It’s true what they say—there’s nothing more joyful and rewarding than being a mom. But caring for a tiny, little human comes with great responsibility, uncertainty and sometimes, let’s just be honest, fear and anxiety. For many moms, figuring out how to marry a regular pumping schedule with a demanding workday is one of the greatest sources of concern. We what questions they had about going back to work while breastfeeding, and then International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant and Medela Clinical Education Specialist Dana offered her best advice. In case you missed it, here’s an overview of some of the questions from the chat and Dana’s answers:
Is it ok to add freshly pumped milk to pumped milk that has been in the refrigerator for a couple of hours? Also, is it ok that I refrigerate the milk all day at work then separate into bags and freeze when I get home, or should it be frozen right away? – Megan C.
- Yes, you can safely add freshly pumped milk to cooled milk as long as you do not add more than half the amount to the refrigerated milk. For example, it would be safe to add 2 oz. of fresh milk to 4 oz. of refrigerated, but not vice versa. You do not want to overly warm up your refrigerated milk with the freshly pumped. And yes, you can refrigerate your milk at work and then separate and freeze at home. Always make sure to wash your hands before handling your milk and use clean containers to store your milk.
My baby is 15 months old. I’d like to quit pumping at work (10 hours a day), but still be able to nurse her after work and before bed. Is that possible? – Barbara S.
- Absolutely! Once baby has passed the first year mark, breast milk is not usually the largest source of nutrition and fills more of a nurturing role (as well as being a great living vitamin!). You can slowly cut out some pumping sessions at work and continue to nurse at home. This is just another step towards weaning. I simply recommend slowly decreasing pumping to minimize discomfort. Your body will need to adjust to the new schedule.
My baby is due in 12 days. I have a very demanding job and wonder if I should start pumping now to build a supply? – Alexcia H.
- No, no, and no. Pumping now would induce labor. Please do not try to pump and store your colostrum. Don’t worry about building a supply of milk until you know how much supply you’ll actually need. Milk production starts after your placenta is removed and baby starts nursing. Make sure to put baby skin to skin immediately after delivery and nurse long and often during the first 2 weeks. Do not offer any medically unnecessary supplements and rest when baby rests. Your job will simply have to wait until you and your baby bond while your breasts start making milk. Remember, when that baby is born, you have a new boss.
I return to work when my son is one. What is the easiest way to continue breastfeeding if I work shift work and pumping at work is not an option? – Alicia M.
- Uh oh. My red flags always go up when someone mentions that pumping at work is not an option. Remember that you have a right to pump milk for your baby, so if it is your desire, your employer should accommodate the request given advanced notice. I have helped moms in all kinds of shift work find creative ways to express at work, so you can do it if you desire. From ambulance paramedics, to nurses, school teachers, waitresses, delivery truck drivers, etc. I myself pumped in my car for months while in graduate school during clinical rotations. But if you cannot pump, don’t fret. Many, many mothers are able to do what is known as reverse nursing. Nurse baby on demand when together and don’t pump when away. Your body will simply figure it out after a little while. At a year old, he may not be nursing very often.
I plan on breastfeeding and pumping when I go back to work but how do I nurse and still get enough milk for a freezer supply for my baby without starving her at the present time? – Kelly F.
- A good plan to use when returning to work is to start at least 2 weeks before returning to work with pumping once AFTER your baby has nursed and freezing this milk for later use. Pumping just once a day, usually in the early morning hours or in the middle of your baby’s longest sleeping stretch, will allow you to build quite a store in 2 weeks time. And remember, when you return to work/school or whatever, 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/she drank.
What’s the longest I can go without pumping without losing my milk supply? My baby has trouble latching I’m exclusively pumping but I seem to be able to pump more if I pump once every 4 hours. Will my milk supply dwindle? – Jessica W.
- Breastfeeding works primarily by supply and demand. Thus, the longer you wait between pumping or nursing, the more signals you give your breasts that they don’t need to produce as much. You may pump more after 4 hours because you gave your breasts time to store that much, but continuing this pattern will decrease your milk supply.
Should I be pumping at night if my baby is sleeping through the night? I really want to sleep but don’t want my supply to dip. – Kelsi G.
- This really depends on how old your baby is and if you work outside the home. My first response would be like any mom: “No, just enjoy your sleep!” But if you plan to return to work in the next few weeks, you should perhaps take the opportunity to pump once in order to stockpile for later use.
Do you have other questions about going back to work while breastfeeding? Check out our new online resource for working moms, Medela At Work. You can also reach out to Dana or one of our on-staff lactation professionals on our website for one-on-one guidance via email, completely free of charge. Keep up the good work, mamas! You’re doing a great job!
Dana C. Adams, MSN, NP-C, IBCLC is from Northern California and holds a Master’s Degree in Nursing from Samuel Merritt University in Oakland, CA as a Family Nurse Practitioner. She is board certified in Family Practice by the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, yet specializes in Women’s Health. She has worked in a variety of settings encompassing high-risk maternity centers and teaching hospitals, to private practice as a nurse practitioner. Her diverse perinatal nursing background has allowed her to provide care for the childbearing family for over 10 years. She is presently an Assistant Manager of Perinatal Services at a renowned trauma center in California, serving the entire Sacramento, Yuba, San Joaquin and surrounding foothill areas. There she supervises nursing staff in Labor, Delivery, Postpartum and the Special Care Nursery. As an IBCLC, Dana has had an integral role in enhancing lactation management inpatient services at her facility and throughout the Northern California region. She is committed to increasing breastfeeding education and services for mothers and babies, especially in underserved communities.