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Breastfeeding When Returning to Work

Many mothers find they maintain milk production more easily if they breastfeed before showering or getting ready for work, and then breastfeed again just before leaving the baby with the care provider.

A new routine

If possible, develop a pumping routine based on when your baby would normally breastfeed, especially when first returning to work. However, you, your baby, and your milk production will adjust to a new routine if you are able to pump often enough. Many mothers do find pumping sessions go more quickly when they are able to pump at about the same time each day.

Double pumping

Most mothers prefer to pump both breasts at once with a double collection kit about every 3 hours, for 10 to 15 minutes. Double pumping reduces pumping time. However, frequent sessions are needed to empty the breasts for continued milk production and avoid any breast discomfort. Pumping less often, even for longer than 15 minutes, does not help maintain milk production. It may be hard for you to keep a regular pumping schedule at work. If that’s the case, then try expressing small amounts of milk during quick bathroom breaks. This can help maintain your milk production better than going for longer periods without expressing any milk.

Making time to breastfeed

Plan to breastfeed your baby as soon as you are back together. Ask your care provider to try not to feed your baby for 1 to 2 hours before you arrive. It may help to call the care provider when you are ready to leave work, so he or she knows when you are on your way.

You may need to arrange your evening schedule so you can spend more time with your baby when you get home. Breastfeeding more often in the evenings and on weekends can help you better maintain milk production. You and your baby will also enjoy the time together after having been apart.

Solid foods

As solid foods are added to your baby's diet, you may find you don’t have to pump as often. Slowly lessen your pumping sessions. You may want the care provider to offer the solid foods, so your baby keeps breastfeeding more when he or she is with you. This also may allow you to begin slowly extending the time between your pumping sessions.

Adjusting to change

The first few days or weeks after you return to work may be difficult until you and your baby develop a new routine. You can expect a period of adjustment as your body and your baby respond to the change. Some mothers produce less milk production the first week they return to work, due to the stress and changes in schedule. If this does occur, your milk production should increase with frequent pumping sessions. Keep breastfeeding your baby as often as possible when not at work.

Contact your healthcare provider or a certified lactation consultant for information, advice, and help about breastfeeding.

Online Medical Reviewer: Adler, Liora C., MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Freeborn, Donna, PhD, CNM, FNP
Date Last Reviewed: 11/1/2016
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