Breastfeeding Basics: Breastfeeding And Returning To Work

Congratulations on becoming a new parent and embracing the wonderful journey of breastfeeding! As you navigate through the joys and challenges of motherhood, one question that may arise is how to continue breastfeeding when it’s time to return to work. With the right knowledge and support, you can successfully balance your career while providing the nourishment your little one needs. In this article, we will explore some practical tips and strategies to help you smoothly transition from breastfeeding at home to breastfeeding in the workplace. So, let’s jump right in and discover the practicalities of breastfeeding and returning to work!

Benefits of breastfeeding

Nutritional benefits

Breast milk is often called “liquid gold” because of its numerous nutritional benefits for your baby. It contains the perfect combination of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates that your baby needs for optimal growth and development. Breast milk also contains essential vitamins and minerals that are easily digestible and bioavailable, meaning your baby can absorb and utilize them efficiently. Additionally, breast milk changes in composition as your baby grows, providing tailored nutrition for their specific needs at each stage.

Immune system support

One of the most significant advantages of breastfeeding is the immune system support it provides for your baby. Breast milk is rich in antibodies, immune cells, and other bioactive compounds that help protect against infections and diseases. By breastfeeding, you pass on your own immunity to your baby, reducing their risk of respiratory infections, gastrointestinal illnesses, allergies, and other common childhood diseases. Breastfeeding has even been linked to a lower risk of developing chronic conditions later in life, such as obesity, diabetes, and asthma.

Bonding with baby

Breastfeeding is an intimate and bonding experience between you and your baby. It allows for skin-to-skin contact, promotes eye contact, and releases hormones like oxytocin, often called the “love hormone,” which enhances feelings of connection and bonding. The physical closeness and emotional connection during breastfeeding promote a strong attachment between you and your baby, fostering a secure and loving relationship.

Cost savings

Breastfeeding can also save you money. Formula feeding can be costly, especially when considering the ongoing expenses of purchasing formula, bottles, and other feeding supplies. Breast milk, on the other hand, is readily available, requires no preparation or additional costs, and is always at the perfect temperature. By breastfeeding, you can significantly reduce your expenses associated with feeding your baby while providing them with the best possible nutrition.

Preparing to return to work

Plan ahead

Returning to work while continuing to breastfeed requires careful planning. It’s essential to start thinking about your transition back to work well in advance. Consider factors such as your work schedule, commuting time, and availability of childcare. Discuss your breastfeeding goals with your partner, family, or friends, and develop a plan that ensures you can express milk regularly and comfortably while away from your baby.

Establish a breastfeeding routine

Before returning to work, establish a breastfeeding routine that works for both you and your baby. This will help regulate your milk supply and ensure your baby is getting adequate nutrition. Try to breastfeed at consistent times throughout the day, even if you’re planning to pump milk later. By establishing a routine, your body will adjust and produce milk according to your baby’s needs, making pumping at work more efficient.

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Consider pumping and storing milk

Pumping and storing breast milk allows you to provide your baby with your milk even when you’re not together. Invest in a good quality breast pump that suits your needs. You may want to consider a double electric pump, which can save time by pumping both breasts simultaneously. Learn how to properly clean and sterilize your pump, as well as how to store breast milk safely. By having a supply of expressed milk available, you can ensure your baby continues to receive the benefits of breast milk when you’re not around.

Practice bottle feeding

Before returning to work, it’s important to introduce your baby to bottle feeding if they haven’t experienced it before. This will allow them to become comfortable with taking milk from a bottle and ensure a smoother transition when you’re not there to breastfeed. Start by offering your baby a bottle once a day, either with expressed milk or formula. This practice will give you the opportunity to observe how your baby adapts to bottle feeding and make any necessary adjustments before returning to work.

Breastfeeding Basics: Breastfeeding And Returning To Work

Timeline for returning to work

Start planning early

When it comes to returning to work while breastfeeding, early planning is key. Start thinking about your transition back to work well before your desired return date. This will give you ample time to make any necessary arrangements and create a smooth transition for both you and your baby.

Gradual transition

To make the transition back to work easier, consider gradually reducing the amount of time you spend breastfeeding directly before your return date. Begin by replacing one breastfeeding session with a bottle feeding session using expressed milk or formula. Over time, gradually replace additional breastfeeding sessions until you’re comfortable with the amount of pumping and bottle feeding required once you’re back at work.

Manage your expectations

Returning to work while breastfeeding can be challenging. It’s important to manage your expectations and understand that there may be some bumps along the way. It may take time to establish a routine that works for you, your baby, and your workplace. Be patient with yourself and give yourself permission to adjust and adapt as needed.

Emotional readiness

Returning to work can stir up a mix of emotions, especially if you’re leaving your baby for the first time. Take the time to acknowledge and process these emotions, and seek support from your partner, family, or friends. Remember that it’s normal to feel a range of emotions, and you’re not alone in navigating the challenges of balancing work and breastfeeding.

Legal rights and support

Know your rights

As a breastfeeding employee, it’s important to know your rights in the workplace. Familiarize yourself with the laws and regulations that protect your right to breastfeed or express milk at work. Most countries have laws in place that require employers to provide reasonable accommodations for breastfeeding employees, such as breaks for pumping and access to a private space.

Explore workplace policies

Take the time to review your workplace policies regarding breastfeeding and pumping. Understanding your employer’s policies will help you navigate the logistics of expressing milk at work. If there are no existing policies, consider advocating for the implementation of breastfeeding-friendly policies that support working mothers.

Talk to your supervisor

Open communication with your supervisor is crucial when planning to return to work while breastfeeding. Schedule a meeting to discuss your plans, any concerns you may have, and how the workplace can best accommodate your breastfeeding needs. By having this conversation, you can ensure that your employer is aware of your needs and can work with you to create a supportive environment.

Utilize breastfeeding support resources

Take advantage of the breastfeeding support resources available to you. Consult with a lactation consultant or breastfeeding counselor who can provide guidance and support throughout your breastfeeding journey. Additionally, explore local breastfeeding support groups or online communities where you can connect with other breastfeeding mothers who are also navigating the transition back to work.

Breastfeeding Basics: Breastfeeding And Returning To Work

Choosing a breast pump

Types of breast pumps

When choosing a breast pump, consider the different types available and determine which one suits your needs best. Manual breast pumps are hand-operated and are ideal for occasional use or as a backup option. Electric breast pumps, both single and double, use an electric motor to create suction and are suitable for regular and more efficient pumping.

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Features to consider

Consider the features that are important to you when selecting a breast pump. Some pumps offer adjustable suction strength and speed, allowing you to customize your pumping experience. Others may have a battery-operated option for on-the-go pumping. Assess your lifestyle and pumping needs to find a pump that suits you best.

Renting vs buying

Decide whether you want to rent or buy a breast pump. Renting a pump may be a cost-effective option if you only plan to pump for a shorter period or need access to a hospital-grade pump. Buying a pump offers more flexibility, as you can use it at your convenience and for subsequent pregnancies. Additionally, purchasing your pump allows you to familiarize yourself with it and use it in the comfort of your own home.

Insurance coverage

Check with your insurance provider to see if breast pumps are covered under your policy. Many health insurance plans now cover the cost of a breast pump, either partially or in full. Understanding your coverage options can help minimize out-of-pocket expenses and ensure you have access to a high-quality pump that meets your needs.

Pumping at work

Create a pumping schedule

To maintain your milk supply and ensure you’re expressing enough milk for your baby, it’s important to create a pumping schedule that aligns with your work schedule. Aim to pump every 2-3 hours, or as often as your baby would typically nurse. This will help stimulate milk production and prevent engorgement or discomfort.

Find a comfortable space

When pumping at work, it’s essential to find a comfortable and private space where you can express milk without interruptions. Speak with your employer or supervisor to identify a suitable location, such as a designated lactation room or a private office. Ensure that the space is equipped with a comfortable chair, a clean surface for your pumping equipment, and access to a power outlet if needed.

Storage and transportation of milk

Proper storage and transportation of pumped breast milk is crucial to maintain its quality and safety. Invest in breast milk storage bags or containers that are BPA-free and specifically designed for storing breast milk. Label each container with the date and time of expression. Use insulated cooler bags with ice packs to transport the milk home safely.

Maintaining milk supply

To maintain a healthy milk supply, it’s important to pump regularly and empty your breasts effectively. Make sure you have a proper fitting breast shield for your pump to ensure optimal milk removal. Utilize breast massage and compression techniques during pumping to help stimulate milk flow. Stay hydrated, eat a balanced diet, and get enough rest to support your body’s milk production.

Navigating limited break time

Advocate for yourself

If you find that your work environment does not provide sufficient break time for pumping, it’s important to advocate for yourself and your rights. Talk to your supervisor or human resources department and explain your need for additional breaks or a longer break duration. Provide them with information about the benefits of breastfeeding and how it contributes to your overall productivity and well-being.

Efficient pumping techniques

When time is limited, it’s essential to maximize the efficiency of your pumping sessions. Start with a warm compress or gentle breast massage to stimulate let-down before pumping. Use a double electric pump to express milk from both breasts simultaneously. Hands-free pumping bras or pumping bustiers can allow you to multitask while pumping, making the most of your limited break time.

Maximizing available breaks

If you have limited break time, try to make the most of each break by being prepared and organized. Set up your pump and equipment before your break starts, allowing you to begin pumping immediately. Utilize a hands-free pumping bra or a pumping bustier to free up your hands for other tasks. Consider keeping simple snacks and a water bottle nearby to nourish yourself during pumping sessions.

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Flexible work options

If your employer offers flexible work options, explore the possibility of adjusting your schedule to accommodate your breastfeeding needs. Options such as flextime, telecommuting, or compressed workweeks can provide more flexibility and allow you to manage your breastfeeding and work responsibilities more effectively. Discuss these options with your supervisor to see if they can be implemented in your workplace.

Supportive work environments

Open communication with coworkers

Creating a supportive work environment starts with open and honest communication with your coworkers. Inform your colleagues about your decision to breastfeed and return to work, explaining the benefits and your commitment to providing the best nutrition for your baby. Educate them about your needs and any potential accommodations required, such as breaks for pumping and privacy.

Education and awareness

Promote education and awareness about breastfeeding in the workplace. Share information and resources with your coworkers, managers, and human resources department to increase their understanding of the benefits of breastfeeding and the importance of supporting breastfeeding employees. Consider organizing educational sessions or inviting guest speakers to facilitate discussions surrounding breastfeeding and work-life balance.

Breastfeeding-friendly policies

Advocate for the implementation of breastfeeding-friendly policies in your workplace. This can include policies that provide designated lactation rooms, flexible break times for pumping, and support for nursing mothers to attend breastfeeding-related appointments during work hours. By working together with management, employees, and human resources, you can create a workplace culture that values and supports breastfeeding mothers.

Lactation rooms

Having access to a clean and comfortable lactation room is essential for breastfeeding employees. Lactation rooms should be private, lockable, and equipped with a comfortable chair, a clean surface for pumping equipment, and access to a power outlet. Advocate for the establishment or improvement of lactation rooms to ensure a supportive and conducive environment for pumping at work.

Balancing work and breastfeeding

Time management strategies

Balancing work and breastfeeding requires effective time management strategies. Prioritize pumping sessions and breastfeeding time, making them non-negotiable appointments in your daily schedule. Plan and prepare meals and snacks in advance to minimize disruption during work hours. Utilize tools such as calendars, reminders, and time-blocking to allocate time for both work and breastfeeding-related activities.

Finding a support system

Having a support system in place can make a significant difference in successfully balancing work and breastfeeding. Lean on your partner, family, or friends for emotional support, assistance with household chores, or childcare arrangements. Connect with other working mothers who have breastfed or are currently breastfeeding to exchange tips, advice, and encouragement.

Self-care and stress management

Balancing work and breastfeeding can be physically and emotionally demanding, making self-care and stress management essential. Take time for self-care activities, such as exercise, meditation, or hobbies, to recharge and reduce stress. Practice deep breathing or relaxation techniques during pumping sessions to help alleviate any tension or anxiety. Prioritize sleep and ensure you’re getting enough rest to support your overall well-being.

Prioritizing your needs

It’s easy to prioritize the needs of others over your own when juggling work and breastfeeding. However, it’s crucial to prioritize your needs to maintain your physical and mental health. Listen to your body and give yourself permission to rest when needed. Be mindful of your own well-being and make self-care a priority, understanding that taking care of yourself allows you to be the best caregiver for your baby.

Transitioning back to work

Gradual adjustment

Transitioning back to work can be a significant change for both you and your baby. To ease this transition, consider a gradual adjustment period. Start by working partial days or fewer days per week, gradually increasing your work hours over time. This approach allows you to ease into your new routine while still being available for your baby’s feeding needs.

Maintaining breastfeeding relationship

Returning to work doesn’t mean you have to stop breastfeeding altogether. With proper planning and support, you can maintain your breastfeeding relationship with your baby. Continue breastfeeding during non-work hours, and ensure you have regular skin-to-skin contact and bonding time. Offer breastfeeds during weekends, mornings, evenings, and overnight to maintain a strong connection and promote milk production.

Building a routine

Establishing a routine that encompasses both work and breastfeeding is crucial for a smooth transition. Create a schedule that includes designated breastfeeding times, pumping breaks, and work responsibilities. Stick to this routine as much as possible to help your body adjust to the new demands and maintain a consistent milk supply for your baby.

Seeking guidance

Throughout the transition back to work, seek guidance and support from breastfeeding professionals, such as lactation consultants or breastfeeding counselors. They can offer advice and reassurance, address any concerns or challenges you may be experiencing, and provide additional strategies to help you successfully balance work and breastfeeding.


Breastfeeding and returning to work present unique challenges, but with careful planning, support, and the right resources, it is entirely possible to continue providing your baby with the numerous benefits of breastfeeding while pursuing your professional goals. Remember to take it one step at a time, be kind to yourself, and seek assistance whenever needed. With determination and a supportive environment, you can thrive as a working breastfeeding mother.