What to Do – When to Do It – If You're Returning to Work

Nervous about returning to work as a breastfeeding mom?

There are hundreds of thousands of moms who have been down this road before you, and pumping at work is more accepted now than it has ever been. Here are some suggestions to help get you back to work as effortlessly as possible.

Before Maternity Leave

When planning for maternity leave, talk to your employer about your plans to breastfeed. Know your legal rights BEFORE that conversation, including rights that are protected by the Affordable Care Act. If your employer does not already have a pumping room, create a proposal that specifies where you’ll pump, store breastmilk, take breaks, etc. Come to your employer with a plan that makes it hard for them to say no.

2-4 Weeks Before Going Back to Work

  • Get a Buddy. Either in person or on breastfeeding message boards, connect with working and breastfeeding moms to learn what to expect. Ask them questions, listen to their advice. It’s especially helpful if you can find someone who has returned to your specific workplace as a breastfeeding mom.
  • Purchase a pump. Sterilize the parts. Learn how to put it together and take it apart.

At Least Two Weeks Before Returning

  • Practice, practice, practice. Like learning to nurse, you’ll need to get used to pumping. Your baby will need practice taking breastmilk from someone other than you. Read Pumping Basics for more help and tips on getting the most out of pumping.
  • Outsource. While at work you’ll need to find the best method for your caregiver to provide baby with your expressed milk. They can use a cup, syringe, or bottle, but it really depends on your baby’s temperament and age, and your situation. Enlist help. To ease the transition, have another person offer your breastmilk to your baby. Ideally, the bottle and nipple should be introduced no sooner than four weeks of age to ensure your supply is established, and at least two weeks before you return to work.  Even if baby is getting breastmilk from a bottle, you should pump during these feeding times so your body gets the signals it needs to keep making milk.
  • Do a dry run. Have your baby stay with their caregiver for a few hours. This will help ease the transition when you return to work. Use the time to get organized and adjust to time away from your baby.
  • Speaking of caregivers, try to choose one who is nursing-friendly. Tell them how much breastfeeding means to you and your baby and make sure they understand the importance of keeping your milk safe. Refer to Tips for Storing Breastmilk for more information.
  • Outfit yourself. Assemble a wardrobe for pumping with items such as two-piece outfits with lightweight tops that are pulled up from the bottom.

Once You Have Returned

  • Timing is everything. Know when to pump and when to breastfeed. Feeding at the breast is ideal to keep up your supply and nurture baby, so try to nurse when you are together. And remember to pump when you are away from your baby so your body gets the regular stimulation it needs to keep up your supply.
  • Going back to work doesn’t mean giving up breastfeeding! You can begin to create a schedule with baby that allows you to breastfeed before you leave for work, when you return, and before baby’s bedtime. Feeding at the breast is the best way to drain your breasts and trigger more milk production so you may need to remind your caregiver not to feed your baby just before you pick baby up.
  • Find your happy place at work. While pumping, you need to be relaxed, comfortable and undisturbed. If your company does not have a Lactation Room, find an office, conference room or private spot where you can shut – and preferably lock – the door.
  • Take a deep breath. This will become second nature to you and your baby. We know that being a working, breastfeeding mom is not an easy task, but it’s well worth it. We’re here to support you, so check in with our lactation counselors if you need some extra guidance.