Please always discuss any health and feeding concerns directly with your pediatrician.
I remember clearly going back to work, with my pump in hand after finishing maternity leave with my boys. For many women, going back to work is often a reality that they face before they are really ready to. For mothers who are choosing to breastfeed, going back to work, adds the additional stress of pumping. Here are some of the most common questions I get asked about returning to work and pumping and some advice that helped me with this transition as well.
Can I start to store milk while I’m on maternity leave?
The simple answer for most moms, is YES! Typically, I will tell mothers who are returning to work and plan to pump, to start to pump after the first morning feeding at around 2-3 weeks of your little one’s life. Most women have the largest quantity of milk in the morning and pumping after this feeding can allow you to start to freeze some milk in preparation for when you do go back to work. Another tip, is to introduce your little one to the bottle at around 3 weeks of age. Giving a bottle every day can help prevent bottle rejection when you go back to work.
How much milk should I leave during the day?
This really depends on how old your little one is when you go back to work and how long you are away from your home.
How often do I need to pump? Is there anything I can do to increase my milk supply?
As mentioned above, I always recommend pumping after the first morning feeding. After that, you will likely need to pump one more time than your baby eats during the day to keep up your milk supply. For many women, their milk supply drops after returning to work. Staying hydrated and eating well can help reduce this drop.
What if I just can’t keep up with pumping, working and my baby’s feeding needs?
This is very common and nothing to be ashamed of. Adding in formula with expressed breast milk is a great option. Being a breast fed baby does not mean your little one only has to drink breast milk! Any breast milk your little one drinks is benefiting them and formula is an excellent choice for meeting the nutritional needs of babies.
If your work schedule is less flexible, it is awesome to breastfeed and pump when you can and then fill in with formula.
Any other tips for breastfeeding success when back at work?
I know it is hard to do but if you can create the expectation that you will be pumping prior to your return from maternity leave things will often go smoother. If you can, make a plan with your employer before you go on maternity leave regarding your schedule, possible flexibility in scheduling and specified protected pumping times. Set aside block times (around 20-30 minutes) for pumping. Make sure you have a private space to pump and a place to store your expressed milk. Finally, if you can, keep extra pumping supplies in a drawer at work. That way, if you forget something you will have the supplies you need.
Returning to work and pumping can be challenging. With some planning ahead and flexibility regarding your feeding choices, both you are your little one will have a smoother transition.
New Mother’s Guide to Breastfeeding, 2nd Edition (Copyright © 2011 American Academy of Pediatrics)
Published: February 1, 2019
Last modified: September 9, 2019