Keeping up one's milk supply is a common concern for a mom who is returning to work or school after maternity leave. In order to keep up your supply, it will be important for you to pump your milk regularly when you are apart so you can leave behind your expressed milk and keep up your supply.
There are several methods for expressing one's milk including hand expression or using a breast pump. If you are returning to work or school and will regularly be apart from your baby for hours at a time, it is important to use a high-quality and high-powered double electric breast pump like the Lansinoh Affinity Double Electric Breast Pump.
Many moms find it best to mimic the baby's feeding schedule when pumping. In order to express enough milk for you to leave for your baby and in order to maintain your milk supply, it is important to pump at least every 3-4 hours that you are away from your baby. Try not to go too long between pumping sessions as this can lead to discomfort from overfull breasts and a signal to your body that it does not need to make as much milk. Using a double electric pump allows a mom to pump both breasts at the same time, which can be important with a set amount of time for pumping.
When you and your baby are together, breastfeed as often as you can and provide lots of skin-to-skin time. Remember that the baby is most efficient at getting milk out of your breasts and "empty" breasts make more milk. If you are concerned at all about keeping up your supply, or you are experiencing a drop in your supply after you are back at work or school, don't forget that there are people who are available to help you. You can find a local International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) or get in touch with a local La Leche League International Leader who can offer helpful tips in keeping up your supply.
Because milk making involves your brain, it is much easier to keep your milk supply up by feeding your baby from the breast as opposed to pumping. But once your body gets used to the pumping process, it will often adjust and you will be able to pump milk to leave when you and your baby are apart. Some moms find that thinking of their baby, looking at a picture of the baby or calling their childcare provider to check in can be very helpful in getting their milk to let down. You can also bring one of your baby's blankets as a reminder of your baby's sweet smell.