Your breast milk is the best milk for your baby. Many mothers worry that breastfeeding will tie them down. The truth is that returning to work shortly after a baby is born is challenging for anyone, no matter how the baby is fed.

Here are some things we know about working and breastfeeding

  • Breast fed babies are healthier than formula fed babies. Because of this, breastfeeding can cut back on the number of sick days you take off work.
  • Breastfeeding gives you a good feeling. You are giving something for your baby that only you can give.
  • Pumping breast milk for your baby can be simple and painless.
  • Many childcare providers are happy to feed your baby breast milk. Just ask!
  • Fathers, co-workers, and bosses will be more supportive of breastfeeding if they know how important it is to you.
  • Many mothers have successfully combined work and breastfeeding. You can do it too!

Planning Ahead

The more you understand breastfeeding, the more smoothly breastfeeding and returning to work will go. Use the time you have now to plan ahead.

Talk to your employer before or immediately after your baby is born:

  • Discuss options for your maternity leave. It is easier to combine breastfeeding and work if you have enough time (4 to 6 weeks) to establish a good milk supply first.
  • Ask about returning to work. Is it possible for you to return to work part-time or have a more flexible schedule at the beginning? Can you adjust your lunch and break time to pump? Can you bring your baby with you to work or work at home? Can someone bring the baby to work to be fed?
  • Ask about a place to pump breast milk. Is there a private, clean place with a chair and an electrical outlet (if you plan to use an electric pump)?
  • Ask if there is a refrigerator that you can use to store breast milk. If not, you can store milk in a portable cooler.

Talk to your co-workers:

  • Have other women at your workplace pumped breast milk for their babies? Talk to them. Many will be happy to share their experience and practical tips with you.
  • You might also talk to other pregnant women at work. Consider making a plan to help each other make time for pumping milk during the workday.

When thinking about options for childcare, it will be important to find a caregiver who is supportive of breastfeeding. You might bring up the subject of breastfeeding by saying “I’d like to leave breast milk for my baby. How would you feel about that?” You may want to look for a caregiver close to your workplace so you can breast feed the baby during your lunch break.

Breast milk can be expressed by hand, with a hand pump, or with an electric pump. If you will be working more than part-time, a high quality electric breast pump will be best to maintain your milk supply while you are away from your baby. With a double pump and a little practice, you will be able to complete a pumping session in about 15-20 minutes.

Storing Breast Milk

Normal human milk looks different from the cow’s milk you buy at the grocery store. When breast milk is left to stand, it separates as the fat rises to the top of the container. The milk has not spoiled! By gently shaking the container, breast milk will return to its previous consistency.

  • Store your breast milk in clean plastic bottles or plastic nursing bags. If you plan to freeze the breast milk, use double bags.
  • Put the date and the baby’s name on the container.
  • Put 2 to 4 ounces in each nursing bag or bottle. You need to throw away any breast milk left over after the feeding
  • Refrigerate your breast milk, or put it on ice in a cooler. After it is cool, you may add it to other cooled or frozen breast milk. The amount you add should be less than what is already frozen.
  • If you will not use the breast milk within 48 hours, freeze it. Leave some room at the top of the container. Milk expands as it freezes.
  • You can store breast milk in the back part of the refrigerator for 48 hours. You can freeze it for 3 months in a freezer with a door separate from the refrigerator.
  • Use the oldest breast milk first. To thaw or warm it, gently shake the bottle or bag while holding it under warm running water. Warm it to room temperature. Do not heat it on the stove or in the microwave. Heating destroys substances in the milk that prevent illness. Microwaves can also cause hot spots in the milk that may burn the baby.

Learn how to encourage your employer to support breastfeeding!