Lots of breastfeeding moms work outside the home. Some of these moms seem to easily make plenty of milk. But other moms struggle with finding a way to pump enough.
Once you return to work, you should ideally pump as often as your baby would be nursing. In the real world, this is rarely possible. So pumping as often as you can and maximizing that pumping time can be the keys to finding success.
When planning for back-to-work, get the best pump you can afford. Then learn how to use it. Every woman reacts differently to a pump. Double pumping will cut down on your pumping time, but some moms do better with a hand pump or manual expression. The highest settings aren’t necessarily the best – play around with the settings until you find the ones that work the best for your body.
If you’ve already been back to work for a while and your pumping output has decreased over time, don’t feel that you’re alone. If this happens, start by checking all of your pump parts. Pumps wear out. Make sure yours is still in working order. Check with the manufacturer on how to do this if you’re not sure. Check valves, tubing and suction settings. Consider trying another type of pump just to see if it works better for you – for example, if you’ve been using a high-end double electric pump, try an hand pump instead and express each breast separately.
Try not to multitask or bottle-watch. If you’re answering emails, shuffling paperwork, or finishing reports, you may be too distracted or stressed to experience effective let-downs. Focus instead on thoughts of your baby. Cover the bottles if you need to so that you’re not sitting rigidly wishing them to fill faster or with more milk (the emotional stress of those thoughts is enough to stifle your let-down).
Instead, make sure your environment is set for relaxation. Pump somewhere that’s comfortable and private (and not a bathroom). Lock the door so you’re free of interruptions. Make sure you’re warm enough. Do relaxation exercises or slow breathing. Listen to a recording of your baby cooing (or crying) or watch a video of your baby on your smartphone. Call the sitter and ask about your baby.
Try hands-on-pumping to maximize each pumping session. Massage your breasts before you turn the pump on. Once the milk flow slows, turn the pump off and massage again, then resume pumping. Doing this a few times each pumping session may improve the amount you can pump.
Nurse more when you’re together, or add pumping sessions at home. Frequent short pumping sessions are better than fewer long sessions. Even a weekend or evening of extra stimulation can help you pump more in the first day or so back to work. Just having those extra ounces stored may give you peace of mind.
Feed your baby right before you leave him at the caregiver, and plan to feed as soon as you return (let your childcare provider know so that baby isn’t fed minutes before you arrive!). This will limit the overall amount of milk you need to pump. In addition, be sure your baby’s caretaker knows what’s normal for a breastfed baby (about 2-4 ounces, 8-12 times per day, only a few of which will need to be given at daycare). Send lots of small bottles so less of your precious pumped milk goes to waste if baby doesn’t finish a bottle and so that your care provider doesn’t force baby to finish a bottle when he’s had enough already.
Working and breastfeeding aren’t always easy. It takes a lot of energy to keep it up. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself – eating enough, drinking to thirst and getting daily exercise and at least a few hours of sleep each night. These all have the potential to impact milk production! Keep in mind your basic needs are important, too. And finally, give yourself credit for the incredible job you’re doing providing breastmilk for your baby. Every drop is a gift!