Originally published on December 8, 2010.
Committed to breastfeeding but concerned that going back to work or school might make breastfeeding too hard? Breastfeeding can make it easier to stay connected. With a little planning, you can do it! Here are some simple ideas that have helped other moms:
- Focus on learning to breastfeed and making lots of milk.
- Delay returning to work as long as possible.
- Plan to go back to work part-time at first, if you can.
- Plan to start work at the end of the week, to ease into your new routine.
Before your baby is born:
- Take a breastfeeding class.
- Talk with your childcare provider and your employer about your plans to continue breastfeeding.
- Consider childcare close to work or school, where you may be able to breastfeed during lunch breaks.
- Choose a healthcare provider for your baby who supports breastfeeding.
- Join a support group for breastfeeding mothers.
Once your baby is born:
- Focus on learning to breastfeed and making lots of milk. (You don’t need to start pumping yet!)
2 weeks before returning to work:
- Rent or buy a double electric pump, if possible.
- Begin pumping and storing milk.
- Have someone else feed the baby with the new feeding method.
- Find clothes that make pumping easier, such as two-piece outfits and tops that button in the front. (Prints hide leaks better than solid colors.)
4-7 days before going back to work:
- Leave your baby with the caregiver for a short practice session.
- Work out an emergency plan for the unexpected, such as a sick child, car trouble, or traffic.
The night before you go back to work:
- Pack your baby’s bag, and a healthy lunch and snack for you.
- Gather your pump, cooler, and milk storage containers.
- Lay out your clothes for work. Pack extra cotton breast pads and extra tops or sweaters in case of leaking.
Going to work:
- Allow enough time so that your morning breastfeeding is relaxed and not rushed.
- Plan ahead for the evening meal. For example, take food from the freezer or place something in a slow cooker.
- Nurse your baby at home and again at the caregiver’s to keep up your milk supply.
- Nurse or pump at work at least 3 times in 8 hours for a young baby.
Picking your baby up from the caregiver:
- Plan to stop and nurse your baby as soon as you get to the caregiver’s.
- Leave the milk you pumped while at work with the caregiver for the next day.
- When you get home, nurse your baby again and enjoy reconnecting.
- Give yourself enough time so that your morning breastfeeding is relaxed.
- Plan ahead for the evening meal.
Did You know?
- Hand washing is the best way to help keep you and your baby well. Wash your hands for 15 seconds before nursing and pumping.
- Your breasts are never empty. Your baby can get milk if you’ve just pumped.
- Try pumping in the morning. Milk volume is greater. (Some women pump on one side while nursing on the other.)
- Three short pumping sessions, about 10 minutes each, are more effective than one long one.
- Gentle massage while pumping may help you pump more milk.
- Start at the lowest suction setting on your pump and increase to a setting that removes milk and feels comfortable. (Pumping shouldn’t hurt.)
- When you and your baby are apart, pump often to maintain your milk supply. Avoid waiting until your breasts feel full.
- Weekends are a great time to enjoy breastfeeding your baby while building your milk supply. Leave pumping and other feeding methods for workdays.
Storing and Using Pumped Breastmilk — A Guide
- Store breastmilk in a clean, airtight container. Use hard plastic or glass with tight fitting, solid lids or disposable feeding bottle liners or breastmilk storage bags. Leave ¼ of the container empty if you plan to freeze.
- Store it in the coldest part of the freezer, under the icemaker or in a back corner.
- Label the milk with the date and your child’s name. This is important when leaving pumped milk with the caregiver. Expert opinions vary on how long you can safely store breastmilk.**
- Keep fresh breastmilk at room temperature up to 4-6 hours.
- Keep fresh breastmilk in a cooler with frozen gel packs up to 24 hours.
- Store breastmilk in the refrigerator between 3 to 8 days.**
- Store breastmilk in a refrigerator freezer for 3 to 6 months and in a deep freezer with manual defrost for 6 to 12 months. (A freezer is cold enough to store breastmilk if it keeps ice cream hard.)
- Refrigerator thawed: Place container of frozen breastmilk in the refrigerator to thaw gradually.
- Warm-water “quick” thawed: Place container of frozen breastmilk in a bowl of warm tap water. Once the breastmilk is liquid, use it right away or refrigerate.
- Never microwave! “Hot spots” in the milk may burn your baby and the microwave destroys some of the infection fighting benefits of your milk.
- Keep thawed breastmilk in the coldest part of the refrigerator. For example, the back of the refrigerator is colder than the door. Do not refreeze. Use thawed milk within 24 hours or discard.
To Use After Refrigerating or Thawing
- Warm cold breastmilk by holding container under running warm water or in warm water for a few minutes.
- Gently mix breast milk before feeding because breastmilk components separate when thawing.
- Discard leftover milk if the bottle has been in the baby’s mouth.
- Keep breastmilk as cold as possible. Use insulated carriers and reusable frozen gel packs (not ice cubes).
To Clean Your Pumps
- Rinse pieces that came in contact with breastmilk with cool water.
- Wash pieces with warm soapy water, rinse, and air dry on a clean towel or wash pieces in the dishwasher.
*You will need to adapt this schedule if you work or go to school at night.
**This information should be considered a supplement to, and not a substitute for, care by a health care provider.
The photo used in this post comes from blogger, doula and childbirth educator, Stephanie, who blogs at Mama and Baby Love where she shares many excellent tips and anecdotes derived from her own breastfeeding experiences.