Living Well

Breastfeeding and Returning to Work

Portia L. Williams RN BSN IBCLC
Breastfeeding and Returning to Work

Breastfeeding after you return to work can be a challenge, but it’s an accomplishment you can be proud of. These helpful tips from a Touro Lactation Consultant will help breastfeeding moms plan a successful return to work.

Why Work and Pump?

Planning ahead for your return to work can help ease the transition. Learn as much as you can before the baby’s birth, and talk with your employer about your options. Planning ahead can help you continue to enjoy breastfeeding your baby long after your maternity leave is over.

What can I do while on maternity leave to make breastfeeding more successful after I return to work?

  • 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.
  • Practice expressing your milk by hand or with a breast pump. A breast pump may be the best method for efficiently removing milk during the workday. A hands-free breast pump may even allow you to work while pumping if you have a laptop or an office with a door that you can close. See our Pumping and breastmilk storage section for information on how much to pump and how to store your milk.
  • Help your baby adjust to taking breastmilk from a bottle (or cup for infants 3 to 4 months old). It may be helpful to have someone else give the bottle or cup to your baby at first. Wait at least a month before introducing a bottle to your infant.

What can I do when I return to work to help ease the transition?

  • Keep talking with your boss about your schedule and what is or isn’t working for you. Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, most employers, with few exceptions, must offer their breastfeeding employees reasonable break times to pump for up to 1 year after her baby is born and a place, other than a bathroom, to comfortably, safely, and privately express breastmilk. Learn more about how to protect your right to breastfeed.
  • When you arrive to pick up your baby from child care, try to take time to breastfeed your baby right away. This will give you and your baby time to reconnect before going home.

How often should I pump at work?

At work, you will need to express milk during the times you would normally feed your baby. As a general rule: in the first few months of life, babies need to breastfeed eight to 12 times in 24 hours. As the baby gets older, the number of feeding times may go down.

Expressing milk can take about 10 to 15 minutes. Sometimes it may take longer. Many women use their regular breaks and lunch break to pump. Some women come to work early or stay late to make up the time needed to express milk.

Where should I store my breastmilk?

Breastmilk is food, so it is safe to keep it in an employee refrigerator or a cooler with ice packs. Talk to your boss about the best place to store your milk. If you work in a medical department, do not store milk in the same refrigerators where medical specimens are kept.

Be sure to label the milk container with your name and the date you expressed the milk. Place the container in a canvas or insulated bag that you can discreetly put in the back of the workplace refrigerator with the other employees’ lunch bags.

How much breastmilk should I send with my baby during the day?

You may need to pump two to three times each day to make enough milk for your baby while he or she is with a caregiver.

Research shows that breastfed babies between 1 and 6 months old take in an average of 2 to 4 ounces per feeding. As your baby gets older, your breastmilk changes to meet your baby’s needs. So, your baby will get the nutrition he needs from the same number of ounces at 9 months as he did at 3 months.

Some babies eat less during the day when they are away from their mothers and then nurse more often at night. This is called “reverse-cycling.” Or, babies may eat during the day and still nurse more often at night. This may be more for the closeness with you that your baby craves. If your baby reverse cycles, you may find that you do not need to pump as much milk for your baby during the day.

Support for breastfeeding moms

Touro Lactation Store:  Touro offers a full-service retail store where families can purchase products specifically for breastfeeding needs. The store is conveniently located on the second floor of the hospital near the Family Birthing Center. The Center also offers bra fittings by appointments free of charge and sells breastfeeding products and pump pieces.  To learn more, visit:  or call 504-897-8130.

Your Guide to Breastfeeding: This free, easy-to-read publication has how-to information and support to help women breastfed successfully.  Click here for the free guide.

Under the Affordable Care Act, pregnant and postpartum women can access lactation support and counseling from trained providers as well as certain breastfeeding equipment, such as breast pumps and nursing supplies.

La Lache League and the Mary Amelia Douglas Women’s Center

Breastfeeding and working flyer

Portia L. Williams RN BSN IBCLC is an International Board Certified Lactation Consult with 12 years of Maternal Child Experience, her personal experience as a NICU mom guides her love for supporting breastfeeding.  She is a proud graduate of UL Lafayette and has been employed at Touro since 2004.  Portia is a proud mom of two breastfed boys, which she tandem nursed.

To learn more, visit:  or call 504-897-8130.