Breast-feeding Tips for Going Back to Work

Committed to breast-feeding but concerned that going back to work or school might make breast-feeding too hard? Breast-feeding can make it easier to stay connected. With a little planning, you can do it.

Information credited to Giving Birth with Confidence.

Before your baby is born

  • Take a breast-feeding class.
  • Talk with your childcare provider and your employer about your plans to continue breast-feeding.
  • Consider childcare close to work or school, where you may be able to breast-feed during lunch breaks.
  • Choose a healthcare provider for your baby who supports breast-feeding.
  • Join a support group for breast-feeding mothers.

    Once your baby is born

    Focus on learning to breast-feed and making lots of milk. (You don’t need to start pumping yet!)

      2 weeks before returning to work

      • Rent or buy a double electric pump, if possible.
      • Begin pumping and storing milk.
      • Have someone else feed the baby with the new feeding method.
      • Find clothes that make pumping easier, such as two-piece outfits and tops that button in the front. (Prints hide leaks better than solid colors.)

        4-7 days before going back to work

        • Leave your baby with the caregiver for a short practice session.
        • Work out an emergency plan for the unexpected, such as a sick child, car trouble or traffic.

          The night before you go back to work

          • Pack your baby’s bag and a healthy lunch and snack for you.
          • Gather your pump, cooler and milk storage containers.
          • Lay out your clothes for work. Pack extra cotton breast pads and extra tops or sweaters in case of leaking.

          Going to work

          • Allow enough time so that your morning breast-feeding is relaxed and not rushed.
          • Plan ahead for the evening meal. For example, take food from the freezer or place something in a slow cooker.
          • Nurse your baby at home and again at the caregiver’s to keep up your milk supply.
          • Nurse or pump at work at least 3 times in 8 hours for a young baby.

            Picking your baby up from the caregiver

            • Plan to stop and nurse your baby as soon as you get to the caregiver’s.
            • Leave the milk you pumped while at work with the caregiver for the next day.
            • When you get home, nurse your baby again and enjoy reconnecting.

              Every morning

              • Give yourself enough time so that your morning breast-feeding is relaxed.
              • Plan ahead for the evening meal.

                Did You know?

                • Hand washing is the best way to help keep you and your baby well. Wash your hands for 15 seconds before nursing and pumping.
                • Your breasts are never empty. Your baby can get milk if you’ve just pumped.
                • Try pumping in the morning. Milk volume is greater. (Some women pump on one side while nursing on the other.)
                • Three short pumping sessions, about 10 minutes each, are more effective than one long one.
                • Gentle massage while pumping may help you pump more milk.
                • Start at the lowest suction setting on your pump and increase to a setting that removes milk and feels comfortable. (Pumping shouldn’t hurt.)
                • When you and your baby are apart, pump often to maintain your milk supply. Avoid waiting until your breasts feel full.
                • Weekends are a great time to enjoy breast-feeding your baby while building your milk supply. Leave pumping and other feeding methods for workdays.

                  Storing and Using Pumped Breast Milk — A Guide

                  To Store

                  • Store breast milk in a clean, airtight container. Use hard plastic or glass with tight fitting, solid lids or disposable feeding bottle liners or breast milk storage bags. Leave ¼ of the container empty if you plan to freeze.
                  • Store it in the coldest part of the freezer, under the icemaker or in a back corner.
                  • Label the milk with the date and your child’s name. This is important when leaving pumped milk with the caregiver. Expert opinions vary on how long you can safely store breast milk.**
                  • Keep fresh breast milk at room temperature up to 4-6 hours.
                  • Keep fresh breast milk in a cooler with frozen gel packs up to 24 hours.
                  • Store breast milk in the refrigerator between 3 to 8 days.**
                  • Store breast milk in a refrigerator freezer for 3 to 6 months and in a deep freezer with manual defrost for 6 to 12 months. (A freezer is cold enough to store breast milk if it keeps ice cream hard.)

                    To Thaw

                  • Refrigerator thawed: Place container of frozen breast milk in the refrigerator to thaw gradually.
                  • Warm-water “quick” thawed: Place container of frozen breast milk in a bowl of warm tap water. Once the breast milk is liquid, use it right away or refrigerate.
                  • Never microwave! “Hot spots” in the milk may burn your baby and the microwave destroys some of the infection fighting benefits of your milk.
                  • Keep thawed breast milk in the coldest part of the refrigerator. For example, the back of the refrigerator is colder than the door. Do not refreeze. Use thawed milk within 24 hours or discard.

                    To Use After Refrigerating or Thawing

                    • Warm cold breast milk by holding container under running warm water or in warm water for a few minutes.
                    • Gently mix breast milk before feeding because breast milk components separate when thawing.
                    • Discard leftover milk if the bottle has been in the baby’s mouth.

                      To Transport

                      • Keep breast milk as cold as possible. Use insulated carriers and reusable frozen gel packs (not ice cubes).

                        To Clean Your Pumps

                        • Rinse pieces that came in contact with breast milk with cool water.
                        • Wash pieces with warm soapy water, rinse, and air dry on a clean towel or wash pieces in the dishwasher.

                          You will need to adapt this schedule if you work or go to school at night.