Returning to Work Preparation
When Should I Start Expressing Milk to Store For My Return to Work?Many mothers start 3 – 4 weeks before they’re due to go back to work. This will allow time to get into the routine of pumping and allow time for storage of milk. Any frozen milk a mother has collected before returning to work will be available for that first day back. After that, the milk you pump each day will be available for your baby for the next day at daycare. Any other milk a mother has collected ahead of her return to work will be available “just in case.” Try not to depend on your extra stored milk too often. The best way to keep up your supply is to pump each work day what your baby will need the next day you work.
What Time Should I Pump In Order to Collect Milk for Returning to Work?
Pumping and storing milk will be easiest if you choose a time convenient for you.
Several weeks before returning to work, add in an extra pumping or two a day and plan to store that milk. The extra emptying of your breasts will signal your body to gradually make more milk. Many mothers chose time between a morning feed because they feel they have “extra” milk from overnight and pumping between morning feeds seems to cause the least disruption from the baby’s point of view. Others might prefer adding a pumping at night because they have their partner around to watch the baby while they pump. If your baby nurses from one side only, then you can pump the other breast after the feeding or even while your breastfeeding. Whenever you add that extra pumping time for storage, be reassured that you are placing an order for your body to increase milk production.
How Much Milk Will I Get At a Pumping Session?
The amount you get at a pumping session is variable. There is no “set” amount you should get with pumping.
When you first add an extra pumping session into the day you may not get much. Over several days your body will respond and gradually increase milk production at that pumping time. Different breasts have different breast milk storage capacity: some mom’s will get ½ oz between feedings and others might get 3 oz after a morning feeding. There is no correct amount. Whatever you get just plan to store and combine for that first day of work.
How Much Do I Need to Pump So I Can Relax About Having Enough for Each Work Day?
Having enough breast milk for your first day of work plus a little extra stored can help you relax. The amount needed will depend on how long you will be away from your baby. The number of feedings you miss and your commute time.
On average, babies take about 24 to 30 oz in a 24 hour period. A feeding size depends on the baby’s age. Most babies are drinking 1-2 oz a feeding when their mother’s milk increases around day 2-4 of life. Most babies 1-3 weeks of age are drinking 2-3 oz at a feeding. Most babies at 3 months are drinking 3 to 5 ounces in a bottle. While breastfeeding, the amount per feeding depends on your individual breast milk storage capacity and the frequency of your baby’s feeding.
If Pumping Hurts, What Can I Do?
Two factors important to pumping comfort:
- Suction: Adjust the suction dial to the highest level that is comfortable (not just tolerable) when pumping. Turn the suction dial down if it hurts. Pumping with a higher suction setting does not help a mother pump more milk.
- Size of the nipple tunnel: Check to be sure there is plenty of space around the nipple in the tunnel the entire time you pump. If your nipple is rubbing against the side of the nipple tunnel you may have pain while you pump and pump less milk. Call us to be fitted for pump shields if you have discomfort pumping.
Before returning to work, talk to your employer, explore options in your schedule and get an idea of when you might be able to pump. Is your day care close enough to feed your baby at lunch? Can your baby be brought to you at a break time? How long will your day be? Commute time? Remember that everyone’s situation is different. There is no set way to schedule, pump or feed. Use the ideas below to be creative with a plan that will work best for you and your family. And remember as you start working, the plan can change and evolve as you and your baby figure things out together.