6 Breastfeeding Moms’ Best Tips for Going Back to Work

February 17, 2015

If you’re like most working moms, you’re probably feeling some sort of anxiety about returning to work after the birth of your little one. Add pumping into the mix and things can seem downright overwhelming. If you’ve made the decision to continue providing breast milk for your little one while you’re away, you might be wondering how you’ll fit pumping sessions into your schedule, or maybe you’re concerned about maintaining your breast milk supply. But, although it may be a challenge to adjust to your new routine, you can be successful and find balance. We reached out to Medela moms for tips and tricks that help make pumping at work easier, and here are their best suggestions:

Know your rights as a pumping mom at work. – Jaymi E.

Educate yourself on your federally protected rights so you can take a stand if your rights aren’t being respected. Employers in the U.S. are required to provide breastfeeding moms with a private place to pump (that is not a bathroom). They also must provide you with reasonable break time to pump for up to one year after the birth of your baby. Many states also have additional laws and protections related to breastfeeding and working moms. Learn more about the rights of breastfeeding moms in the workplace and find tips for talking to your employer about pumping at work.

Try to keep spares of the vital parts you need to operate your pump wherever you will be pumping. That way if you leave something at home or anything breaks at work you have a back up. – Jennifer W.

Consider keeping a spare breast pump kit in your car or at your office, just in case you find yourself without the parts you need to pump. You might also want to have a stash of bra pads, an extra power adaptor, or breast milk storage bottles and bags on hand. It never hurts to be prepared!

Videos or recordings of your baby babbling, cooing, or crying help you focus and produce breast milk. – Kimberly D.

Because stimulating your senses can help with breast milk letdown, you might also consider taking a whiff of one of your baby’s blankets or pieces of clothing. Looking at photos of your baby can have the same effect.

breastfeeding at work

Submitted by Jennifer S.

I got a Pump In Style Advanced from my insurance, but I went out and bought a Freestyle pump, too. I keep one at work and one at home. It’s seriously so convenient and I never have to worry about forgetting anything. I also have a manual pump that I keep in the diaper bag in case I’m away from home longer than expected. – Caitlin F.

Anything that makes your daily routine easier will increase the chances of you reaching your breastfeeding goals. Depending on your insurance plan, you may want to consider two (or more) breast pumps to support your busy schedule.

Pump often to preserve your supply. Nurse as soon as you get home and as much as you can at night and on weekends to maintain that bond with your baby. – Elissa F.

Remember that your breasts produce milk on a supply and demand basis, so pumping frequently during the day can help you maintain your supply. Try to prepare a schedule that allows your baby’s feedings while you’re away to match your pumping sessions and fit in with your feedings at home, too. For example, if you pick up your little one at 5 p.m., instruct your childcare provider to not feed your baby for 1-2 hours before you arrive. Aim for pumping three times during an eight-hour work shift, or about every three hours you’re away from your baby.

I made a “do not disturb” sign because people always forget to knock (I pump in an unused conference room). They also let me put a curtain up on the part of the door that was glass. I schedule my pumping sessions on my calendar so I get a reminder to go pump during the day and so my coworkers know I’m not available. – Tyra G.

Making your pumping space your own can go a long way. Stress can actually affect your milk supply and make pumping more difficult, so try to ensure that you’re as comfortable and worry-free as possible when pumping at work. Think of it as your time to step away and unwind – whether you’re multitasking and continuing to work, eating a quick snack, catching up on Facebook, or just enjoying some peace and quiet. You can even follow Tyra’s advice and use a do not disturb sign or printable door hanger to maintain your privacy.

Above all else, feel proud and stand strong! Pumping and providing breast milk for your little one helps you maintain the special connection that you have, even when you’re away.

Find more information, advice, and resources for pumping at work at www.MedelaAtWork.com.

18 thoughts on “6 Breastfeeding Moms’ Best Tips for Going Back to Work

  1. Amanda Sarbacker says:

    Need help, I am going back to work a week from today. I have 35 oz in the freezer but I’m only able to pump 3-4 oz a day while home with my nursing baby. I’m pumping at night after he wakes up for his night feeding.

    My worry is that I am a much better nurser than pumper! I don’t get a lot of milk out each pump.

    I will be gone 7-5:30 daily. Should I pump more frequently or just one successful mid day pump? I don’t want my milk supply to go down but also don’t want to pump for 1 oz. if I pump each breast mid day, I probably can get 4 oz on each breast.

    What is the best way to keep milk supply up and be able to pump plenty of milk while at work? Thank you!!

    • Hi Amanda – Don’t worry, it sounds like you’re doing a great job. First off, know that the average breastfeeding mom can pump between one and three oz. per pumping session (not per breast, per session). Remember that when you return to work, your goal is simply to stay one day ahead of your baby’s needs. You’ll be pumping every time you’re away from baby to replenish what he or she drank. Many working moms simply use the fresh milk they pump at work for feedings the next day and refrigerate Friday’s milk for use on Monday. Your work and pumping schedule will take some getting used to, but it’s important to find a routine that works well for you and your baby. We suggest pumping about 3 times during an 8 hour work shift, or about every 3 hours when you are away from your baby. Ten minutes of pumping during breaks and 15 minutes of pumping during lunch will help protect your milk supply. For tips on getting into a pumping routine at work, you should check out this blog post: http://bit.ly/1ShSOJR. Here are various resources and tips for working, breastfeeding moms, too: http://bit.ly/1GI6ewE. We hope this helps make your transition back to work easier, keep up the good work, mama!

  2. Caroline forari says:

    I am preparing to go back to work. When is the best time to pump? Also how many ounces of milk should I be sending a day to baby sitter when I will be gone around 5-6 hours per day? My little one eats every 2-3 hours. What about frozen milk? Should that just be sent with baby sitter as back up? Is it better to send milk in bottles rather than storage bags?

    • Hi Caroline – The average breastfeeding mom can pump between one and three oz. per pumping session (not per breast, per session). Remember that when you return to work, your goal is simply to stay one day ahead of your baby’s needs. You’ll be pumping every time you’re away from baby to replenish what he or she drank. Many working moms simply use the fresh milk they pump at work for feedings the next day and refrigerate Friday’s milk for use on Monday. This article from KellyMom is also a good resource for learning more about what to expect when pumping: http://bit.ly/1b2ohy6. The best time to pump will be a bit different for every mom and also depends on what your goal is for pumping. Our Lactation Consultant recommends that pumping after a nursing session can help fully drain your breasts, boost your supply, and build a surplus of breast milk (if desired).If you have further questions, please feel free to contact our Lactation Consultant: http://bit.ly/ask_lc. Keep up the good work!

  3. I have a question. So I’ll be returning back to work soon, and my daughter turned one month couple days ago, I’ll be gone for 8 hours, how many bottles of milk does she need while I’m gone? And how many oz. does she drink, because I’m usually breastfeeding her.

    • Hi Kimberly,

      Congratulations on your new little one! In general, babies between 1–6 months of age normally drink an average of 19–30 ounces per day. An average size meal for a breastfed baby is between 3–5 ounces of breast milk. You can learn more about preparing for a babysitter or daycare in our blog post here: http://bit.ly/1lchNiu

  4. Tropikaldawl says:

    This isn’t really helpful at all.
    Being on my second child and up in the middle of the night I am surprised at how little support or information there is regarding the negative effects on mom and babiy’s night sleeping based on the fact that the baby just misses the mom and wants to be close to them after being away from them all day. How to deal with this and avoid having to nightfeed again for comfort? How do you know your baby is going to drink enough milk at daycare so that they don’t need to feed all evening and night from you? How do you retain milk production during the day from pumping to meet their supply if they just want more milk from you at home and will only accept that?

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