Depending on when you plan to return to work can make a difference in your milk supply as well as the steps you can take to help increase it. Breastfeeding is a true journey and will be different for each mom, baby, and schedule as well as any of your long-term breastfeeding goals.
Is it normal for your milk supply to dip when you return to work?
Having your milk supply dip when you return to work is fairly common as your body adjusts to a new schedule as well as time away from the baby. You will want to keep in mind that it can take 6-12 weeks for your body to regulate its milk supply so keep an open mind and try not to worry too much about different fluctuations.
You will also want to take the time to sit down with your caregiver regarding your baby’s feeding schedule. If your baby is being overfed while at the sitter then it will not be ready to nurse when you get home which can cause a dip in your milk supply. Making sure that you are both on the same page when it comes to your baby’s feeding schedule will be beneficial to everyone.
Signs Your Milk Supply is Dipping
In the early days, your body is hormonally driven to produce milk and is waiting on the supply-and-demand of your baby to begin to regulate how much supply to produce consistently. If when you return to work you are not emptying the milk as frequently as you had been at home it will start a chain reaction of producing less milk, as your system believes that it doesn’t need to produce as much as it was before.
A few signs you might begin to notice during this time are:
- Baby isn’t producing enough wet and dirty diapers during the day
- Lack of weight gain for baby
- Not able to pump as frequently/not getting as much milk as before when pumping
- Baby isn’t latching correctly causing your breast to not completely empty
How Do I Continue Breastfeeding When Going Back to Work?
With the natural transition of your milk supply regulating to meet your baby’s needs, it’s important to have a plan of how you will continue breastfeeding when you go back to work after your maternity leave, especially if you are needing to go back full-time starting the very first day back. The best way to breastfeed is on-demand, and obviously, if you and the baby aren’t together that can make things a bit more complicated.
Thankfully having a plan in place as well as the proper tools available can help you and your baby continue your breastfeeding journey even when you’re not together all of the time. You can also always reach out to a breastfeeding expert in your area to help break down your specific situation and what the best steps will be.
I’m Finding the Best Pump
There are many different breast pumps available on the market today and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Finding one that fits you well as well as stimulates your milk supply will be one of the keys to continuing breastfeeding successfully when going back to work.
Many women have found a wearable pump to be a great option when going back to work as it keeps their hands free and is a bit more comfortable. This can be super helpful but also important to note that the motors in these pumps aren’t made to keep up with a momma who is exclusively pumping and trying to maintain their supply.
Eat Enough Calories
If you are exclusively breastfeeding your baby you will need a recommended minimum of 500 extra calories a day to keep up your milk supply. Sometimes changing routines can also get us off schedule of eating correctly. Try to practice mindful eating with a well-balanced diet to keep your body working as efficiently and productively as possible.
When you are giving yourself the best nutrition possible you will in turn be giving your baby a healthy milk supply. Be sure and keep a snack and bottle of water with your pumping supplies so that you can have those available each time you’re pumping.
Pump As Often As You Need To
It’s easy to get into the workday and put off pumping or simply forget to pump, but the more consistent you can keep your pumping schedule the more fluid your breast milk supply will be. Breast milk is a supply-and-demand reaction, so if your body is sensing that you don’t need to produce as much it will react that way.
Your employer is required to let you pump when you need to, so be sure and have that conversation upfront so that everyone is on the same page. Find yourself a private place at the office, set up a daily routine just as you would at home, and get that pumping session in whenever you need to.
Use a Appropriate Pumping Bra
The key to a successful pumping journey is a pumping bra with all the bells and whistles. The Dairy Fairy Bras were created with the working mom in mind. They allow you to be hands-free so you can continue working while you pump. The adjustable bands make them comfortable and the thin lace makes them pretty. You won’t regret using a bra made by The Dairy Fairy!
How Much Milk Supply Should I Have Before Returning to Work?
While there isn’t a set number of milliliters or grams as far as data goes, having a milk stash put away before returning to work can be helpful in the transition. Since your body and milk supply are going to go through at least a temporary dip, you will want to have some put away in the freezer for those days when you simply struggle to pump enough milk to sustain the baby, especially if that happens to fall during a growth spurt.
A common number to keep in mind is that most babies need around 1-1.5 ounces of breastmilk for each hour you will be away from them, so for a typical workday, this would be between 8-12 ounces. You can start to build this up about a month before returning to work by storing any extra milk you have in 3-4 ounce increments. You want to keep in mind that the milk is changing with your baby so you don’t want to store it for long periods of time.
One of the most important steps in the breastfeeding journey is to remember that your milk supply and baby’s demand aren’t going to look the same as anyone else. If you are truly struggling with the transition and need further guidance and expertise you can always look into a certified lactation consultant to help guide you in your specific situation. Your healthcare provider can also give you advice as well as help recommend any resources that could help.
Trust your body, get enough sleep, and be aware of hormonal changes, and as long as you are feeling well and your baby is growing and getting stronger you are doing it right!
Have you recently returned to work and are struggling with your milk supply? Have you noticed a sudden drop in milk supply since going back to the office? What are some steps you have taken to make the transition easier for you and your baby? We look forward to hearing from you!