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When I returned to work, could you guess what my biggest fear is?
Exactly, not being able to provide enough breast milk for my baby.
With my past experience of having to supplement my first baby, I became even more protective of my milk supply.
But bumps were everywhere.
Starting from work-related stress..
The desire to show that ‘hey, I am still doing my job even though I spare a great amount of time for pumping..’
Then, my irregular pumping session began, and skipping pumping here and there.
Oh.. That guilty feeling of choosing work over pumping.
Can you relate..?
Then, it happened.
My milk supply started to plummet.
And I got panicked.
No matter what, the desire to achieve my breastfeeding goal was so strong.
So, I started to create a detailed plan to bring back my milk supply.
Fast forward, it worked.
I was able to keep providing enough milk for my baby until she’s 23 months.
Now, what about you?
Are you struggling to keep your milk supply up?
Or, you are not there yet, but constantly worrying if you could provide enough pumped milk for your baby?
If yes, then this post is for you.
Because I decided to share how I managed to build back my milk production.
Ready to learn more.. ?
Note: most of these tips are geared towards mom who combine direct nursing (i.e. latch on) and pumping. So, some of them won’t be applicable for exclusive pumping mamas.
For the sake of simplicity, I would always use ‘work‘ to refer to times when you are away from your baby. You may not be actually working, but maybe studying full time. It’s okay, as long as you are separated your baby regularly for long hours almost every day (i.e. full time),that counts as ‘work‘.
In a hurry?
Quickly scroll to the end of the post to find the infographics summarizing all these tips!
Okay, let’s discuss each of the tips in details…
10 Tips to Maintain Milk Supply After Returning to Work
Tips #1: Always choose to latch on whenever you are together with your baby
We all know, having correctly-latched baby is the most effective way of milk removal from the breast. So, whenever you are with baby, always nurse.
Sometimes, when you feel busy or want to have time for yourself, it is very tempting to just grab a bottle of expressed milk, heat it up and let someone else feed the baby.
I’m not saying you should not do this at all, occasionally it would be okay, but don’t rely too much on the thinking of “well, I still have some frozen milk, let’s just use that.”
You never know what would happen in the future, whether your milk supply will be sustainable enough to accomplish your breastfeeding goal.
So if you want to do your best to maintain your milk supply, choose to nurse instead of feeding with expressed milk. Your baby will thank you later.
Tips #2: Nurse your baby before you leave for work.
Make it a habit that one of the last thing to do before leaving is to nurse the baby.
That way, your breast will be empty and thus producing milk in a faster speed (Hint: remember the golden rule of milk production).
From my experience, if I didn’t have time to properly nurse my baby prior to work, I would get less pumped milk at work.
Tips #3: Nurse your baby right after you come back from work.
Again, nursing your baby should be one of the very first thing you should do right after work. Yes, you can definitely clean up yourself first, but don’t drag too long.
Even though you have pumped several times at work, remember than pumping is not as efficient as baby in removing milk. So by nursing baby right after work, you are emptying your breast completely and maintaining your milk production.
That way, your baby’s tummy is rather empty and ready for nursing with you once you arrive.
Tips #4: Maintain a regular pumping schedule at work
Make pumping as a commitment-just like how you treat your work- and do it in a regular schedule.
It is best to be able to pump in similar timing when you usually nurse your baby. But if you can’t, just stick to a schedule and pump.
Set a timer, and go whenever it’s time to pump.
I know sometimes work can not be avoided, but don’t be too slack. Let me tell you, a chaotic pumping schedule is a sure-way to diminish your milk supply real fast. You don’t believe it? I learnt it the hard way, trust me!
The general guideline to maintain milk supply is to empty breast regularly every 3-4 hours. Though I know a lot of moms deviate from this and only pumping less than that. That’s fine, as long as you know you are meeting your baby’s demand.
But bear in mind that if you pump longer than 4-hour interval, you may see a decrease in your milk supply, sooner or later. This is different for each mom, and mostly depend on how much milk your breast can store.
Tips #5: Do additional pumping sessions at home every weekday
As you know, it is normal to be able to express milk only half or even third of what baby takes in a single feeding. So, you need to maintain slightly over supply to meet your baby’s demand.
This can be done by adding extra pumping sessions in addition to your regular nursing schedule at home.
Some mothers can do away by pumping once early in the morning, when milk supply is the most abundant. Some others, including me, need to have another extra session (that makes it two extra pumping a day) at night. You can do it before or after your baby sleeps.
Though the amount of milk yielded from those sessions may not be significant (compared to what you get at work), adding all together, it will accumulate for some extra bottles. And of course, good for your milk supply.
RELATED: 10 Pumping Essentials for Working Mom
Tips #6: Do additional pumping sessions every weekend
The purpose of this is similar with tips #5.
Why I make it a separate point? Because it is even harder to commit to pump on weekend.
After all, you’ve been pumping every day, and now weekend too?!?
Please.. give me a break!
Yeah… it is easy to wanting to have some break. But think about it again..
At least, do two extra sessions in the morning and night, but if you can, sneak it one more during baby’s nap time.
I noticed that if I didn’t pump enough during the weekend, my supply will dip slightly on Monday, which I hate so much.
So I make it a commitment to pump at least 3 times per day on weekend (later on I reduced it to twice once my baby is more than 20 months old and need less milk).
PS: Just to tell you, I know some moms pumping up to 8 times per day on weekend (in addition to the direct latch on).
RELATED: How to increase your milk supply with power pumping | The ultimate guide
Tips #7: Let the baby nurse at night
Oops.. I hope you’re not going to hate me because of this.
I know I know… you have been hoping so much that your baby will sleep through the night and you get the uninterrupted sleep that you’ve been dreaming about.
But do you know that by letting your baby nurse at night, your breast keeps getting its much needed stimulation to produce milk?
I’m not saying you have to nurse your baby every single hour. Even one feeding at night (say 4-5 hour from his last feed) is good for your milk supply.
Compare, if your baby sleeps through the night, say, for at least 8 hours. That means your breast does not get stimulation to make milk for 8 hours.
Soon, your breast will assume that it will only need to produce milk every 8 hours (which ultimately will affect its milk production during the day).
Alternatively, if you still want your baby sleeps through the night (or he already does), and you don’t want to wake him up, then you can substitute the nursing with one pumping session at wee hours.
So, which one do you choose? Nursing at night or pumping at wee hours?
Tips #8: Watch your diet (especially fluid intake)
As a mom, I understand how busy it is, juggling between taking care of the family and work. To the extend that you may forget to take care of yourself, even as simple as drinking a glass of water.
Improper meal and inadequate liquid may affect your milk supply.
After all, if you are not nourishing yourself, how could you nourish your baby with your milk?
So, make it a commitment to watch your diet and your fluid intake. Normal adult needs at least 8 glasses of water a day. With breastfeeding, certainly you need more. But not too excessive, ok!
You can even use some galactogogue in your diet, such as having oatmeal for breakfast. If you want to dive into the world of galactogogues, I strongly recommend you to check these 10 milk booster food. Additionally, check out these herbs to increase your milk supply (I’ve compiled more than 10!)
Tips #9: Avoid stress
Seriously.. This is TRUE.
Stress affects your mind and affect your hormone.
To be honest, stress at work is one of the major cause of my milk supply drop.
It may hinder the secretion of oxytocin. As a result, it is difficult to get let down reflex.
Well, you may not be able to avoid occasional stress. But if you experience constant stress, please do something about it.
Talk to your husband, your friend, or even a professional who can help you with this. Find a solution which works.
SEE ALSO: 30+ Pumping Hacks for Working Moms
Tips #10: Power pumping boot camp to rescue the depleted supply
If after you did all of this, your milk supply is still dwindling down, perhaps it’s time to try power pumping. For fast result, do a power pumping boot camp during a weekend. If you are not sure how to do it, click here to read the complete guide to power pumping.
This is a tips that I got from my dearest friend and is very valuable. Whenever you are worried about your milk supply, whenever you are thinking that your supply won’t suffice your baby’s need, pray to God.
Ask Him, to make your milk supply sufficient for your baby. After all, He’s the Best Provider.
I hope these tips will help you to maintain your milk supply even when you are away from your baby, especially after returning to work.
If you are a visual person, I’ve summarized all of the tips in the infographics below.
PS: Don’t forget to pin this!
Jacqueline Muttavangkul says
This was honestly the best article I’ve read on the topic. Thank you so much for your input. I’m expecting my 6th child, but this time will be returning to full time work at 6 weeks post-partum. This was one of my greatest concerns, as I have been blessed to exclusively nurse (no bottle or formula) my now 23 month old. I’m praying that with your advice, I will be able to maintain my milk supply for my baby due in 4 weeks. THANK YOU and God bless! ?
I’m glad the article is useful for you. All the best for your breastfeeding journey and feel free to share this article with all your expecting-mom friends.
Hi Rina. I am a guy; now you are probably wondering why I am reading a post about pumping breast milk.There is a reason for that.
My sister works hard, too hard in my opinion. She has a toddler of 6 months and he needs milk, but she is starting to dry-up. I think that she is overstressed from work and in a few day when I see her(we live in different towns) I am going to mention to her your website, and especially this page.
I think she can learn a lot. It is possible to be hard working at your job and have good milk supply for your baby. But it requires a lot of work. Thank you for the info, and I especially like the infographic at the end:)
It’s so nice of you to support your sister in her breastfeeding journey.
Please continue to give her your support.., breastfeeding moms are most vulnerable.