Breastfeeding and Returning To Work

Posted 08-11-2010 at 02:24 PM by Faiths13

For many moms, the joys of the first few months with their newborn are overshadowed with guilt as they must prepare to return back to work. It is a difficult decision for some mothers knowing they must leave their precious infant in the care of another. As you spend the first couple of months bonding and establishing breastfeeding, you probably cannot imagine leaving your sweet baby even for a minute – even if you are excited to return to your career. Returning to work doesn’t mean you will lose the bond you have created or that you have to stop breastfeeding either. There are many ways you can make the transition to work while breastfeeding easier so you can continue to give your baby the very best.

The Breast Pump

When returning to work, the breast pump will become your “breast” friend. A breast pump will enable you to store and bottle your milk so your baby can continue to reap the benefits of it while you are away.

When it comes to buying a pump, your best bet will be a dual electric pump. It will be the quickest and most efficient way to get the most breast pump in one sitting. A manual pump is only a good choice if you want to get a small amount of milk in one sitting – say 3 – 6 ounces. There are a few great dual electric pumps out right now and you can usually get them in a neat carrying case with bottles that go with it.

Getting Into A Routine

Before you go back to work, you want to get familiar with your pump and how to use it. It is a good idea to start practicing with it and trying to get your baby to become accustomed to drinking it from a bottle as well as your breast. It can take a bit of time to get used to using your pump and for your baby to feel comfortable taking a bottle. You want to make the whole process normal and a part of your daily routine so you can ease right into it when you go back to work. Remember, it’s very important to always stay relaxed and think about your baby when trying to pump.

It’s also a good idea to have someone other than yourself give your baby the bottle, because it is often hardest to get a breastfed baby to take a bottle from their mother. If you can have your partner, or the caregiver who is going to be with your baby give them the bottle, it will help them get used to the change. That way your baby knows they can have the best of both worlds, breast and bottle.

Stocking A Supply

Once you begin using your pump, you can start storing milk in the freezer so you will have a nice supply started once you return to work. You can start anywhere from a month to a couple of weeks before you are scheduled to return. There are many ways you can store your milk in the freezer. You can use bottles, covered ice cube trays, or the special little bags made just for breast milk. The bags are pretty inexpensive and easy to use. They also will help save space and have markings on the side so you know how much milk is stored in it. Make sure you write the date on any container and always store the milk in an area that will stay the coldest.

Breastmilk can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 8 days and can be stored in a freezer for up to 6 months. If you store your milk in a refrigerator/freezer where it is exposed to variable temperatures, it will store for 2 weeks. If you store it in a refrigerator/ freezer with a seperate compartment, it can be stored up to 4 months. If you store it in a deep freezer, it can be stored for 6 months.

Plan Ahead

Before you go back to work, it’s a good idea to talk with your boss and let them know you are going to be pumping at work. Be honest with your boss and let them know that you will need to pump a few times a day and that you will need a private place to do so. Ask if there is an office with a locking door, or some other room (not the bathroom) where you can go. It may sound like a talk you don’t want to have, but you will be surprised how many other mothers are pump at work.

On average, you will need to pump 3 times a day, for 10 – 15 minutes to get enough for the next day. Once your baby gets older and begins to eat solid foods, you will find yourself needing to pump less frequently.

Another important decision to factor in is, wearing the appropriate clothing. Even though you may be pumping in a locked office, you don’t want to have to feel like you need to wrestle with your clothing if someone came knocking. Clothing that makes it easy to access your breasts or even nursing shirts, will be your best choice. You may also want to use breast pads in case you have any leaks in between pumping.

Making A Decision

If you find yourself doing everything you can to make pumping work for you, but just don’t feel it’s going to, then it’s ok. If pumping at work is interferring with your life or causing too much stress, it just may not be the right choice for you. There are other options if necessary and there is support out there for you. La Leche League is a wonderful resource for all your breastfeeding and pumping questions. You may want to try negotiating your hours or work schedule, or possibly try to work from home.

Whatever decision you make, as long as you know it’s the best for you and your baby, then that’s all that matters. Hopefully with these tips you will have a successful return to work while still giving your baby breastmilk. Good luck!

Filed Under: General

Comments

14 Responses to “Breastfeeding and Returning To Work”

  1. magooken on August 11th, 2010 3:06 pm


    thanks for posting this! we’re not all sahms.

  2. bulkybummom on August 11th, 2010 4:39 pm


    if stored properly milk can actually stay good for up to 2 years in a deep freeze, but for sure 1 year according to NICU guidelines!

  3. Ready2Bmommy on August 11th, 2010 5:39 pm


    Thanks for encouraging WOHMs to continuing nursing and pumping! I am a WOHM and still pumping for my 1 year old. I had to ask to switch offices before returning to work to accomodate pumping. Regardless of how awkward that conversatiation was, it sure has been worth it!

    Also, 10-15 min is not enough for everyone, so if it takes longer for you to pump, that is normal also!

    Great info mama. Thanks for posting it!

  4. SashaE80 on August 11th, 2010 10:28 pm


    One more thing I learnt from my midwife, it is worth noting the time on the freezer bag as well. Our bodies are truely amazing and produce different milk at different times of the day to provide correctly for our little ones. Last milk of the day really does set them up for a good sleep, so probably isn’t the best thing to give them for lunch!

  5. hiding57 on August 11th, 2010 10:46 pm


    Great article I would put a bit more emphasis on making sure your baby takes a bottle though. I had to go back to work at six weeks and my son would scream and refuse a bottle for 13 hours a day, we tried a bottle several times at two weeks and intermittently after that, if I could do it again I’d make sure he took one every day. Besides screaming all day he went from sleeping great to not sleeping much as he’d breastfeed more at night which may be all well and great for a SAHM but when you have to work 12 hour shift on your feet and be up at 540 in the morning, it’s not really great. So yeah BOTTLE! It was a difficult time.

  6. ChicanaCoqueta on August 11th, 2010 10:50 pm


    Thanks for the article. It might take some getting used to but pumping at work is so worth it!
    If I had known I was going to be at it for so long I would have invested in a pumping bra. I got to pump at my desk so I could do other things if I wanted to, but it’s hard while having to hold the horns and making sure the milk didn’t spill, etc. Also, I would have switched to the cheaper bags sooner! they worked just as well, if not better. Lansinoh bags are great. And use some bottles too to save even more money.
    I pumped 2x/day always around the same times. I asked about a “lactation room,” and there were a couple in the buildings nearby but pumping at my desk was so easy. I kept all my stuff there. I’d refrigerate the bags/bottle of milk and when I got it home I’d stick it in the freezer.

    I’ll leave it at that, this is turning into a very long comment semi-novel post :)
    thanks again

  7. greenmama52 on August 12th, 2010 12:34 am


    I am so lucky, because living in Canada, we get a full year off with employment insurance benefits. I’ve heard that in the States mothers go back to work as early as six weeks postpartum. I couldn’t imagine how hard that would be!

  8. revolekim on August 13th, 2010 3:21 pm


    I was very blessed when I was a WOHM–I only worked part-time and my boss let me bring DS to work with me until he was five months old. She made a special nursing room for me, and I got paid for the twenty minutes a day I breastfed my baby! She never told me to stop bringing him, but I made the decision to when he started getting bored and fussy and interfering with my work. I had the most awesome boss in the world!

  9. mmlsmom on August 13th, 2010 10:41 pm


    this is my third time hovering in our bathroom at work while pumping… lets say my work environment is not pump friendly! but it important to me to keep breast feed for at least a year with each of my kids so i do what i have to do…..

  10. illinoishawkeye on August 16th, 2010 1:15 pm


    This is a good article – but only scratches the surface. As a working mom, I’ve already pumped through two infants and will be with my third due in late Sept.

    I also echo the comments that a pumping bra is worth it. With my first I used my regular nursing bras and tried to clip the bra around the shields to hold them on – and tried using the suction to hold them. Worked, but not really well. Then for my second I bought the nursing/pumping bra – and it was amazing! It worked so much better!

  11. amandalarson on August 20th, 2010 9:46 pm


    Great article, thanks. I recently blogged about the problems I have been having with returning to work and milk production: http://copingwithfrugality.blogspot.com/2010/08/increasing-my-milk-supply-i-need-help.html

  12. alison_says on August 20th, 2010 10:34 pm


    I’m about to go back to work (baby will be 3 mos then). Thanks for the tip illinoishawkeye!

  13. Lisa921 on August 21st, 2010 1:15 am


    I would agree that some jobs (desk jobs) lend themselves to pumping much more than other jobs. For example, I sometimes am in meetings all day, so to get away from 20 minutes twice a day was nearly impossible. For a while, I used my lunch break to pump, but that was not good either. It is interesting that the medical field, which one would think would be very supportive of breastfeeding, is one of the least friendly when it comes to making accommodations for radiology techs, nurses, lab techs, etc to take a break twice a day to pump.

  14. Tiffany on August 23rd, 2011 10:53 pm


    This was a great post. I think that the more working moms share their experiences pumping at work, the more moms who will be empowered to do it themselves!

    I’m working on a blog series about this topic, and stumbled across your blog doing some research.

    http://raisingpaityn.blogspot.com/2011/08/tips-from-one-working-and-nursing-mom_23.html

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