Working and Breastfeeding

Are you working and breastfeeding? Some mothers will need to return to work while still breastfeeding, you might be asking yourself whether you can continue to breastfeed when you go back to work.

When a mother starts to work again, it doesn’t have to mean the end to a breast feeding relationship. A breastfeeding working mom will have some challenges, but many mothers have done this very successfully. She might need to pump at work if she cannot breastfeed her baby at work.

Breastfeeding is recommended until a baby is at least 6 months old, as there are many benefits of breast milk that a baby might be losing out on, most importantly:

Baby feeding schedule for a working breastfeeding and pumping mom

  • Wake up early enough in the morning to breastfeed your baby.
  • Make sure you have a good breakfast with enough to drink too.
  • Mid morning – Keep at least 20 minutes aside for pumping, cleaning and storing your breast milk. Make sure you drink enough liquids during the day.
  • Lunch time – If possible you will be able to go to baby and breastfeed. If not, then you will need to pump at work again. Eat something nutritious.
  • Mid afternoon – Again 20 minutes pumping session.
  • Home time – Try breastfeeding your baby as soon as you can.
  • Night time – Nurse baby as many times as possible. It is sometimes easier if your baby sleeps in the same bed as you. Babies usually start to nurse more frequently at night when they are separated from their mothers during the day. Read more about co-sleeping here.

When breastfeeding an older child, the mother can "reverse-cycle feed". This is when the mother breastfeeds the child mostly at night and the child is fed expressed breast milk, formula, or other food when she is at work.

For the times that the mother needs to take a trip away for a few days, she will need to continue to pump every day, even if she cannot store the milk, she should then just “pump and dump" so that her milk production does not decrease.

There are some working mothers that feel they want to continue to breastfeed their babies when they are together, but would rather formula feed during the day. This is also possible, you can pump once during the day, just to keep your supply up. This is sometimes a decision that a mother will have to make, if her schedule does not allow for expressing during the day.

Working and Breastfeeding
Bottle Feeding Breast Milk

A mother can pump during the day, at work and then store the milk, so that the baby can be bottle fed the breast milk. Sometimes a working mother might be fortunate enough to continue to breastfeed during the day, if her baby is nearby.

Read more about combination feeding "mixing breast milk with formula"

Working Moms and Breastfeeding
Getting Ready Emotionally and Physically

  • Make that decision. Decide whether you have the courage to stick it out. It won’t always be easy, you might feel after a while, that you don’t want to continue anymore. Just think of how wonderful it will be, when you can still breastfeed your baby on weekends or in the evenings when you come home. Give yourself a month trial period to decide whether you can handle the stress of breastfeeding and working at the same time.
  • Don’t worry, you can do this! Don’t worry about too many things before you even try. Enjoy this special time that you have with your baby.
  • Concentrate on establishing a good milk supply and good latch before going back to work. Take as much maternity leave as you can, so that you have extra time to prepare yourself for working and pumping. During the time that you are at home with your baby, you should take a nursing holiday. Breastfeed as much as possible, allow comfort feeding, allow a lot of skin to skin contact and rest! 

What to Plan for

Explore your options for working and breastfeeding

  • Can your baby go to work?
  • Can you work from home?
  • Does your workplace have a daycare? You could breastfeed your baby during breaks and lunch times.
  • Is there a daycare nearby?

When breastfeeding and returning to work

  • Before you return to work, you should try to increase your breast milk supply and pump extra milk that can be frozen for the first few days of returning to work. Pump extra after every feeding, to ensure that your breasts have been emptied. Your milk supply should be well established within 4 weeks of birth. Remember that the emptier the breast becomes, the more it is stimulated to create milk.
  • Get a reliable electric breast pump. And for easier use, a double action pump will work even better. These breast pumps can be rented at most medical centers. Piston double pumps like the Ameda purely yours electric breast pump are portable and work rapidly and very efficiently. Breastfeed your baby normally on weekends, so that your breast milk supply can be increased. This is because breast pumps do not stimulate the breast as much as a baby can.
  • A few days before you return to work, you can start practicing the pumping routine and start stock piling your breast milk. This is so that you can become familiar with the process and how to store your milk safely. Storing breast milk safely.
  • When storing your breast milk, you should always add a date and time to the bottles that are to be frozen; baby should be fed breast milk that is pumped at the same time of day at which he/she drinks it. Morning breast milk contains natural stimulants and its effect on babies could be compared to a grown-up having a cup of espresso! And even more interesting, the milk that a mother produces at night, encourages a baby to sleep.
  • Pump after every breastfeeding session. Read other pumping tips
  • The first few working and breastfeeding days, you might only pump an extra tsp or so, but as you continue your milk supply will increase.
  • You will need to let your employer know that you require some extra time for expressing breast milk during the day. Make sure that you have a private place for pumping breast milk at work. Lactation rooms should be provided at work.
  • Choose a bottle that has a nipple that doesn’t flow too easily. This is so that baby doesn’t start to prefer the nipple to the breast, and also so that the baby doesn’t overeat. Any nipple with one hole in it should work. Avent bottles for bottle feeding breast milk are the closest so far to a real nipple. An alternative to artificial nipples, is to feed your baby with a special cup, read more about this here
  • Some mothers might decide that they would like to pump exclusively when they go back to work. Exclusive pumping guidelines.

How much breast milk should you pump during an average eight hour day?

You will need to express at least 15 ounces of breast milk, in an eight hour working day.

Get a wet nurse or consider cross feeding

Working and Breastfeeding
One Mother's Experience

Other pages on “breastfeeding problems" that are in connection with this page on working and breastfeeding

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