October 06, 2022

Maintaining Your Breastmilk Supply After Returning To Work

Maintaining Your Breastmilk Supply After Returning To Work

Written by Pamela Lim,  https://joyfulparenting.sg

Maintaining Your Breastmilk Supply After Returning To Work

The transition and adjustments back to work and family life can be quite a juggle and it is common for moms to have difficulty sustaining their milk supply after returning to work. With all that juggle and stress, it is quite expected that returning to work often means a declining of milk supply.

Each woman’s situation is unique as she may or may not be exclusively breastfeeding. There are the frequently asked questions like ‘how often should I pump once I return to work’, ‘how much milk will I need each day’ and ‘how should I store milk for future use’?

Start With The Right Breast Pump
There are different types of pumps for different purposes. The amount of milk removed from your breasts is the key in determining how much milk you make so you’ll need a pump that’s up to the job. Choose the right type designed for regular and frequent pumping and that means a pump that is sturdy and double electric. Make sure you get the right size for the flanges too!

Building Up Your Breastmilk Freezer Stash
Pump enough to build a backup stash prior to returning to work. For some peace of mind, you may start by just pumping once a day for a week or two prior to returning to work. Remember, your freezer stash is just for emergency or for a longer separation from your baby.

How Often Should You Pump Once You Return To Work
Returning to work before your baby is six months old requires expressing milk at approximately every three hours when separated.  For example, for an 8-hour work shift you will be separated from your baby for about 10 hours which includes work, lunch break and commuting.  Over the 10-hour period, it is recommended that you express milk three times.   You may also need to consider the morning (pre-work) and evening (post-work) expression sessions.  These are to assure that mother has enough milk to provide for the time separated and also designed to keep supply high and the mother comfortable.  But some mothers may find that they are able to breastfeed their babies before they leave for work and right after when they get home, making it unnecessary to pump before and after work.  This will depend on what works best for the mother and baby.

When your baby is taking well to solids after six months of age, you may have the opportunity to reduce the number of pumping sessions.  Remove the session that is the least productive for you.  By the time you have gotten used to the pumping sessions, each session should empty both breasts in about approximately 15 minutes of pumping time.

How Much Milk Will I Need Each Day
Breastfed infants consume approximately one ounce (30ml) per hour when separated from their mother from age 6 weeks until age 6 months.  If you are separated for 10 hours during the weekdays, it would be recommended that you provide the caregiver with 10 – 12 ounces (300-365ml) of breastmilk for the day, although some babies may need more.  It is important to review appropriate feeding cues with caregivers so breastmilk is not offered at every cry, fuss or frustration.  Remember, this is only one third of the milk the infant will consume each day and the rest of her consumption will be directly from the breast and she will take what she needs when you are back together.  Many infants will reverse cycle feed thereby getting their primary calorie consumption in the evenings and nights.  Mothers should be aware of this and welcome it as a terrific method for maintaining supply.

Packaging And Storing Milk For Future Use
Explore what work best for the mother. Starting each week on Sunday night by removing 10 to 12 ounces (300-365ml) of frozen breastmilk from the freezer and thawing overnight in the refrigerator. Milk can then be transported in a cooler bag for the care provider in small bottles (2.5 ounces) for example (74ml) for consumption throughout the day on Monday.  The mother will then express milk on Monday and will be stored in the refrigerator overnight and provided for baby on Tuesday.  Tuesday’s expressed milk will again be stored overnight in the refrigerator and provided on Wednesday, etc. On Friday, milk is packaged in 1 and 2 ounce bags (30-60ml) and frozen, clearly labelled with the date.  Going in this pattern, the baby will only receive frozen breastmilk once each week and the freezer supply will be efficiently rotated.  There may be a tendency for lesser milk to be expressed as the stressful week progresses.  Freezing in small packages will allow mom to pull one or two ounces from her freezer on Thursday or Friday if needed without having to defrost and potentially waste 5 ounces (148ml) of frozen breastmilk.

Nurse Frequently When You Are With Your Baby
Even the best breast pump may not elicit the same hormonal response as your baby. So therefore when you are at home, keep those milk-making hormones active by nursing frequently.

Snuggle Up With Baby And Recharge Your System
Spend time at home to snuggle up with your baby and recharge your system whenever you find your supply declining. It may be a stretch of time spent cuddling in bed with your baby and ideally skin-to-skin and nursing frequently works miracles. The extended period of close contact boosts your milk-making hormones and encourages frequent feeding. This also helps to provide you with the much needed rest.

Power Pumping
Another strategy for a declining supply after returning to work is power pumping, also known as cluster pumping. This is pumping in a series of ten minute sessions, ten minutes of pumping and ten minutes off in a total of an hour session, once each day. This theory is to stimulate a baby’s behaviour of a growth spurt when they feed more frequently in a cluster-like manner. The more frequent and effective feeding at the breast or pumping may increase milk supply over time.

Using Hand Massage When Pumping
Massaging your breasts when pumping can help you to produce up to 50% more milk!

Solid Food After Six Months Can Change Things
Even if your baby has started eating solid foods, the milk feedings including breastmilk will still provide the majority of their nutrition. Every baby is different, and it's normal for babies to consume different amounts from each feeding. As your baby gradually eats a significant amount of solid foods they may nurse lesser or take lesser amount of milk in volume.

Get Breastfeeding Support And Advise For Additional Help

If you are struggling with breastfeeding and working, do not hesitate to seek help from a hospital lactation consultant or call a breastfeeding helpline for advice: Joyful Parenting @ 6488 0286