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Breastfeeding, pumping and working mothers: how do I get my milk supply back now that I've gone back to work? On Babble.com's Parental Advisory.

I have a beautifully healthy six-month-old baby girl. She is in the ninety-fifth percentile for height and the ninety-first percentile for weight. Until I went back to work, she was exclusively fed breast milk. However, I am now working more than full time and barely have time to pump once while I am at work. I really enjoy breastfeeding. Especially now that I am gone all day, I miss the feeding and bonding time nursing provides. However, my milk supply has absolutely plummeted and now so has the freezer supply of breast milk I stored. Is it possible for me to re-establish an adequate milk supply by nursing in the evenings and on weekends, or should I be worried that my baby won’t be getting enough milk and switch to formula? I should probably also mention that we have started solids and she is really enjoying the cereal and pureed apples and pears. I’m not really ready to give up breastfeeding entirely, but maybe it’s too late? Any advice on how to get my milk back? – Desperately seeking my milkDear Desperate,The case of the missing milk is a common one for working moms. And it’s no mystery, really. Breastfeeding is a supply/demand dynamic. When you reduce the demand (nursing, pumping) your supply will indeed plummet.

By not breastfeeding or pumping during the day, you’ve sent your breasts the message that milk production is no longer needed. If you want to increase your supply, you’ll need to send them a different one. Ideally, you would be pumping at work for every feeding your baby takes at home. It doesn’t sound like this is easy for you, but it may be worth exploring ways you could increase your pump time on the job. Have you tried a hands-free rig so you can type while you pump? If you have privacy, this can give you back your productivity (both professionally and lactationally). You can also try pumping for shorter periods, more often; when the goal is increasing supply, frequent pumping is more important than lengthy sessions.

If there’s just no way to add pumping into your workday, you can still increase your supply. Some working mothers use co-sleeping as a way to keep their supply up when pumping during the day is not feasible. This can be great for your milk, but not everyone is up for the nighttime nursing and the shared arrangements. If you’re not, nursing freely when you’re together (and awake) can help. If your baby is willing, it might be worth upping her feedings at the breast for a while to see if that has any effect on your milk production. You can try, too, to feed her twice on each side during feedings to trick your breasts into producing more milk per feeding. There are also herbs and medications called galactogogues that can help increase supply. A lactation consultant can help you with these as well as other supply-increasing ideas.

At this point, there’s no real reason to worry about your baby getting enough to eat. If you determine from her behavior or her weight that she needs more food, you can start to supplement. But you don’t need to stop breastfeeding just because she’s taking some formula. You may be able to keep nursing at night and on weekends, especially if you take steps to increase your supply in the meantime. You may even be able to continue indefinitely. If you do have to stop, don’t be too hard on yourself. You need to take the reality of your circumstances into account as well as the ideal way you’d like to do things. You’ve both had a healthy dose of breastfeeding, and though you may miss it, you’ll have many more bonding opportunities ahead.

Have a question? Email parentaladvisory@babble.com

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