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Mama, you can make pumping work for you

Updated: 4 days ago

By Guest Writer

When I returned to work from my rather short maternity leave with my first baby in Hong Kong, I had doubts about whether I'd be able to keep breastfeeding.

None of my friends or family had any at-work pumping experience, because maternity leave is usually longer across Europe.

But as it turned out, it was perfectly possible: my baby was a smart little being, and quickly learnt that the bottle is for when mama is away, and the breasts are for when mama is at home.

This year I am back from maternity leave, pumping for my third baby already.

I notice that things have improved, both for me and other mothers in Hong Kong.

The government now highly recommends that employers provide pumping rooms and 30-mins pumping breaks in the workplace. In an office job like mine, many meetings have now been replaced with conference calls - a perfect time to turn off the camera and pump peacefully without missing anything.

I got lots of advice from other pumping mamas...

here are my top tips for making pumping work for you.

1. You do NOT need a huge freezer stash to return to work.

The frozen breastmilk is to be used for little emergencies, such as if you forget the pumped milk at work or if your caregiver spills a bottle of fresh breastmilk. But on an ordinary day, you should not need to use the freezer stash. What you pump on Monday, will be fed to the baby on Tuesday. What you pump on Tuesday is for Wednesday, and so on.

2. You'll pump much more when at work and not feeding directly.

During my maternity leave I tried pumping, and could get only 20ml (less than 1oz) from my breasts. Looking back, I realized those 20ml came on top of feeding my baby 100% of what she needed. Once I was physically out of the house and not doing those direct feeds, I found my breasts produced substantially more.

3. The recommended pumping amount is 30-40ml (1-1.5 oz) per hour of separation.

4. People will ask fewer questions than you expect.

One brief conversation with HR or with your manager is all you need. It's likely that your colleagues will not notice your pumping breaks, none will question why you turned off the camera during a conference call. Many don't even notice if there's a feeding room in the office, despite walking by it every day. One of my friends is a primary school teacher. She sometimes pumped directly in the classroom under her shirt during a recess. The children in her classroom couldn't care less.

5. Teach your caregiver the "paced bottle feeding" technique.

It's a good tool to prevent bottle preference and ensure that none of your precious breastmilk is wasted


The author is originally from Russia and moved to Hong Kong from London in 2015. She speaks English, Russian, French and Spanish. She combines motherhood with full time employment, and has pumped at work for both of her kids (4 and 2 years old). She has been a regular at La Leche League meetings since her first child was born. In 2020, she became a LLL leader and is committed to helping mums achieve their breastfeeding goals

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