Working & breastfeeding

  • You can continue breastfeeding after returning to work or school.
  • Talk to your supervisor about your desire to pump, and ways to fit pumping into your schedule.
  • Start pumping for an extra milk supply upon your return to work.
  • Store your breastmilk in 2 to 4 fl. oz. portions to help prevent waste.
  • Introduce your baby to a bottle with your breastmilk 1 to 2 weeks before your return to work.
  • Get into a routine where you nurse before you go to work or school.

It’s natural to have mixed feelings about going back to work or school after your baby’s born, but it does not mean you will have to stop breastfeeding. It’s very possible—with some planning, preparation and support—to maintain the balance of working and breastfeeding.

Share the load

Going back to work will mean an adjustment for you, your baby and the rest of your family. Talk with them about the changes that will affect your lifestyle and time spent together.

Step 1: Prepare your workplace

Talk to your boss
Talk with your supervisor and human resources department about your plans to breastfeed when you return to work. This will give them time to make the basic accommodations to support your decision. Explain how breastfeeding benefits not only you and your baby, but the company too: 

  • Children who are breastfed are ill less frequently, meaning less sick days to stay home and take care of them.
  • Decreased healthcare costs for a breastfed baby and mother.

Supportive legislation

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed in March of 2010 is a federal law, which requires employers to provide break times and a place (other than a bathroom) to express breastmilk for the infant’s first year of life. Discussing the basic pumping needs with your supervisor will help keep things positive and supportive.

  • A clean and private space with an electrical outlet.
  • A clean table and comfortable chair.
  • Close proximity to a sink with soap and paper towels.
  • About 20 to 30 minutes every three hours to pump.

Step 2: Plan ahead

Start pumping

Returning to work When to start pumping How often Tips
2 to 6 weeks First three days of life. Five times in addition to direct breastfeeding at least 8 times per 24 hours. Massage each breast before and during pumping sessions.
6-8 weeks 2 to 4 weeks before returning to work. After as many direct breastfeedings as possible.
8-12 weeks 2 to 4 weeks before returning to work. After or between as many feedings as possible. Direct breastfeeding on non-work or school days will help maintain good production.
6 months 1 to 2 weeks before returning to work. A few times per day.

Introduce her to the bottle one or two weeks before
Offer one bottle filled with an ounce or two of your expressed breastmilk. Offer this during a feeding time when you expect to be away. It may help to have your partner or another family member be the bottle feeder. This will help both baby and feeder get used to each other during feedings.  

Pump in the morning
Most moms find they have the most milk in the morning hours; so pumping after the morning feeding may be one of the best times to pump.  

Store your milk
Place your collected milk in a separate compartment freezer up to six months, or in a deep freezer up to 12 months in a sealed bottle or breastmilk storage bag. Be sure to date the containers to practice “first in, first out” rule for use.

Breastmilk is best thawed in the refrigerator the night before use, or in a container under warm running water. Don’t let it thaw at room temperature. Heating your milk on the stove or in a microwave oven can result with uneven heating and destroyed nutrients.


Step 3: Get into a routine

Nurse before leaving and upon returning

  • Try to breastfeed right before heading off to work to allow for your baby to have at least a few hours before needing the first bottle of breastmilk, and to “empty” your breasts as much as possible before your first pumping session of the day.
  • Arrange with your childcare provider to avoid feeding your baby within 30 minutes of your expected return from work. You and your baby will be ready for a full feeding when you pick her up.

Express milk at least every 3 hours while away

  • Waiting too long between pumping sessions will result in decreased production.
  • If your childcare is near work, try to leave work during your lunch or dinner break to meet your baby instead. 

Take care of your nutrition. Have a glass of water nearby while or after you pump. Drink plenty of water throughout the day and keep nutritious snacks, like trail mix, low-fat cheese and crackers, peanut butter and fruit or similar high-protein foods handy. This will help keep your energy up.
Dress for pumping. Front-buttoning blouses will be easiest for pumping. Prints and light colors will help camouflage milk stains. Wear nursing pads that are absorbent and ventilate well.
Use nursing pads. You might notice that your nipples leak in between feedings. You can stay dry and feel confident by using absorbent nursing pads. Just make sure that they are made of breathable materials without a layer of plastic that will trap in moisture and bacteria. 

How was the information in this article?
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