Back to Work Tips – For a Mom Who is Breastfeeding

Back to Work Tips – For a Mom Who is Breastfeeding

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  • It’s best to talk to your boss-while pregnant-about your plans to breastfeed and pump. While the law is still on your side, you may have to compromise a bit to get what you need.  If you’ve already had the baby, it’s ok to start the conversation now, but don’t delay!
  • If you are returning to work full time, ask to adjust your schedule to accommodate a transition for a few weeks before.  Here are a few suggestions:
  1. Do half days for 1-2 weeks before full time.
  2. Work a few hours in the office and a few hours at home (when possible).  
  3. Try a part-time schedule similar to this:  go back on a Thursday if you are off on weekends, then the next week work Wednesday, Thursday & Friday, and the next Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday until you’re ready for a full five days per week.
  • You don’t need a freezer full of milk to get ready, but it would be helpful to have about 50oz frozen in case of a reduction in your supply or if the pump has problems, etc.  
  • If you plan to return to work around the 3-month mark, start pumping around 6 weeks postpartum.  Any earlier, start around 4 weeks. Try not to pump in the first month, unless necessary. Over supply is not a pleasant experience.
  • Pump once per day first thing in the morning for 15 minutes.  It’s ok if you just fed or will need to feed, there’s plenty in the morning.
  • Freeze some and use some to acclimate baby to the bottle.
  • Don’t be surprised if you try a few bottles or nipples before you find the RIGHT one.  If possible, borrow a few nipples from friends before buying them. Start with a true “slow flow” nipple.  If your baby is finishing bottle in 5-10 minutes, it’s too fast.
  • Try to have a few trial runs with caregiver in the weeks leading up to BTW date.  You can use this time to take care of yourself. Even a nap is useful! You don’t need to leave baby for long, just a few hours to see how they get along without the added burden of working.


The Big Day:

  • Upon waking feed baby at home as usual.
  • Get to daycare at least 15 minutes early to feed again.  If you were unsuccessful at this feed, then get to work early and pump before your shift begins.
  • Daycare will feed the fresh milk you pumped the day before but leave a few frozen bags of milk in caregiver’s freezer as back up.
  • Baby will likely take between 3-5oz per bottle (3+ month old), 3-4 times in a 9-hour work day.  Some babies like to graze through the day and others want the appetizer through dessert each time.
  • Be sure caregiver knows how to soothe baby without food.  Over feeding can be a problem with daycare.
  • Pump about every 2-3 hours for the first few weeks or whatever schedule you had with baby at home.  You’ll be able to stretch that out as you and baby adjust to the new schedule. Don’t go longer than 5 hours between pumpings.  Honor your body and pump if you are feeling firmness to avoid plugged ducts and mastitis.
  • Just before leaving work, pump (even if it’s for 5 minutes)
  • Once you are reunited with baby, feed at the breast.
  • Don’t forget to take care of you as well.  Eat to hunger, drink to thirst!
  • Make sure you are still feeding/pumping 8 or more times per day if baby is under 6 months old and you want to breastfeed for at least a year.
  • You should be able to keep this process going as long as you choose to breastfeed.  The first weeks are tough, but it does get easier.
  • You may benefit from having two pumps if you are pumping frequently.  Leave one at home and one at work if it’s safe. Sometimes the free insurance pump dies out between 4-6 months.
  • Don’t panic if you notice a drop in milk supply.  You can always talk to a lactation consultant to ease your mind, but usually it’s just the adjustment.
  • See about having a pump check up if your supply doesn’t rebound with enough stimulation.
  • Only pump once per day, first thing in the morning on days you are off.  Don’t over pump and take time to enjoy just feeding the baby at the breast.
  • The best tip of all is to make sure you and your partner plan ahead!!  Take time on your days off to make meals, prep bottles, have diaper bag repacked, get your work stuff in order and clothes cleaned.  This way if the workdays are too chaotic, you’ll still have organization and food ready.



  • Never store your milk on door of refrigerator or freezer.  Always keep to the back. Use your judgement if you think your appliance is not holding its temperature.  If you had a power outage and milk still has ice crystals in it, it is safe to refreeze. If it’s fully thawed and you cannot use fast enough, put in bathtub with children (it’s great for the skin). Try not to throw away milk.  When in doubt call for assistance.
  • Freeze milk in smaller quantities (2, 3 & 4 oz bags).  It’s better to take out a few smaller bags and use one at a time to lessen waste.  You can always add more.
  • Milk will look different frozen than when it’s fresh.  Color variations happen for many reasons; foods you eat, time of day, medications, supplements etc.
  • Under normal temperature circumstances it’s safe to use the 6661 rule:
  • 6 Hours on the counter
  • 6 Days in the refrigerator
  • 6 Months in the freezer
  • 1 Year in the deep freezer
  • 24 Hours in a cooler with functioning ice packs
  • 24 Hours in refrigerator after it was in baby’s mouth or thawed from freezer.
  • To save time, put your milky pump parts in a Ziplock bag in the refrigerator or well-insulated cooler all day. Wash and sterilize once you are home.  Repeat the process daily.
  • Keep in mind that baby will sometimes regress during this transition back to work.  That could mean they are inconsistent with feedings, refusing breast or bottle, sleep patterns change, fussier with caregiver or with parents, etc.  Give it a full month before judging the outcome.


When in doubt, call an expert.  Don’t wait too long to try to fix a problem.  Good luck!


Back to Work Tips – For the Caregiver

  • Offer the bottle in various positions if baby won’t take right away.  Sometimes you may need to change environment (lighting, temperature, noise, indoor/outdoor etc.)
  • Remember not to force baby to take bottle.  Offer gently on lips first, then push to palate for best response.
  • Try to give bottle when baby is not starving and seems sleepy/relaxed.  You may use the clock to tell you when to feed but watch for early signs of hunger: tongue coming out, licking lips, head turning side to side, fists to mouth etc.  Crying is a late hunger cue.
  • If baby is already crying, try calming them with a clean finger to suck for a few seconds.  Or change tactics. Positioning and environment can be a game changer.
  • Make this as pleasant an experience as possible.  If they cry when you put them in position, try feeding them away from your body.  Use props when necessary.
  • If they still won’t settle to take bottle, try using a medicine dropper-syringe-spoon-medicine cup or sippy cup to get a little into them.  You can always go back to the bottle later.
  • Baby will make up for the missed feedings when mom is around, don’t stress too much.  If they’re truly hungry, they will eventually eat.
  • Use the paced bottle-feeding method in a baby under 4 months.  This means you don’t let baby chug the bottle in a few minutes.  It should take at least 15 minutes to feed appropriately.
  • Don’t overfeed baby.  No baby should ever be getting more than 6 ounces in a bottle at one time.
  • If you have leftover milk in a bottle put it back in refrigerator either use it for next feed or label it as such and give to parents at pick up time.  
  • Try to never waste milk or throw it away.


Don’t worry too much if baby won’t feed.  They will get all their calories and thrive.  Focus more on entertaining and soothing. They will come around.


Sarah Glenn is a wife, mom of 7 & grandma of 4+. She is committed to sharing her birth, breastfeeding and parenting expertise with all who wish to learn. Hobbies include nature, reading, the beach, healthy living, yoga and blogging.