5 ways to keep up your milk supply when returning to work

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Many Moms express concern about maintaining their milk supply when they return to work.  They are worried about not having time to express milk, being judged by co-workers, or feeling pressure to perform.  Here are a few ways to take the pressure off and increase your confidence that you can return to work and still keep your breastfeeding goals intact.

1 – Present a plan to your employer

Many managers respond favorably when they are informed before any changes take place. Scheduling a quick meeting before you take maternity leave may help with communication and confidence on both ends. You can communicate how long you plan to be on leave, your decision to breastfeed, time/space you’ll need to express your milk, and your enthusiasm to contribute to the department when you return! You can also share the information that breastfeeding mothers experience fewer sick days (1).  Employers that fall under the Fair Labor Standards Act are required to provide reasonable time and space for milk expression. You’ll also want to be aware of your state laws regarding breastfeeding and the workplace.

2 – Find a coworker

It is great to have a work buddy whose got your back…Or I guess your front in this case?! Connect with someone before maternity leave and talk to them about any pumping time you’ll need coverage for. Make sure they know you appreciate it by returning the favor when they need help!

3 – Use hands-on pumping

Mom pumping both breasts

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Make sure you are using a technique called hands-on pumping. I go into detail about this in my Pumping and Storing Breastmilk video class. It is a way to maximize your time using the pump. This is essential when you are at work and short on time.  It encourages more efficient milk removal and uses both compression and suction, as opposed to just suction when using the pump alone.

4 – Set an alarm for reminders to pump

Computer and smartphone with reminder to pump

When you get back to the hustle and bustle of the workplace, you get busy and you can forget to pump!  Some Moms think they can get away with pumping fewer times, just doing longer sessions. There is no substitute for frequent stimulation. It’s a good idea to do a hands-on pumping session every three hours when you’re at work.  Setting an alarm on your phone or computer helps you remember and not skip sessions!

5 – Frequency days when reunited with baby

Mom sitting on bed holding baby

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When you’re reunited with baby, allow and encourage frequent breastfeeding sessions. These ‘frequency days’ will make up for any decreased stimulation by being separated from baby. Allowing cluster feeds at night and safe co-sleeping can help with ensuring adequate stimulation as well.

Baby with blanket

I hope this helps!  My video classes are available to view right now here.  They offer immediate assistance and support wherever you are.  A great place to get started is my free download ‘Top Ten Tips for Breastfeeding Success‘.  Photography in this post by Janae Kristen Photography.

Thanks for coming by,

Lindsey Shipley, RN, IBCLC

Lindsey Shipley - Lactation Consultant

  1. Bartick, M.C., Stuebe, A.M., Schwarz, E.B., Luongo, C, Reinhold A.G., & Foster, E.M. (2013). Cost analysis of maternal disease associated with suboptimal breastfeeding. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 122(1), 111-119. doi: 10.1097/AOG.0b013e318297a047