Most moms know – or quickly learn – that the key to maintaining supply is to continue meeting baby's demand for milk. Sometimes, though, moms' milk supply decreases for a number of potential reasons, and this can be very stressful. Pumping is one way to maintain and build supply when you have to be away from your baby for long stretches as it signals that your baby is "demanding" milk when they are taking a bottle elsewhere. Note that it's normal for breasts to feel less full over time as the feedback loop between baby and milk production gets more efficient. This does not mean supply has decreased. Slow weight gain and few wet diapers (<4-5 wet diapers daily after day 4) could be signs of undersupply.
If you're away a few hours, nurse or pump right before you leave to give yourself as big a time buffer as possible
Nurse or pump again right when you get home
If you're away longer, pump every 3 hours for 15-20 mins even if baby drinks less often, as pumping is usually less efficient than baby
Schedule calendar alerts for pumping so you don't forget
If supply dips, try pumping for 5-10 minutes after each nursing session
You may not get much milk out but it signals body to make more
If supply dips, increase frequency of nursing or pumping sessions to signal to your brain that baby is demanding milk more often
Power pumping simulates cluster feeding; do in addition to, not instead of, your normal routine (can take ~ a week to see results)
Once a day, over the course of one hour:
• Pump 20 mins, rest 10 mins
• Pump 10 mins, rest 10 mins
• Pump 10 mins, done!
There are a range of potential reasons supply may be low that go beyond your control, such as:
• Ineffective latch
• Oral restrictions like tongue tie
• Prematurity of baby
• Thyroid dysfunction, insulin resistance, PCOS, or other issues that affect hormones
• And many others!
If you're concerned about your supply and more nursing or pumping isn't helping, get in touch with an IBCLC to figure out whether supply has actually dipped and if so why