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Making It Work

Keeping Up with the Demand
when baby is drinking more at daycare

From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 25, No. 3, 2008, pp. 46-47

"Making It Work" is a regular feature of the magazine NEW BEGINNINGS, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of NEW BEGINNINGS to help mothers who wish to combine breastfeeding and working. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's lifestyle. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.

Mother's Situation

The biggest problem I'm having since I went back to work two months ago is keeping up with the supply of milk my daughter consumes while I'm gone. I pump often and leave 24 ounces with her every day, and I'm surprised at how much she's drinking. She doesn't seem to drink as much when she's home with me on the weekends. What are some things I can try to keep up? I really want to avoid giving her formula.

Mother's Response

When I returned to work part-time, I felt pressure to keep up with my three-month-old son's need for milk. I wanted to have a huge freezer stash, but I was lucky just to keep up with him. He would have growth spurts and that pushed me to pump more at work. One thing I did was pump on some of my days off to have a little extra milk available for him when I worked. I found pumping in the early mornings yielded more milk.

I worked the midnight shift on weekends, and also sometimes worked during the day. On the days that I'd work the night shift, I nursed him to sleep around 9 or 10 pm, and then I'd pump. While I got ready for work, he'd wake up so I nursed him until I had to leave. That way my husband did not need to give much of my milk throughout the night. When I worked during the day, the sitter brought my son to me on my lunch so I wouldn't have to pump as often. If I had to work a little longer than normal, my husband or the sitter gave my son small amounts of milk to tide him over. As soon as my son and I were together, I nursed him right away. At times, I rocked and nursed at my sitter's home. Sometimes after I worked a weekend, on Monday we would just nurse for a whole day. Then on Tuesday I would marathon nurse and pump. I loved "Nursing Only Days," they were a treat.

Vera Lynn Richardson
Chillicothe Ohio USA

Mother's Response

I found that my son's demand for milk while he was away from me was greater than while he was with me, and the only explanation that made any sense was that he missed me while we were apart, and taking in lots of milk was one way he was comforted during that time.

In order to keep up with his demand, I found many things helpful. First, I began taking fenugreek herbal supplements—I started with the tea (making sure there was no peppermint in the mix), then progressed to the capsules. The interesting side effect of fenugreek is that your sweat and urine smell like maple syrup when you are taking enough of it. I also began pumping every one-and-a-half to two hours, without fail. I usually pumped for 10 to 15 seconds after what appeared to be my "last drop." Finally, I found it very helpful to "power pump" in the evening after my son went to bed. Here is how it works: settle in on the couch or comfortable chair, tune in to a one-hour television program (uplifting shows only), and set up the pump. Turn the pump on during commercials and off during the program. I was amazed at how those extra few ounces from power pumping helped keep up with the demand, and how much more milk I was able to pump during the day after about three days in a row of trying it. While all of this was exhausting at times, I wouldn't do it any differently if I had it to do over again.

Beth Cohen
Mt. Pleasant SC USA

Mother's Response

Sometimes caretakers are quick to suggest the bottle to calm an infant. Caretakers with a lot of formula experience might want to feed your baby more than she needs. With some cleverness, my stay-at-home husband is able to distract my daughter with play for the last hour before I come home.

Although the 24 ounces you're leaving with your daughter is plenty, you are probably still concerned about how you can make the most of your nursing at home and pumping at work. Remember that the amount of milk that comes from pumping can also be affected by stress, and how comfortable you are at the time, so try to make your pumping time a break for you to meditate on how well things are actually going. Gazing at pictures of your baby has been demonstrated to give you more let-downs during each session.

You can also pump more frequently in order to increase your supply. Although it can be hard to get away from work for a break, one trick that works for me is to pump for about 10 minutes during each session (pumping both breasts), and then squeeze in a third pumping near the end of my full-time shift. When I come home, my baby is often motivated to suck even though the volume of milk in my breasts is low. Since her nursing is more effective, she can get more milk out than the pump!

Putting a lot of effort into nursing at home is a method not to be discounted! I am grateful that I've found nighttime feeding habits that work for me, and I spend most of the morning nursing my baby while I eat breakfast and check email. Even if my first pumping suffers from her having recently emptied my breasts, pumping soon after I get to work seems to increase my supply over the course of the workday.

Getting a pump with high suction (a rental hospital-grade pump, for example) could also help. Good times to pump some extra milk while at home are when you awake in the morning (the prolactin peak between 3 to 5 am may be the reason so many women in my LLL Group talk about feedings during these hours!) and once during the middle of your baby's longest sleeping bout. You can also express whatever milk is left when your baby hasn't emptied one of your breasts at a feeding.

Marie Elliott
Berkeley CA USA

Mother's Response

Sometimes these situations are a result of the way the daycare responds to babies when they wake or fuss. They may assume that any baby who wakes must be hungry. Share with the daycare workers what your child's normal behavior is, how she prefers to be handled when she first wakens, how she indicates she is hungry, and how she likes to relate and be social.

If helpful, you might put smaller amounts of milk in the bottles and provide one extra bottle so that less is offered each feeding time, yet there will be enough if she needs to be fed more.

Open dialogue may result in a better feeding approach for your baby and better use of the milk you are providing.

Cindy Garrison
Canonsburg PA USA

Mother's Response

I had the same problem when I went back to work when my daughter, Karen, was six weeks old. Although I had built up my supply ahead of time, my daughter was still drinking more on a daily basis than I could pump. I made sure to pump four times a day when possible, as that would sometimes give me as much as two more ounces than when I pumped three times a day.

I always took any opportunity to pump a little more. I figured Karen would drink more than I would pump because it was easier for her to suck on a bottle. And when she was with me, I would encourage her to nurse for a few more minutes even if she seemed to want to quit. Usually it wasn't a problem.

Now Karen is 10 months old and I have plenty of frozen milk! Within the past week, Karen has started taking less milk at daycare than what I pump during the day. Because of my supply, I was able to stop worrying about pumping during the night about a month ago. I plan to only pump three times a day now at work, and if things hold, I may drop to two. I usually gauge how things go over a few weekends to see what I should do at work.

Edie McKelvey
Lake Jackson, TX USA

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