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Working Mama's: Breastfeeding/Pumping and Returning to Work

Updated: Dec 22, 2021

Whether you get 4 months or 6 weeks of time off, it is hard to leave your baby and reenter the work force. The United States has a lot of work to do regarding postpartum care, and I as well as other LC’s in the US will continue to fight for this right. Going back to work can be accompanied by a lot of stress and anxiety. Where will I pump? Who will watch my baby? Will I be scrutinized for wanting to provide breastmilk for my baby? Will I have time to pump?

Pumping is HARD work, and having an employer who is not supportive is even harder. It takes time while you're connected to a machine, and there are a lot of dirty pump parts to clean. It isn’t fun, but can be totally worth it. I pumped at work for 2 years with my daughter and just over a year with my son before moving across the state. It was a lot of time and dedication, but I wouldn’t change it.

Here are some tips and tricks to making the transition back to work easier

  1. Talk to your manager! Before returning to work, chat about what your goals for pumping are, the time needed to pump and the importance of identifying an appropriate place for pumping.

  2. If you want to stock your freezer, you can, but it’s not necessary. You will need to have one day's worth of milk to feed your baby when returning to work. If you would like to have a bit more stashed away in the freezer, pump after the morning feed a couple days a week, when your milk supply is the highest, and stash that away.

  3. Use a double electric pump! Hands free bras are great, save you time, and let you relax while pumping as well.

  4. Do some hands-on pumping. While you pump, do some slow breast compressions to yield more milk. Think of your breast as a clock and do compressions around the clock to get all those milk ducts.

  5. Look at your baby…from afar! Watch videos, look at pictures or bring a piece of baby’s clothing to smell while pumping.

  6. Don’t watch! Cover the pump bottles with baby socks and set a timer so you aren’t watching and worrying about the amount of milk being pumped.

  7. Distract yourself! Listen to music, watch something on your phone to distract yourself from pumping

  8. Get fitted! Make sure your pump flanges are fitted properly! This is so important. If you have questions about this, please contact your local Lactation Consultant.

  9. Paced Bottle Feeding! Teach your caregiver how to do a Paced Bottle Feeding. This technique mimics breastfeeding, gives baby breaks and will ration your milk stash. Babies suck to soothe! So, if they are given a bottle flowing freely and don’t have to work for it, they will drink gobble it right down.

Click HERE for more information on the Paced Bottle Feeding Technique.

10. Use a slow flow bottle nipple! A premie or level O nipple will help control the flow and make sure baby is working for the milk just like they do at the breast.

And last but not least, breathe! Lots of moms have been in this position too, and it takes time to get into a new routine. When you get home from work, snuggle with your baby, do lots of skin to skin contact and let them feed on demand to reconnect at the end of the day. If you find yourself in a position with an employer who is not supportive, please reach out to your local LC, and we can help you navigate the situation. You got this mama!


Kelsey, BSN, RN, IBCLC


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