How To Return To Work When You’re Breastfeeding



If you’re a breastfeeding mother who works, returning to the office after your maternity leave can be one of the most overwhelming and stressful thoughts. I don’t have personal experience with this, because I work from home my situation was a bit different. I did need to pump and have a stash of milk for weddings, shoots and meetings – but because I was at home most of the time I would just pump and then pass the bottle off to our nanny. I have had so many friends and readers ask for suggestions on how to start pumping and for how to keep it up in the work place, so today I’ve decided to put all the information I could find in one post.

Katy Linda, a board certified lactation consultant who is based here in Maryland (where I live) is also offering some advice! Katy offers in-person consultation services in our area but also has several classes available online.

For more on this topic, read a Full-Time Working Mom’s Guide To Pumping 

and Everything You Need For Breastfeeding

Investing in breast pump.

I’d say most women I know pump regardless of if they work or not, it gives you freedom to leave the house and let someone other than yourself feed the baby :)  It’s also essential for returning to work!

“The Affordable Care Act does mandate insurance coverage for lactation support as well as breast pumps.  Most pumps are designed to be used for 1 mom for 1 year.  Contact your insurance company to find out how to get your pump, it’s highly recommended that you not use a used pump.  It is likely you won’t get as much milk from a used pump.” – Katy Linda, IBCLC 

There are plenty of different pumps on the market – it’s hard to know which one is best for you so do your research. It’s important to look at the big picture – what do you need most from a pump? Be sure to check out all of the accessories and how you’ll use them (storage bags, adapters, bottles, ability to easily pick up parts at Target etc.).

BabyCenter has posted their favorite pumps from 2017 here. Baby Gear Lab has a very comprehensive and informative post on breast pumps here.

You also may find it helpful to have a manual breast pump (the one I used & loved)  that you can easily tuck into your bag and use in a pinch.

How and when should a woman start pumping?

“The breastfeeding parent should start pumping when breastfeeding is established and going well.  Typically around 3 – 5 weeks of age.  Pumping doesn’t need to be a big ordeal, once a day or every other day is plenty.

I typically suggest moms pump after a morning/early afternoon feeding when their baby reliably will be sleeping.  I reassure them that when you pump right after a feeding you don’t typically get a full bottle’s worth, but you get enough, and a few pumping sessions will get you a bottle.  And when you give that bottle, you’ll pump to replace it.  ” –Katy Linda, IBCLC 

Always pump at the same time – as your body begins to recognize the additional “nursing” session you’ve added you’ll begin to produce more milk each time you pump. Don’t get discouraged the first time you pump if you don’t have much milk! You are slowly increasing your milk supply. You’ll likely find you want to do this when you return to work too – keeping a consistent schedule is key to consistent milk production.

In the morning you’re milk supply will be at it’s peak so it’s a good idea to start pumping then as opposed to the end of the day. (I always pumped immediately following my first feed of the day).

Cleaning your pump.

It’s extremely important to properly clean your breast pump, parts and bottles you use to store and feed your baby. You can see the new guidelines for cleaning your breast pump here.


How much milk should she plan on saving before her return to work?

“This can sometimes be a trick question. In a perfect world, the breastfeeding parent would pump at work on Monday and send that milk to daycare on Tuesday.  In some situations, the breastfeeding parent will not be able to pump as often as needed to collect the necessary amount of milk.  If the parent is going to be traveling often, or has a job where pumping will be a challenge, having extra milk in the freezer to make that transition easier would be helpful.  It’s helpful to keep in mind that milk can’t be stored forever, and you don’t want to spend your entire parental leave pumping instead of enjoying your baby. ” – Katy Linda, IBCLC

It’s important to know storage guidelines for keeping your breastmilk as you develop your stash – you can reference the CDC’s guidelines here. It’s important to print this out and put it in your kitchen so everyone feeding your baby is aware all the time!

Tips for keeping up milk production after returning to work. 

“Making sure that you are pumping with the right sized flanges is really important.  Flanges are not one standard size.  You want the nipple and some areola to move freely in the flange. You don’t want the nipple to rub on the sides of the flanges, and you also don’t want the nipple to swell within the flange.   If your pump has a let down or vibration mode, use that to your advantage.  Start in let down mode, and when the milk flow slows down, hit that button again to trigger another let down.  Hands on pumping and breast massage is also very helpful in getting the rest of the milk from the breast.  No pump is 100% effective at emptying the breast. ” – Katy Linda, IBCLC 

Looking at photos and videos of your baby can help stimulate milk production, so stock up on your phone. Even better if your caregiver can send them throughout the day!


There are several foods that are thought to help increase milk supply – such as oatmeal, brewers yeast (great in smoothies & cookies), Fenugreek (comes in a capsule or tea), garlic, fennel,

If families live in central Maryland, Katy provides pumping and back to work consults in the comfort of your own home where she will check the flanges and the pump functionality and make sure you are prepared for your return to work. Learn more here

Image by Anna Reynal




How To Return To Work When You’re Breastfeeding



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