Returning to Work and Breastfeeding – An Overview

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

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iStock_000006177799XSmallasWith a rising number of mom’s choosing to breastfeed, more and more women want to continue breastfeeding when they return to work.  Below you’ll find information that can assist you in continuing your breastfeeding journey when your maternity leave ends.

  • Returning to work
    If you are faced with beginning to pump while away from your baby you are not alone.  Many moms are successfully doing this every day and you can too.  You’ll need a pump, collection and storage containers, a cooler for transportation, bottles or cup, etc. to feed your baby.
  • Child Care
    Deciding who will care for your child while you are apart is a big decision.  You’ll want to make sure you are comfortable and confident in the person/facility you choose and that they are supportive and accommodating to your desires, including continuing to give your baby breast milk.
  • Don’t worry
    When you begin pumping, don’t worry if you don’t get much (or any) milk. Your baby can always drain your breasts more effectively than a pump.   And, as you get used to pumping and do it regularly you will collect more milk than at first.
  • Relax
    When pumping, it helps if you are relaxed, thinking about your baby, perhaps looking at a picture or even listening to her cry – these are all things to help stimulate your milk ejection reflex.
  • Plan ahead.  Give thought to whether or not you want a freezer-full of milk before you return to work or if you simply want a day or two’s supply built up.  Then you can pump accordingly.  When you are home with your baby trying to build your supply (and also nursing on demand) it may take several pumping sessions to get enough milk for one bottle.  But, when you are pumping at work and not also nursing your baby, you might find it easier to get a full bottle’s worth each pumping session.
  •  The big picture.  Your milk supply varies from day to day and even nursing to nursing.  You may pump 4 oz one session and then only get 1 oz the next.  This is perfectly normal! What you pump in a day (and a week) are more helpful quantities to measure than a single session.
  •  When to start.  Depending on how much milk you want stored, will help you decide on when to begin pumping.  Some moms like to begin pumping when their milk comes in (just a few days after birth) while others prefer to wait and begin pumping 2-3 weeks before maternity leave ends.  In either circumstance, you should be familiar and comfortable with your pump and milk storage, which will be one less stress factor when you do return to work.
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