Going Back to Work

Women have worked for as long as they have had babies. Being a working mom has been a “thing” for a very long time. Of course, all moms work! When I say working mom, I am referring to a mom who works at a job other than being a mom. I am talking about jobs that require you to be separated from your baby long enough that you will miss one or more feedings, on a regular basis. I include moms who go to school too when I refer to working moms.

Some moms go out of their home to another location to work. With the creation of telecommuting, some moms work at home. Moms who work at home may take their baby to a location outside of the home to be cared for, or they may have someone come into their home to care for their baby.

I will address the challenges of moms who are separated from their baby when they work.

When I first started writing this article, I was going to put in all kinds of statistics and talk about how other countries support their working moms with long, paid maternity leaves. Blah, blah, blah. You know all that. What you want to know is how are YOU going to make it work, this breastfeeding and working thing.

Is It Worth It?

If you are breastfeeding and contemplating how exactly you are going to manage breastfeeding and working when you go back to work, you may have moments when you wonder if it will be worth it? Let’s be honest,  breastfeeding and working is harder than being a breastfeeding mom who doesn’t have to work, or a working mom who doesn’t breastfeed. The question you need to ask yourself, and you possibly already are asking is: is it worth the extra work, planning, and strategizing, compared to a mom who feeds formula or who is going to have her baby fed formula while she is at work?

First of all, go back and read about why breastfeeding is important:

Why Breastfeed?

Formula fed babies get sick more often than breastfed babies. A sick baby needs his parents to take off time from work to take him to the doctor and to care for him when he is sick. You never want to be THAT parent who takes her child to daycare when he is sick. It doesn’t matter how important your meeting or presentation is. It’s just not okay to expose the other kids to whatever is making your baby sick. Besides, you don’t want to mess with Karma.

If you breastfeed, this will be an issue less frequently. Nobody is promising that a breastfed baby never gets sick. We just know that a formula-fed baby gets sick more often.

Plan, Plan, Plan!

There are several things that you can do to pave the way to making this part of your breastfeeding journey easier. You don’t want to try and shoot from the hip.

  • Make sure the person who provides your childcare is going to be fully supportive of breastfeeding
  • Get a good pump
    • Sign up for my FREE review of pumps. You’ll find that to the right of this post on a laptop or tablet. On a phone, scroll down at the end of the post.
  • Build up a stash of your milk in the freezer
    • I recommend having a goal of 2 weeks worth of milk, which will be your back up stash because what you pump one day, will be fed to your baby the next day.
      • You need a back-up for those days when you don’t get to pump as often as you need to

        Photo credit: found_drama via Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-SA

        Photo credit: found_drama via Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-SA

      • Or you spill what you just pumped
      • Or the care provider spills a bottle of your milk
      • Or your baby goes through a growth spurt
    • Find out what your legal rights are regarding pumping at work. Make sure your employer is aware of the law. Your state may have additional protections as well as the federal protection https://www.dol.gov/whd/nursingmothers/faqBTNM.htm
  • Talk to your employer before you go back to work, about when and where you will be pumping
  • Get an insulated bag to keep your milk in
  • Having two pump kits will make it easier, especially in case you forget your pump kit at home. If you have one, leave one pump kit at work for this emergency
  • Have a manual pump at work in case you go to pump, and your pump doesn’t work
  • Make sure your baby will take a bottle


Building a stash:

  • Calculate how much your baby will need for the time that you will be gone. The best way to do this is to do before and after weights a few times and take an average. Often breastfeeding support groups will have a scale where you can do this.
  • Giving a bottle, and seeing how much your baby takes is not always reliable because if it isn’t a properly paced feeding, you may think he takes a lot more at the breast than he actually does.
    • What he gets at the breast should be the number you work with.
  • Start pumping for your stash about six weeks before you are going to go back to work.
  • Pump after a feeding when your milk supply is most abundant.
    • For most moms, this is in the morning
  • Depending on how much you get when you pump you may only need to pump every 2 or 3 days, or up to 2 or 3 times a day. Every mom is different.

Maintaining your stash:

  • You will almost certainly start using this stash at some point.
  • Every mom will have a different point when she feels like she needs to replenish it.
  • When you feel like it needs to be replenished, start pumping after feedings on the days that you are with your baby all day.
  • Use the oldest milk when you need to dip into your stash.


Photo credit: heraldpost on Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC

  • When interviewing child care providers, ask them how they feel about breastfeeding babies and supporting a mom who plans to provide breastmilk for her baby while he is with the care provider. Try to make these questions open-ended.
    • You want to find out if they see this as valuable or more work for them.
  • What is their experience with breastfeeding babies and preparing breastmilk?
  • Where will they store your milk to ensure that it won’t get mixed up with another breastfed baby’s milk?
  • What would they do if they ran out of your milk?
    • I would hope that they would call you and find out what you want them to do, and that they would do this before the feeding that they won’t have any milk for.
    • Make sure they always have at least one bottle extra as a back-up, preferably two. Do they have a freezer for this type of backup plan? If not, is it feasible for you to purchase a small freezer for this purpose? You can buy a small freezer for as little as $100. That will be way too much for some and small change for others.
  • Is it possible for you to arrive a little early and breastfeed, and breastfeed when you pick your baby up? If you live more than 10-15 minutes away, this kind of thing can make a difference, especially for the pick-up at the end of the day.
  • If you can’t do this there, can you do it in your car? (That only works if you have a car.)


In a perfect world, there would be these options:

  • Long maternity leaves
  • Baby with you if you don’t have a long maternity leave
  • On-site day-care
  • Shorter work week with a day off in the middle

We don’t live in a perfect world. If you don’t have these options you may be able to negotiate coming back to work a little earlier and part-time instead of full time for the first month. While this may seem counter-intuitive, this can be beneficial because it can ease you back into the separation from your baby.

There is always the ideal and then your reality. You have to be both firm and flexible. Always remember, some breastfeeding is always going to be better than none.


There are typical times when moms go back to work. These tend to be at six weeks, three months and six months.

Growth Spurts typically occur at three weeks, six weeks, three months and six months.

If you go back to work at the same time as a growth spurt it can be very stressful, and your confidence can take a hit about whether you will be able to manage this breastfeeding and working business. If you can, delay your return to work by a week or two if it is going to coincide with a time that is known for growth spurts.

Pumping Schedule

A common question I get is, how often should I pump when I’m a breastfeeding and working mom. The ideal is to pump whenever your baby would be feeding. If you can’t pump that often, the next answer is to do the best that you can. That is all you can ever do, your best. You should always feel awesome about doing your best.


Photo credit: Selbe Lynn on VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Supplies you will need to pump

  • A good pump, meaning it is new for this baby
  • A bag to carry the pump and pumping parts
  • An insulated bag to store and transport the milk
  • A hands-free pumping bra can enable you to multi-task
  • A manual pump for back-up
  • Extra valves, diaphragms, and any other accessories that could potentially fail with your pump parts


            Moms who are breastfeeding and working have often reported that their baby is unhappy when they get home. It can be so disappointing because you may have been thinking all day about being with your baby and then when you are finally together, he just cries for an hour. Think to yourself if this is typically his fussy time of day, to begin with. It may be just because they missed you or they are overstimulated. One mom said she interpreted it as her baby telling her about his day.

Fluctuations in supply – It is not unusual to have a decrease in the amount from your first pumping to your last. This happens when you are breastfeeding too!

You also will probably have a decrease in your supply as the week progresses. Then when you spend a day or two with your baby, your supply will increase again. This is the reason that working a couple of days and then having a day off with your baby, helps keep your supply going throughout the week.

One Last Thought

These things are true

  • Breastfeeding is valuable
  • Breastfeeding and working is challenging
  • Maintaining breastfeeding while working is worth the effort.

What is your biggest concern about breastfeeding and working, or what was your biggest challenge when you managed breastfeeding and working? Share it in the comments section. I will gladly answer any questions.


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Next Time

Reflux and Breastfeeding