First Days Back to Work

By Krista Gray, IBCLC. Last updated February 5, 2013.

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The thought of returning to work after maternity leave can be dreadful.  Stress and anticipation run high and can make the situation more difficult than it needs to be.  If a mom is going to stop breastfeeding, it will most likely be during the first two months back to work.  Making it past this hump is critical for breastfeeding success!  In fact, once a mom is past this two month mark, she is just as likely to continue breastfeeding as a mom at home.1  With planning and preparation the transition back can be smooth for both you and your baby.  The following are suggestions to help ease a mother’s return to work.

Schedule Your Return

  • Schedule your first day back to work toward the end of the week so you do not have to work a full week your first week back
  • Consider working part-time at first so you don’t have to dive back into full-time work

What to Wear

  • Make sure to wear (or have) breast pads on hand as your nursing routine will be different and you don’t want to have milk leakage at work
  • Wear two-piece outfits you can pump in easily.  (A long, one-piece dress will be more challenging to express in and require a very private area to pump.)
  • Have a jacket, scarf, blanket, etc. easily accessible in case you need to cover quickly

Seek Support

  • Find other moms who are breastfeeding and working.  If there are moms in your workplace, talk with them and get advice.  You don’t have to reinvent the wheel or feel like you are on your own.
  • If you don’t have a network of other moms who are breastfeeding and working, contact your local La Leche League or other breastfeeding support group.  Try to attend a meeting while you are on maternity leave to meet other moms who are in a similar situation as you are.  Research has shown that moms who attend a breastfeeding support group within the first 6 weeks after having a baby are three times more likely to breastfeed longer than 6 months and meet their personal breastfeeding goals.2

Talk with your Employer

  • Talk with your supervisor and let him/her know that you plan to continue breastfeeding when you return.  If necessary, share with them your legal rights regarding breastfeeding at the office.
  • Also share with your employer that, though you will ideally need several short breaks throughout the day to pump it will not interfere with your ability to do your job.  Not only that, but breastfeeding is the best way to ensure your baby’s health.  Breastfed babies are sick less often and with less severity so your time away from work because of illness will be reduced!
  • Consider talking with your employer about where you will pump.  Also see if there is a refrigerator to store your milk and a place to keep your pump.
  • Help your employer understand that breastfeeding is not only good for you and your baby, but it is also good for them as you will be away much less often due to illness.

In addition to these points, make sure you are comfortable with your baby’s care giver as well as your pump.  The more you know before returning to work, the more relaxed you will be making the transition.  Finally, rest in the knowledge that many, many women return to work and continue to successfully breastfeed their babies for many months and years.


Show 2 footnotes

  1. Kimbro, RT (2006)  On-the-job moms:  work and breastfeeding initiation and duration for a sample of low-income women.  Maternal and Child Health Journal, 10(1), 19-26.
  2. Chezem, J, et al. (1999) Attendance at breast-feeding support meetings:  relationship to demographic characteristics and duration of lactation in women planning postpartum employment.  J of the American Diatetic Association, 99(1), 883-85.