It is not uncommon for your milk production to dip when you return to work after being home on maternity leave with your baby. If this is your first time, or whether you have had struggles in the past, the good news is that there are steps you can take to try and prevent a low milk supply or a sudden drop in your overall breast milk production.
We are going to go over our top tips for new moms to help avoid a supply dip when returning to work. There will always be individual factors that might come up, but overall these tips are a great place to start in your breastfeeding journey after maternity leave is over and you and your baby begin the next phase of your lives!
Tips to Avoid Supply Dip When Returning to Work
It’s important to have a good plan in place in the early days of returning to work to try and keep your breast milk production steadily moving forward. Whether you are going back full time or are going to try out a hybrid schedule, you will likely need a few systems in place to keep up a good supply of milk for your baby.
Set a Schedule
Your baby’s needs will change as they get older, but depending on when you are going back to work after they are born, it is a good idea to try and keep your daily routine as close as possible after you return to work.
Once you are at work, you will want to develop a pumping schedule. It’s helfpful to keep your pumping schedule at work as close to your normal nursing schedule at home. Talk with your employer about this before going back to the office so that you can make sure you have a private place to complete your pumping session. The general time needed for each session is around 15-20 minutes, but if yours is different than that, just let your employer know kind of where you are at.
Practice Using Your Pump Before Returning to Work
It’s always a good idea to learn about things before you simply try to use them. It will cause less headache and stress if you are familiar with your pump parts and the overall process before you start your pumping sessions at work.
The best thing you can do to familiarize yourself with the pump is to start using it before you go back to work. As an added bonus, you may also find it helps relieve some stress and encourages other family members to help with feeding the baby. While going back to work is definitely a sudden change in your schedule, it doesn’t have to completely rock you and your baby’s lives if you are able to do a little bit of prep ahead of time.
Have the Right Breast Pump
Finding the right breast pump is a great way to set yourself and your baby up for success when you return to work. There is a wide range of styles, with the two most basic differences being a manual pump and an electric pump. If you are going to be at work and away from your baby for long periods of time, it is highly recommended that you find a double electric breast pump. Some styles are even covered by your insurance company.
If during your pump session, you feel like you are not able to fully empty your breast, you can also massage the breast with your hand to make sure you are getting enough milk out of the breast. If you aren’t able to completely empty, it can affect your milk supply, as this is a supply-and-demand process. If your body doesn’t feel like you need more, then it won’t produce more.
Know your pump and be aware if any issues are causing your pump to not fully empty the breasts. Make sure that the flanges are fitting properly and that the suction is working well. If it is not fully emptying the milk, it can also create a dip in your supply.
Take Care of Yourself
The best way for you to keep your milk supply up and your new routine moving smoothly is to take care of yourself throughout the process. Don’t overcomplicate it; stick with the simple things like a well-balanced diet, working to get enough water, and, although it can be difficult, trying to get enough sleep as well to sustain your new schedule.
It’s helpful to delegate tasks where possible. While women are often looked upon as superheroes, it isn’t healthy for anyone to try and do it all on their own!
Have Open Communication with Your Baby’s Caretakers
As your baby gets older, your nursing/pumping schedule is going to change. Keeping open communication with your daycare provider or other caregivers is a key tool in understanding why they might need less milk or when your baby will be expecting their next feeding.
If they just completed a bottle feeding before you arrived for pick-up or tried some solid foods at daycare, they are probably not going to be ready to nurse at their regular time. Work together to find ways to keep track so that you and your baby are on the same page.
Know Your Maternity Rights
It’s important for you to understand your legal rights when you come back from maternity leave. The Affordable Care Act is a federal law that requires your employer to give you a private space and time to nurse, especially in the early weeks of returning to work. The government might not get everything right, but this is definitely one of the good things in keeping moms and babies taken care of in the workplace.
Try to Keep a Positive Mindset
Your breastfeeding journey with your baby is going to challenge you in a lot of different ways. It can be a lot of hard work, especially when you are away from your baby for longer periods of time after returning to work.
You will have worries about your breast milk supply, and your baby’s intake, along with other issues that arise along the way. If you are looking for expert advice, we recommend reaching out to an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as they can make sure you are getting the best information out there. This is also a great resource if you have tried some of the above tips and still feel that your supply is dipping. They can help you create an individualized plan for your breastfeeding journey after returning to work.
If you are looking for some more resources on pumping and new routines, please check out some of our other articles listed below.
Here at The Dairy Fairy, we are always looking to bring you the best and most helpful information as you and your baby work through your breastfeeding journey together!