Erica asks, “My little one is twelve months old and I am barely able to pump any milk when I am away at work. I can be gone for ten hours and I only come home with three ounces of expressed milk. My daycare provider is threatening that she will start giving my baby formula if I cannot provide more milk. She says babies at this age should be consuming eight ounces at a time. This is not possible for me at all. I am so depressed that I am failing at combining working and breastfeeding. I nurse her before I leave and then two to three times during the evening and middle of the night. She also is eating real food and loves it, so I atleast know she is getting something. Does pumping so little now mean I am losing my milk supply and I will have to stop breastfeeding?”
Erica you are doing a great job providing for your baby and juggling pumping at work. You are meeting the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations for nursing one year and beyond which is something to be very proud of. You most likely have noticed that as solids have been introduced into her diet that breastfeeding is now becoming less frequent. By one year these solids are now her main source of calories and nutrients and breastfeeding is now not her primary source of food.
The typical timeline for pumping at work typically spans the first year. Most moms are pumping multiple times a day during the first six to seven months. Then things change because solids, other liquids and water start to displace milk feedings. Between eight to ten months we expect a drop in the amount of milk a mom would be providing and most moms are not pumping more than once or twice a day. By the end of the first year most moms are in the same boat as what you described and are maybe pumping once a day. This is about the time when many women decide to discontinue pumping at work and will chose to breastfeed before and after work, just like you described. Babies need approximately two to three milk servings during their day and typically a mom can meet those needs outside of the work day.
I encourage you to take the time to have a frank discussion with your daycare provider regarding how you feel about breastfeeding and your desire to continue without interference. Your daycare provider is misinformed and does not understand how breastmilk differs from formula. Most likely she is basing her information on what she has experienced with raising her own children or by watching what other moms are doing who are feeding formula. The fact of the matter is that breastmilk is very different than formula. Your breastmilk now is much higher in fat, calories and protein so the volume your baby needs is much less than if she were drinking formula or cow’s milk. At this point in their breastfeeding career many moms offer their babies water, cow’s milk (if there is not an allergy or possible sensitivity) or other milks such as coconut, almond and cashews as an alternative to quench the thirst. Remember that you are in charge of what your baby eats and drinks and this is your decision to make, not your daycare providers. Moms who follow this plan of nursing before and after work often will nurse ad lib during their days off and easily adjust back to the work week schedule of breastfeeding when at home. Once you reach this stage in your breastfeeding career it is generally smooth sailing. Many mothers find it freeing and continue breastfeeding like this for another year or even beyond as their baby gradually weans from breastfeeding.