5 Tips to Maintain Your Milk Supply as you Return to Work
The return to work and separation from your baby can bring forth a whole range of emotions, and it’s often inevitable that the anxiety around returning to work and learning a new schedule can bring a dip in milk supply.
This is to be expected and normal, and making sure you have a solid plan that works for you and your family can help ease your transition.
Meet Jaren Soloff. Jaren is a San Diego based Registered Dietitian, Certified Lactation Educator and Nutrition Therapist. She brings an integrative approach to her practice, implementing complementary healing methods alongside evidenced-based practices for supporting your health, from preconception and through pregnancy, postpartum and beyond.
She is also the Founder of Full CRCL, which embodies the natural shifts that women experience during their life and reproductive cycle, and how they can return to their intuition + innate strengths. Through her practice, Jaren works to empower women to reach their most authentic health, so they have the space to nurture, create, and transform our world.
See below for her 5 tips on maintaining your milk supply upon returning to work after maternity leave!
5 Tips for Maintaining Milk Supply
1. Use a high quality breast pump
Your insurance is required to provide a breast pump for you. Depending on the first few weeks of you breastfeeding journey, you may have been able to rent a hospital grade pump to establish your milk supply. These hospital pumps are the gold standard, if have the opportunity to continue renting the hospital grade pump- do this as long as possible before switching to a consumer grade pump.
Ensure you have the right flanges for your breast pump, an IBCLC can measure your breast to ensure you have the right size. Most pumps only come with one standard size flange (24mm) and this too often does not fit the mother’s breast. Too small or large flanges can cause pain and swelling during pumping and decrease the likelihood that you will continue to express milk for your baby. (Note check out links below from The Returnity Project on their recommended breast pumps + supplies).
2. Start a pumping stash
It’s not recommended to start pumping before your child is 6 weeks old as you are still establishing your milk supply and the breast tissue is more sensitive. To start creating a stash for your return to work, begin by pumping after each nursing session for 10-15 minutes- don’t worry about not having enough milk for the next feed, pumping signals to your body the need to increase milk production which will help protect your supply as it takes an inevitable dip the first few days of work.
3. Get a lay of the land
Remember how much of an asset you are to your company. Start the discussion with your supervisor before you return to know:
-What spaces are available for you to express milk
-How much time you need to express breastmilk (aim for every 2-3 hours)
-How to indicate to your team that you are pumping (marking it on your schedule etc)
-Discuss where you can store your expressed milk and clean pump parts
4. Teach your baby to take the bottle
There is no magic window for introducing the bottle other than after breastfeeding is well established and going smoothly. You can start offering the bottle a week or two before you head back to work. It’s best to have someone other than mom offer the bottle and experiment with different nipples if necessary. Rest assured that if your little one is having difficulty taking the bottle (and prefers you instead!) that they won’t starve while your away, some babies will do what’s termed “reverse cycling” and changing their feeding patterns to include more feedings at night when mom is home and more sleeping during the day.
5. Determine how much milk you need to leave
This will depend on when you are turning to work; if returning around 3-6 months after birth, your little one will need around 24-26oz breastmilk/day. Starting the discussion with your provider regarding feeding instructions to ensure your infant is not overfed, ensure they are familiar with paced bottle feeding and that you are providing a slow flow nipple.
Need more tips for returning back to work and keeping your milk supply up? Check out tips from Registered Dietitian and Lactation Educator @empoweredrd or book a consult at www.empoweredrd.com.
We also included some of our favorite breastfeeding/pumping supplies below!
Product Must Haves
Breast Pump Carry Bag
These bags can do it all - designed to hold your pump and all it's parts, while also serving as your purse, laptop sleeve and diaper bag - talk about an all-in-one!
Lizzie Breast Pump Bag w/Laptop Sleeve
Abby Breast Pump Bag w/Laptop Sleeve
Marie Breast Pump Bag w/Laptop Sleeve
Claire Breast Pump Bag w/Laptop Sleeve
The New Yorker Breast Pump Bag w/Laptop Sleeve
Be Supplied Breast Pump Tote
Be Nurtured Breast Pump Backpack & Diaper Bag
Tray Chic Dry and Store Pump Bag
Premium Breast Pump Bag w/Laptop Sleeve
Premium Breast Pump Backpack w/Laptop Sleeve
Breast Pump Backpack
Breast Milk Cooler
Keep your milk cold or frozen. Some of these are designed to pair with other products on this list!
Cold Gold Breast Milk Cooler Bag w/Ice Pack
Cooler Bag w/Freezable Cooler Walls
Breast Milk Cooler Bag w/Bottles and Ice Pack
Twist Cooler Bag
Safely store your clean and dirty pump parts in these handy wet/dry bags, designed to pair with the pump bags recommended above.
Pumparoo Wet/Dry Bag for Pump Parts
Waterproof Wet/Dry Bag for Pump Parts
The New Yorker Wet/Dry Bag for Pump Parts
Hands Free Pump Bras and Tanks
These lifesavers are multi-functional and can be worn as normal bras, but used as pumping and nursing bras too.
Hands Free Pumping and Nursing Bra
Hands Free Clip and Pump Nursing Bra
Hands Free Pump and Nurse Bra
Hands Free Pump and Nurse Tank
If you don't have a big sweatshirt or wrap to cover you while pumping, you may want to invest in a pumping/nursing cover. We love products that do double duty, and many of these also serve as scarves, car seat covers and more.