Returning to Work

Many mothers continue to breastfeed after they return to work or school. Planning ahead for your return can help ease the transition. Learn as much as you can ahead of time and talk with your employer about your options. This can help you continue to enjoy breastfeeding your baby long after your maternity leave is over. It does take some extra planning but the benefits are worth it!

Maternity Leave

During Your Maternity Leave

  • Take as many weeks off as you can. At least six weeks of leave can help you recover from childbirth and settle into a good breastfeeding routine. Twelve weeks is even better.
  • About two weeks before your return to work or school, practice expressing your milk by hand or with a quality breast pump, which may be the best method for efficiently removing milk during the workday. Freeze 2 -3 ounces at a time to save for your baby after you return to work.
  • Help your baby adjust to taking breast milk from a bottle or cup shortly before you return to work. Babies are used to nursing with mom, so they usually drink from a bottle or cup when it’s given by somebody else.
  • See if there is a childcare option close to work, so that you can visit and breastfeed your baby, if possible. Ask if the facility will use your pumped breast milk.
  • Talk with your family and your childcare provider about your desire to breastfeed. Let them know that you will need their support.

Back at Work

Back at Work

  • Keep talking with your supervisor about your schedule and what is or isn’t working for you. Keep in mind that returning to work gradually gives you more time to adjust.
  • If your childcare is close by, find out if you can visit to breastfeed over lunch.
  • When you arrive to pick up your baby from childcare, take time to breastfeed first. This will give you both time to reconnect before traveling home and returning to other family responsibilities.


Find a Private Place to Express Milk

Work with your supervisor to find a private place to express your milk. New health reform laws require companies to provide reasonable, unpaid break time and a private, non-bathroom space for breastfeeding mothers to express milk for the first year of a child’s life. (Employers with less than 50 employees are not required to comply if it would cause the company financial strain.)
If your company does not provide a private lactation room, find another private area you can use. You may be able to use:

  • An office with a door
  • A conference room
  • A little-used closet or storage area

The room should be private and secure from intruders when in use. The room should also have an electrical outlet if you are using an electric breast pump. Explain to your supervisor that it is best not to express milk in a restroom. Restrooms are unsanitary and there are usually no electrical outlets. It can also be difficult to manage a pump in a toilet stall.


Pumping Tips

It may take time to adjust pumping breast milk in a work environment. For easier pumping, try these tips for getting your milk to let down from the milk ducts:

  • Relax as much as you can
  • Massage your breasts
  • Gently rub your nipples
  • Visualize the milk flowing down
  • Think about your baby — bring a photo of your baby, or a blanket or item of clothing that smells like your baby

When to Express

When to Express Milk

At work, you will need to express and store milk during the times you would normally feed your baby. This turns out to be about 2 to 3 times during a typical 8-hour work period. Expressing milk can take about 15 minutes. Sometimes it may take longer (Electric pumps that allow you to express milk from both breasts at the same time reduce pumping time). This will help you make enough milk for your childcare provider to feed your baby while you are at work. The number of times you need to express milk at work should be equal to the number of feedings your baby will need while you are away. As the baby gets older, the number of feeding times may go down. Many women take their regular breaks and lunch breaks to pump. Some women come to work early or stay late to make up the time needed to express milk.