Returning to Work

If you want to continue to feed your baby with breastmilk when you return to work, pumping will become necessary to have milk to provide while you are away and to keep up with your milk supply. Plan to pump as many times as your baby will eat while you are at work. Prior to returning to work, it is important to have a conversation with your employer or supervisor regarding what this will look like. For some women, this conversation may be as simple as scheduling break-time to allow for pumping. For others, you may be the first woman to pump at your workplace and might have to lead the way. 

Important things to consider in your conversation include your rights as a breastfeeding mother. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is a law that requires employers to provide breastfeeding mothers with certain accommodations for one year after their child’s birth. Under this law, employers are required to allow for their nursing employees break time to pump. Additionally, they must provide a private place to pump that is free from intrusion and shielded from view. The law mandates that this must be a functional space for pumping (have an electrical outlet, a place to sit, etc.) and that it is NOT in a bathroom. 

Starting to pump

  • Begin to pump one to two times a day about two weeks before you plan to return to work.  
    • You have more milk in the morning, so that is the best time to pump. Sit down and pump about one to one and a half hours after baby’s morning feeding.
    • You can pump your other breast any time baby only takes one breast.  
    • You can pump any time after a feed if you feel your breasts are still full.
  • If your baby is hungry shortly after you pump, just put baby to breast. Your breasts are never empty, and your baby will still be able to stimulate another letdown.  
  • Once a day, practice feeding with a bottle.
    • To prevent a bottle preference, it is important to use a slow-flow nipple and practice paced feeding. Click here to watch a video demonstration of paced feeding.
    • You may have to try several different nipple sizes or shapes.
    • Some mothers find that baby will not take a bottle from them and have better luck with another caregiver giving the bottle.  
  • Do a practice day.
    • Plan to bottle feed your baby the milk you have collected. 
    • You will pump at the times baby takes the bottle. 
    • Try to coordinate with your partner as baby may be more willing to take the bottle from someone else.

Low output

  • Some people struggle with achieving a letdown with the pump. It can be hard to achieve a letdown when tense, so try to relax if you can.  
    • Use a pumping bra so you do not need to hold the bottles in place.  
    • Sit back in chair and try not to tense up shoulders  
    • Use “baby cues.” Print pictures of your baby to put in your pumping bag. Watch videos of your baby on your phone. Think of snuggling your baby, and maybe even bring a onesie they have worn that smells like them.  
    • Take deep breaths and try not to focus on the output in the bottles.  
  • Utilize breast compressions/massage while pumping.  
  • Ensure flange fit is appropriate. This can not only improve pump output but can also make pumping more comfortable. If you are unsure if you have the correct flange size, click here to download a flange fit resource. 
  • If you previously had been having adequate output, and have recently decreased, consider replacing pump parts. Frequency of replacing pump parts can vary depending on the brand of the pump. Check with the manufacturer of your breast pump manufacturer to see how often they recommend replacing pump parts.  
    • Duckbills – typically replace every 1-2 months.  
    • Valve membranes – typically replace monthly 
    • Backflow protectors – typically replace every 3-6 months 
    • Tubing – typically replace if damaged or warped  

Low milk supply

  • Some women notice that after they go back to work or baby is sleeping through the night, they have a dip in their supply.  
  • Review these seven tips to increase milk supply
  • Make sure you are getting adequate sleep.  
  • Some moms feel eating oatmeal and staying hydrated can help with milk supply. 
  • Use relaxing music or a pump meditation.