Breastfeeding: Pumping 101

If you are physically with the baby, the best is to feed directly, as it will also keep up your supply. I have a really good nursing cover, and I use that to feed my baby whenever and wherever discreetly.

However, when that isn’t an option, for example, if you are going back to work, and you are keen on breastfeeding, you will definitely need to pump. Pumping has really been great for me as it allows me to ensure my baby is solely breastfed.


There is a multitude of breast pumps available in the market, many of which are expensive, and it is quite confusing for new mommas to pick one up.

Here are some questions to help you pick:

For me personally, I knew that I needed a double-pump, and an electric/battery operated one at that. I was definitely planning to go back to work, after the first two months, but at the same time, I wanted to exclusively breast feed for as long as possible.

While at work, I can’t possibly disappear for too long, and would need to get the pumping done in the shortest possible time. Hence, pumping regularly, quickly and building up stock was my only option. While purchasing the breast pump, I went the whole nine yards and bought one with a carry bag, and bottles, and an ice pack. I have a Medela one, and I love it! It is quick, and effective, and serves my need very well.

However, if you are looking at only the occasional bottle of breast milk – while you catch a nap, or go out for dinner or shopping, then a manual single pump will suffice. Obviously through, a n electric one will mean less work for you.


Also, if you will be going back to work soon, make sure you pump, and freeze, and test it. Make sure the baby will drink the milk from a bottle, and that he doesn’t have an issue with the taste. Sometimes, you might need to try a few different brands of bottles before you find the right one. There were some brands which was the favorite of many moms that my baby hated. So make sure you find what works for your baby.

Also, some babies don’t like the taste of frozen BM because of the breakdown of lipase. If the thawed milk has a soapy smell, it is perfectly okay to use, however, it means the lipase has broken down. Please ensure that you test one set before you start building stock. If the baby does not like the taste, you can scald the milk (bring it to high temperature, and cool immediately) and then freeze it.


One of the main concerns that most new moms who are going back to work have is a place to pump. Most of the offices nowadays don’t have private cabins, or more likely, have CCTV cams everywhere. As such, it is a dilemma.

The one spot that is almost definitely available at all offices in the GCC, and is secure is the prayer room. So find out where the prayer room in your office is, and check it out to see if you’ll have access to an electric plug. And make sure you know the prayer timings, and opt for a quieter time.

If you are anywhere else in the world, make it a point to speak to your HR. You never know, they might actually help you find a quiet room. In the worst case, your car with a nursing cover, or the general space in the bathroom (hopefully not) is your friend.

Keep in mind that it is essential that you do pump at work, not just to feed the baby with it the next day/week, but to keep your supply up. Six to seven hours of no milk going out of your breast can definitely adversely affect your supply. So even if the baby is formula fed in your absence, you still have to keep pumping to ensure you have enough to feed him directly when you are with the baby.


Once you are back at work, you obviously have work commitments to work around. The key is to know how much you want to pump per day. By calculating how much time you will be away from the baby, and how much milk will be consumed during that time.

For me, my baby gets fed every two hours, and I am in the office from 7.30am till about 2.30pm. 7 hours. And in the morning, he usually gets fed before we leave, around 6.45am. As such, there are about four feeds during his nursery time.

According to, the way to calculate it is count the number of feeds per day, divided by 25Oz, to get an approximate value. But it is still trial and error depending upon your baby’s appetite. Thumb rule is 1oz per hour you are away. On your first day, ensure that you provide enough and more breast milk.

I tried sending 2 ounce packs of breast milk initially, till his nursery informed me he was still hungry. Then I increased it, and will aim to add as each month goes on. This is my plan. So, get someone to give them x amount of milk, and if they still seem hungry, give more, and if there is too much leftover, give less. You cannot keep the breast milk out for too long.

So currently, I try and pump in the morning, while my bubs is having his milk. Pump from one side, feed from the other. And I pump twice at work – around 10am and around 12.30pm. The time spent at each session depends usually on how much work I have pending, and if I have got at least half the quantity I am looking for. And if the sessions in office doesn’t give me enough for a full day’s feed, I pump again once I am home – usually while bubs is feeding.


The beauty of breast milk is that it can be frozen for up to six months, and while it won’t be as nutritious as the fresh milk, it still is better than formula.


However, one key thing to remember is that fresh milk is best and refrigerated breast milk is better than the frozen one. As such, aim to pump on Sunday for Monday, Monday for Tuesday, and so on. On Thursday, you can either keep it in the fridge for weekend use, or freeze it for Sunday. And if you are looking at going back to work soon, I would suggest that you start a week early, just so you have some stock – in case you are unable to pump regularly at work.

If you are delving into your frozen stock, give the oldest milk first. So make sure you date it correctly.

An option is to freeze it in the bottles, but then that would take up way too much space and as such, is not very feasible. I prefer the breast milk storage bags. It’s compact, and efficient, and easily transportable. Some like the Medela has one with a tag/loop which you can connect to the pump, thus pumping directly into the bag. I prefer pumping into bottle, as it allows me to keep an eye on the quantity. The bags usually have zip lock – doubled, and are BPA free.

However, it is expensive to buy it from Doha. It came up to almost 5QR per bag. That meant if it was going to be 4 feed per day, I was looking at 20QR every single day. So, I shopped via – the Lansinoh brand, and it has been so much better. Less than 1QR per bag, that too after taking the shipping charges into consideration. Most of the bags do come with an area to label it with details such as name, and quantity, and date. Date is the most important thing!

I think that the ice pack is very important to ensure that we can keep the breast milk cold till we get home. While many women I know opt to keep it in the office fridge, I personally think it is better to have your own resources.

Remember, you cannot mix breast milk of different temperatures – no mixing milk pumped in the morning with freshly pumped milk. You can mix it if it is all the same temperature. And this is where having an ice bag comes handy. Because by the time you are home, it is all of the same temperature.

Another key thing to keep in mind is to freeze small portions. Breast milk is liquid gold, and you do not want to be thawing large portions, and throwing it out if the baby doesn’t take it.

Also, no microwaving. The way to thaw breast milk is to keep the bottle/packet under warm water, or to use a bottle warmer.

And if the baby drinks a little from the bottle, you have no option but to throw out the rest. Do not reuse or put it back in fridge once the baby touches it. It is very possible that bacteria from the baby’s mouth has passed on to it.


One of my main concerns going back to work was sterilization of the pumping equipment, as I would be using it more than once at work. After reading and extensively researching, I have found that it is fine to reuse the pump without sterilizing it. In fact, breast milk bottles and equipment don’t need to be sterilized at all, just wash in hot water and soap and it is completely safe.

I have an Avent microwave sterilizer – the one for six bottles – and it’s quite useful I can pop all the bottles – Medela, Pigeon, Ume or Avent, in it, and about 2minutes in the microwave. Occasionally, I do go old-school, and boil the bottles, and sometimes if I feel its icky, I soak them in really hot water for a few minutes.

I do sterilize the bottles and equipment everyday. The night before, as the morning will be a mad rush. I sterilize the phalanges, and the other sterilize-able parts of the pump, and put them in zip lock pouches, and the bottles once sterilized are put into my bag, with its lid tightly on.

Similarly, I sterilize my son’s bottles the night before, put on the nipples and caps, and packed into his bag. I make sure there are always an additional sterilized bottle in his bag. If he is to have four feeds, I send five bottles – just to ensure there is a clean sterilized bottle available.

Anyway, back to pumping. After my first pumping session in office, I put the equipment back into the zip lock bag, and put it in my ice-pack. The ice-pack keeps it cleaner than it would be outside. And once home, its all washed and sterilized.


Pumping is work, and you need to be patient and committed. Also, do not set your targets by someone else’s pumping output. Some moms can pump 100ml in 10mins, while some cannot even get 10 ml in that much time. The pumping out depends on various factors including the quality of the pump, the time of day, your supply, your hormone/stress level at that time, and mainly, your relationship and how your body responds to your pump. There are days when I get the desired quantity in just two or three sittings, and there are others when I have had to pump up to nine times.

Please also keep in mind that pumping output is not an indicator of your supply. Some women just are unable to get anything from a pump.

Pumping is not easy. It takes a lot of effort to juggle work commitments, and find time to pump. It also requires a supportive team, and an office culture of trust and mutual respect. But trust me, when you establish a pattern, it is worth it!

Read More:

The Saga of a Pumping Mom:

Enhancing Supply:


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