Making Breastfeeding Easier for Working Mothers

By using a breast pump while at work and saving milk to feed your baby while you are away, you can effectively breastfeed as a working mother. The lactation team at University Hospitals offers a variety of tips and resources for breastfeeding mothers who are returning to work.

Working Mothers Can Breastfeed

Mothers may think they cannot breastfeed because they are returning to work full or part-time. This is not true. There are several ways a working mother can maintain a milk supply and continue to breastfeed. As a matter of fact, mothers who continue to breastfeed miss less work because they have healthier babies.

If possible, plan to stay at home with your new baby for at least 4 to 6 weeks. The extra time spent with your baby could be helpful in many ways. You can build your milk supply, develop a good relationship with your baby and allow your body to rest and recover from pregnancy and childbirth.

How Working Mothers Can Maintain Milk Supply

There are several ways you can maintain your milk supply after returning to work. The method you choose should be decided by what works best for you based on:

  • The demands of your job.
  • The needs of your baby.
  • The availability of a private area at work for breast pumping or hand expression, with access to an electrical outlet and a door lock.
  • If there is no area at work set aside for breastfeeding mothers, you might discuss this with management. Keep in mind that companies benefit from women who breastfeed:
    • Less work absenteeism because mom and baby are healthy.
    • Lower health care costs for the company.
    • Employee satisfaction is higher which may lead to greater productivity and less job turnover.

Breastfeeding Choices for Working Mothers

The approaches below are examples of what a working mother might choose. You might want to discuss other approaches with your doctor, lactation consultant and employer.

  • You may choose to pump or hand express while at work. Many mothers prefer a double electric breast pump when working full-time.
  • Nurse your baby before you leave for work. Some mothers nurse their babies when they first wake up and then again right before they leave.
  • Pump or hand express at least once (if not twice) during the 8-hour work day. When you plan how often to pump, remember to add your travel time to and from work. Frequent pumping or hand expression will help you maintain a good milk supply.
  • Nurse your baby as soon as you return home from work. Tell your babysitter not to feed your baby just before you come home. That way your baby will be hungry and will nurse.
  • Nurse throughout the evening and night. Some babies will take only a small amount of milk during the day and will want to nurse frequently at night.
  • On your days off from work, nurse at the times you would usually pump.

If you work close to home, you may choose to:

  • Have your caregiver/babysitter bring your baby to work for you to nurse during your breaks and lunch.
  • Go home to nurse during your breaks and lunch.
  • Talk with your employer about a flexible schedule that might include:
    • Working part-time (4 hours per day).
    • Job-sharing with another working mother.
    • Starting back to work part-time for a few weeks before you return to work full-time.

Keep in mind that being a mother and work are two jobs. Ask your family to help with housework or, if possible, hire someone to help you. Take time to network with other working mothers and share ideas.

Sources:

Lawrence, Ruth A. & Lawrence, Robert M. “Breastfeeding, A Guide for the Medical Professional”, Eighth edition, ELSEVIER, 2016.

Wambach, Karen and Riordan, Jan “Breastfeeding and Human Lactation”, Fifth edition, Jones & Bartlett, 2016.