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Human milk is the preferred food for all human newborns.

- American Academy of Pediatrics






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Working without Weaning

Can you continue to breastfeed once you return to work? Of course, you can!

Don’t assume that you cannot.

It takes a little planning, but millions of women are succeeding at returning to work without weaning their babies.

What does it take?

1.       Knowledge of how to manage milk expression at work

2.       The right equipment

3.       Advance planning with caregivers and employers

4.       Knowledge of employment laws

5.       Time and private space in the workplace

Why not switch to formula?

Many pediatricians recommend breastmilk even more strongly if the infant will be in daycare. The breastfed infant will be less likely to contract the various viruses and bugs that run through daycares. An infant in daycare will need extra immune support -- more than an infant who stays at home with mom and is not exposed the illnesses every day from his daycare friends. Breastmilk will provide this for him. Formula does not provide this protection. This is especially important during the cold and flu seasons.

Employers Benefit, too.

Women are more likely to return to their jobs after childbirth if employers are supportive of breastfeeding and provide space and equipment for them. Also, when babies are sick, mothers must miss work. Since the breastfed infant is sick less often, there is the prospect of less absenteeism among breastfeeding mothers in the workforce. This is an advantage for the employer who is always cost-conscious. Employers also save if women return to work since there are less costs involved with hiring and training new employees.

What About Your Caregiver?

This is an important decision  Carefully consider your options.  You will want to choose a person or a daycare environment which is supportive of your commitment to continue breastfeeding. Ask all potential caregivers if they are accustomed to caring for breastfed infants. Be sure that they have specific instructions and protocols for the storage of mother’s milk. Inspect their storage facilities such as refrigerator, freezer, etc. Inspect their cleaning facilities and be sure they are safe and sanitary. Be sure they do not use a microwave for defrosting or heating breastmilk. Be sure you give them instructions about how much breastmilk to give your baby. Ask them to keep a written record of all feedings. Explain that you would prefer that your baby is not fed for a couple of hours before your return so that you can breastfeed as soon as you get home or arrive at the caregiver’s home or daycare.


Purchase or rent a high-quality double electric breastpump. For example, rent a Medela Lactina, Medela Symphony, or purchase your own personal Pump in Style. These are state of the art in performance, safety, and convenience. Many can also be used as a battery operated pump if power is not available. Some smaller pumps may not be able to maintain your milk supply on a long term basis if planning to breastfeed for many months or a year.

Double breast pumps are faster. Many mothers also find that they collect more milk if they express both breasts simultaneously than separately. Most high quality pumps will allow a woman to collect her milk in 10 to 20 minutes. This should fit into break time or lunch period.

When To Introduce the Bottle and Begin Expressing and Storing Milk

You may begin expressing milk anytime after the milk “comes in”, or after the third or fourth day. At this time, you can begin to store milk in the freezer for use later. Since milk can be frozen for 3 to 4 months it will be available once you return to work. (See Breastmilk Collection/Storage.) Many suggest introducing the bottle once breastfeeding is “well established”, which usually means the baby is at least 2 to 3 weeks of age. It usually goes well if Dad or Grandparent  gives the bottle since the baby associates mother with breastfeeding. If the baby is offered the bottle 2 to 3 times a week, this keeps the baby acquainted with the bottle so that the baby is receptive to several feeds a day once in daycare.

You will want milk frozen in the freezer well ahead of your return date to work. It will give you a secure feeling to know that there is “back-up” milk ready anytime it is needed.

When to Pump to Store Milk - While on Maternity Leave, Before Returning to Work

Usually, the best time of the day to express milk is in the morning since women have more milk in the mornings. You may express at any time, but this will yield the most for your effort. Anytime up to 1 hour after a feeding is a good time to express your milk. This will not interfere with the supply of milk for the next feeding. Actually, expressing your milk may increase your milk supply. Pumping milk does not mean there is less milk for the baby.

If you pump about 1 hour after feeding your baby, you will pump about enough for ˝ of a feeding. You may need to pump twice to collect enough for 1 feeding.

Where to Pump

Try to find a private and comfortable place to pump at work. If your employer does not provide a specific room, you may find another employee who is sympathetic to your cause who may loan you their space for 30 to 45 minutes a day. Talk to any follow employees who have breastfeed before you and find out how they managed to express milk at work. Have a drink before starting or look at a photo of your baby while pumping. If you have any difficulty expressing enough milk, seek help from a Lactation Consultant.

If your employer is hesitant to allow you time and space to express milk at work, you may want to check with your State Legislature about laws in your state protecting your right to express milk in the workplace. Another resource may be the State Health Department.

Your Plan

  1. Try to breastfeed in the morning before you leave.

  2. Try to pump during your morning break.

  3. If possible, try to breastfeed your baby during lunch if baby is nearby. If not, pump again during lunch.

  4. Pump again during afternoon break.

  5. Breastfeed as soon as you can after your return home or if possible breastfeed at the daycare or caregivers when you pick–up the baby.

  6. Store your milk in a cooler or refrigerator if provided at work. Transport milk in a storage container which keeps the milk at the correct temperature. (See storage time in Breastmilk Collection/Storage.). Be sure to label containers with date and  time milk is expressed.

For a customized plan you may want to seek the help of a Lactation Consultant.

Refer to our chart on how to know how much milk your baby needs in a bottle each feeding to determine how much milk to take to caregivers each day.

Remember that you can keep that special bond with your baby by continuing to breastfeed in the evenings, during the night and on the weekends. This is something that no-one else can do for your baby.

Why Buy A Breastpump

8 out of 10 breastfeeding mothers use a breastpump, according to recent studies.

Here are some common reasons to buy a breastpump

  1. Baby’s father wants to participate in feedings

  2. Mother wants time away from baby

  3. Mother is going back to work

  4. Latch-on problems

  5. Breast infection

  6. Plugged milk ducts

  7. Sore nipples

  8. Drawing out flat or inverted nipples

  9. Purchasing may be more cost effective than renting a pump if planning to breastfeed for one year.

  10. To save money spent on buying formula. If you have an effective breastpump you may never need to buy formula.

  11. Baby needs to be supplemented due to low blood sugar, excessive weight loss or jaundice.

  12. If planning to have more than one child, a purchased pump could be used for the second  baby, also.

If baby is premature or hospitalized or you have a low milk supply, usually it is recommended to rent a hospital grade breastpump. If your baby cannot latch-on due to sucking or anatomical problems, like cleft lip or palate, and you are planning to pump only, it is also recommended to rent a pump.

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