Updated: Dec 14, 2018
I'll never forget returning to work after being on maternity leave for 4 months and my milk supply took a dive so low that I struggled to meet my daughters demand (which was only about 4 oz every 3 hours). Not to mention, I had a childcare provider that wasn't doing paced feeds. I had increased my water intake and pumped for long periods only to produce about 1 oz from each breast, but I still struggled. I recalled knocking over a freshly pumped 2 oz bottle of liquid gold and bawling my eyes out because I had worked so hard for her milk. It wasn't until I figured out what I was doing wrong that it became so much easier.
The first thing I had to change was the amount of times I pumped a day. Even though I exclusively nursed when I was at home, I had to include a night pumping session in my routine. Prolactin is a hormone that helps build and maintain your milk supply. Prolactin levels are higher at night. Nursing at night helps establish a strong milk supply but pumping after nursing at night sends a strong signal to the body to produce way more. I also didn't realize how much time passed between the morning feed and actually arriving to work so I added a car pumping session. I do also realize that this may not be possible for many so adding an extra feed before leaving the house might benefit greatly.
I decreased the amount of time between pumping sessions from 3-4 hours to 2 hours and pumped 10 minutes longer. This tells the body to increase production. I did this by getting the Medela Freestyle to be able to pump at my desk with a nursing cover. This allowed me to continue to get work done. I also massaged my breasts intermittently on the sides while pumping to stimulate more flow. I love the fact that this pump allows you to be hands free.
You probably have figured out by now that making milk is hard work! The body is working overtime and burning calories. I realized I might not have been consuming enough calories to adequately produce. I tend to eat healthy but I added more nuts, healthy fats like avocado, and sprinkled chia and ground flax seeds on just about everything. I made the perfect lactation cookie that I will share in a later post. These were so good that the kids tried to eat all of them. I ate more dark green leafy veggies and I made sure I ate steel cut oats with granola when I got to work with my usual cup of Mother's Milk tea. I'm not sure if it was the relaxing affect tea always seems to have on me or the warmth that actually stimulated another let down when pumping, but either way I noticed a difference.
On the weekends I power pumped and offered the breast more frequently. Power pumping triggers a series of let downs and also signals the body to make more milk by mimicing cluster feeding (when baby hits a growth spurt is hungrier and nurses more frequently). Needless to say.........MY SUPPLY increased!! I was able to pump without supplementing for an entire year and went on to nurse for 26 months. It might be a bit rocky at first but you can certainly return to work and pump for your baby. I hope I was able to shine a light on some tips that worked for me. Not all will work for you but its certainly worth a try! You've got this!
Tips for the Pumping & Working Mom
1. Pump more frequently and longer
2. Get more rest
3. Increase good calories
4. Power pump
5. Put baby to breast more
6. Bake some yummy lactation cookies
7. Massage while pumping
8. Check pump flanges
9. Pump at night
10. Increase water intake