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Back-to-Work Breastfeeding Tips

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University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children'sExperts in Children's Health
Breast milk in the bottle and storage bags

If you’re like most moms, eventually maternity leave will end and you’ll return to work. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up the health benefits and bond of breastfeeding, if you’d like to continue. With a few tips, you can maintain your milk supply and continue to nurse.

“Don’t worry about going back to work at week one when you have 12 weeks of maternity leave,” says University Hospitals lactation consultant Mary McLaughlin, BSN, RN, CCCE, IBCLC. “Genuinely enjoy your time together, then lean on some simple tips that will make it easier to continue breastfeeding after you return to work.”

Important Basics

Begin pumping and storing milk as soon as breastfeeding is well established at home and your baby is gaining weight. This will allow you build up a store of breast milk and get your body into a routine. Nurse or pump the same number of times each day to keep milk production stable once you return to work.

It’s also important to understand reverse-cycle nursing: Some babies choose to nurse more when mom is home and sleep more when mom is away, so nurse often (day or night) whenever you’re home and your baby chooses.

Ease the Transition

  • If you have flexibility, plan to work fewer days or fewer hours at first, gradually returning to a full schedule.
  • Return to work at the end of a work week – a Thursday or Friday – to minimize the initial separation.
  • Nurse twice before leaving for work and again as soon as you return.
  • Ask the caregiver or daycare not to feed your baby within 1-1/2 hours of your return.

At Work

  • Confirm the location of a mother’s room or private pumping area with human resources or your manager.
  • Keep several sets of nursing pads in your bag for protection from leaks.
  • Wear 2-piece outfits for easier pumping.
  • Wear patterned tops rather than solid colors to better camouflage leaks or milk spots. Have a jacket or sweater as a cover-up if needed.

Stored Milk Strategies

  • Store milk in the smallest volume your baby will take.
  • Have 1-2 ounce snacks in case your baby needs a little more at some feedings.
  • Use a slow-flow nipple for bottle feeding.
  • Teach caregivers paced bottle-feeding techniques that mimic breastfeeding and prevent fast milk flow. Lactation consultants can help you master these techniques.

Related Links

Whether you're a new mom or a seasoned parenting pro, breastfeeding often comes with its fair share of questions. Our Breastfeeding Guide provides answers to common inquiries that mothers — new and veteran – may have.

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