Returning to work and breastfeeding
You can do both! And you don’t need to wean your baby early to start back to work. All you need is a continued commitment to giving your baby the best start in life. Here’s what else you need to know:
Prepare your baby. A few weeks before you return to work, start introducing your baby to the bottle. It may help to have your partner or another family member be the one to give the bottle.
Start expressing milk. When the baby is taking the bottle, practice pumping your breasts to get your body used to this new method of feeding. You can freeze that expressed milk to make bottles for your first day back at work.
- Find a private place at work. Before you go back to work, inform your supervisor of your plans to continue breastfeeding. Together you should be able to find a private room for pumping.
- Nurse your baby before work. Just before you leave for work, nurse your baby. Then express your milk three times during the workday: midmorning, at lunchtime and again in mid-afternoon. If your child care is near your work, drop the noontime pumping and meet your baby for lunch instead.
Moms who work afternoons or evenings can enjoy a similar feeding schedule as well. If your supply is well established, you could drop the midmorning and mid-afternoon pumpings and nurse your baby at lunch and when the two of you are at home together.
- Store your milk. Place your milk in a refrigerator in a sealed bottle or breastmilk storage bags. You can refrigerate breastmilk for 24 to 48 hours or store it in a freezer up to three months. Be sure to date the containers.
Breastmilk should be thawed in the refrigerator or in a container under warm running water. Don’t let it thaw while standing at room temperature. And do not heat your milk on the stove or in a microwave oven. It can get too hot and heat unevenly.
- Use nursing pads. You may find that your milk leaks from your nipples between feedings. You can stay dry and feel confident with absorbent nursing pads, available in light, medium and heavy flow protection.
Getting your employer’s help
If you plan to continue breastfeeding, talk with your employer to see what options you may have. Topics to discuss:
- Does your workplace allow flexible scheduling to accommodate your needs?
- Can you express your breastmilk during breaks or at lunchtime?
- Is there a breastfeeding center in the workplace?
- Is there a refrigerator available for storing breastmilk during the day?
Tips for transition to work
Returning to work and expressing milk takes a little organization and planning. Here are some tips for making the transition smoother:
- Establish a routine. If you’ve been feeding your baby on demand, establishing a regular feeding routine will help both you and your baby adjust more quickly.
- Start stockpiling. Begin expressing and freezing extra breastmilk about four weeks before returning to work. Try to pump two to four times a day between regular feedings.
Proper storage of expressed breastmilk is very important. You can freeze extra breastmilk in disposable plastic bags designed for breastmilk, or opaque plastic (rather than glass) bottles. Store breastmilk in the back of your freezer compartment. The AAP recommends storing it in the freezer attached to your refrigerator for no longer than one month and in your deep-freeze for no longer than six months.
- Express regularly. If your breastfeeding is limited to time before and after work, try to express your breastmilk regularly throughout the day. If your employer asks you to make up the time, ask to work out a flexible schedule. At work, wear loose-fitting tops or two-piece outfits over a breastfeeding bra to make it easier to express breastmilk without removing clothing.
- Find a place to express at work. Locate a quiet and clean environment at work where you can set up your pump, have a drink of water or juice and relax for 15 to 20 minutes.