Gone Back to Work and Can't Seem to Keep the Supply Up!

Updated on March 04, 2008
L.B. asks from Chicago, IL
11 answers


I've started back to work three weeks ago and am having trouble pumping enough milk so that I have bottles to leave with the sitter. The problem is that when I am at home my five month old daughter wants ALL my milk! I can barely keep ahead with pumping and the stash I have in the freezer is quickly diminishing.

I pump once at work and get about 7-8 oz. and by the time I get home she usually wants to nurse off one breast and I pump the other, so you see I am always short one bottle and always have to dip into the reserves.

So I am wondering what I can do since the emergency supplies will probably run out in the next week. We've started her on rice cereal but it hasn't seemed to make a difference and her system really can't handle me stuffing her with more right now.
(I do nurse her before giving cereal too.)

She has been exclusively breastfed too, and even when I tried to give her formula so I could catch up on the pumped milk (not sure if this was a good idea to begin with) she would not drink it. I'm afraid I've already messed with my milk supply.

Any suggestions? Thanks Gals.

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answers from Chicago on

ONe suggestion is to call the lactation consultants at Palos Hospital. Also, they may recommend an herb called Fenugreek that can increase your supply, they can give you the amount that you should take.
Good Luck



answers from Indianapolis on


All the previous responses pretty well say it: you need to increase your pumping time. Another thing you might consider is getting an extra pumping in during the evening/ night time. Also realize that your breasts fill up every 1 hour 45 min. , so be creative if you are committed to no formula during the day while you are at work.
Also keep in mind that there are many formulas out there and your daughter may not have liked the one you tried, but may be willing to take another brand.
And at times, you may feel that you are pumping, and not much is coming. A lactation specialist told me that its the stimulation of pumping that is important, not always the amount you get out, because, although pumping is good, it's not the real thing. And when you nurse, your baby is actually getting 1-2 more ounces than you can produce from pumping with a machine alone.
Between nursing twins and a singleton after that, I've learned a lot about nursing over the years. Good luck, and don't give up!!



answers from Chicago on

One thing that has helped me keep up supply is to pump in the morning after I nurse my daughter. Sometimes I don't get much, but other days I do. It is a total drag - not what I want to be doing with my precious minutes with her before I leave in the morning, but I think it has really helped. Does the sitter know not to throw out any milk? I had trouble with sitters and dad not realizing the milk is liquid gold.



answers from Chicago on

Can you find the time to pump more at work? The more you pump (or nurse), the more you will produce... so I would really try to pump twice at work and try to get your supply back up. Also, you can eat oatmeal and take fenugreek and that should help too.

Good luck!!



answers from Augusta on

How many hours a day do you work? If it's more than 3 or 4 you should probably be pumping at least twice. You have to pump at the times the baby would normally eat to produce milk for that feeding... If you are trying to increase supply you can try things like oatmeal, fenugreek, mother's milk tea. Check out kellymom.com or La Leche League website for more info.



answers from Chicago on


try a hospital grade pump/ pump on the weekends to build your store up. / pump a second time at work,

Breastfeeding and Parenting Solutions



answers from Austin on

If you are working an 8 hour shift, you should really be pumping about 3 times during that time period. I know when I was pumping I get two breaks during my workday so I would pump then and then I would pump while I was eating my lunch. Then I would nurse twice at home, right when we arrived and then at bed time. For a while I would also nurse him in the morning before I left but as he got older he didn't need that feeding anymore.

You can take herbs and things to help your supply, but honestly the best thing for you is just going to be increasing frequency. Supply and demand is key here. If she takes 3 bottles at daycare, you should be pumping for 3 bottles while you are at work, then only digging into that stash when you are a little short or something.



answers from Indianapolis on

The only way you'll produce more milk is to pump more. We have our 4 month old son on a 3 hour feeding schedule, so I pump every three hours at work so that my body stays on that schedule. Your body only produces as much milk as you force it to.


answers from Chicago on

It sounds like you may need to pump more frequently at work. Pump at the time your daughter would normally eat. Also, bring a picture of your daughter and look at it when you pump, this may help as well. If you can, try and not give her formula because this will contribute to a lower supply. Keep up the great work!



answers from Fort Wayne on

Hi L.,
When I went back to work with my kids, I made sure that I pumped every two hours. I know that it is a lot, but after I got my milk supply up, then I started going to every four. This way, I had a good supply of milk. After awhile, you should be able to replace each day's worth with your new milk. It was a lot of dedicated work on my part, but well worth it. I didn't want my daughter having formula. So if you can stick it out, it should work. Good luck.



answers from Chicago on

I struggled the entire 5 months I was breastfeeding. I had every intention to going at least 6 months to a year, but I dried up early... Also, while my daughter was a great latcher, she would fall asleep--even if I made it "uncomfortable" for her by stripping her down to her diaper and trying to keep her awake by gently nudging her. For me, it was best to pump and feed her by bottle. I nursed as often as I could, but it was so painful for the first 8 weeks that I had to rely on the pump. I used a hospital grade pump, went to the lactation consultants about twice a week, and ended up having to supplement with formula anyway--I just could not produce enough. I felt awful about it, but finally realized that as long as she was getting what she needed (even if it meant using formula too), then I was still being a good mom.

Unfortunately, since I travel with work this made it even harder for me. I couldn't get away often enough to pump and found myself engorged and in a lot of pain. And each time I traveled, it ended up cutting my supply in half! Ugh! That's why I dried up at 5 months...

Anyhow, the lactation consultants told us the following: start drinking 3 cups of tea each day, using Mother's Milk tea (you can find at GNC, Fruitful Yield, etc). I also took 2 tablets of Fenugreek each time with my tea. It really did help, but I also had to pump more often because the breast stimulation is what really ramps up your supply. I pumped several times a day: at 330am before going to work, mid-morning, mid-afternoon, as soon as I got home (usually tried to nurse here too, then finish off with pump), when the baby went down for the night (nursed and finished off with pump), and then one more time before I went to bed. I NEVER produced more than 6 ounces, and 5 ounces was more typical. Many times, I wondered if it was worth all the aggrivation and I couldn't wait until I didn't have to do it anymore, but I actually found myself missing it when it was over... Good for you with trying to do it at all--too many moms give up too soon.

Good luck!

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