figure this out!

I started buying breast pumps, and started putting content online. I realized that I love helping moms combine breastfeeding and pumping. There’s not enough support for you and I want to help fix this problem!

Pumping for Working Moms

So now I work exclusively with working moms who want to find that calm confidence to go back to work and stress about as little as possible. I created a step-by-step guide and support from a professional who specializes in exactly what you’re trying to do, to tell you that this is normal, you’re doing a great job. Or to say yeah not quite right, let’s just do these little tiny things to make this better and then let’s move on.

Looking back that would have made the difference for me. First, I would have been able to meet the goals that i had wanted. Second, I would have had more confidence in myself. I would’ve felt that I can do this and I don’t have to do it alone.

Even just taking those daily anxieties or weekly anxieties that I had, questions that I had and getting them out of my brain would have been huge for me. So that’s really what I love doing!

Reach out to New Little Life

If this sounds like something that would help you, I would love to talk with you! I would love to learn about your goals and what you’re looking for, what you’re struggling with and see if I’m able to help. You can schedule a call with me here.

I love what I do! I hope you can tell that that I’m very passionate about helping moms navigate this thing that I struggled with but have now mastered and I want to help you get that same confidence that I now have. You can have someone in your back pocket just in case.

Just having someone there in case the questions come up, in case something happens can empower women and families to breastfeed and pump with confidence! So don’t hesitate to talk to me! I see you doing your best and I’m proud of all of you!!

How to NOT FAIL at your Pumping Schedule