Breast Pumping and Returning to Work

Breast Pumping and Returning to Work

This blog is written for a breastfeeding mom, returning to work. At Bebe au Lait, we believe #fedisbest. Everyone has different circumstances that influence the decisions they make in life. The choice to breastfeed or not is a very personal journey, so look into all of your options and do what feels right for you, your baby and your family as a whole. If you do decide to pump, we’d love to share some great tips!

If you have recently given birth, and are planning to go back to work, you may be thinking about how to manage your baby’s food. For those of you breastfeeding, that can mean the dreaded breast pump. The good news is that with a little guidance and a bit of strategy, you can ensure that your baby gets to enjoy nature’s finest baby food while you continue with your professional journey.

When is the right time to start pumping?

Right away - 

The right time to start pumping will depend on your specific circumstances. Many new moms start pumping while still in the birthing center or hospital. This helps encourage milk supply, which can be particularly important if it has already been established that mom will not physically be nursing baby from birth, but pumping and bottle feeding.

Waiting –

Some new moms prefer waiting a few weeks before they start pumping - nursing on demand can be very time consuming and in those first few weeks you will feel as though you have done nothing but nurse. To try and pump as well, might be taking on too much. Further, lactation experts recommend that you hold off giving a bottle until you are able to establish a regular breastfeeding routine.

It is best that you first establish adequate and stable milk production. Generally speaking, breastfeeding should be well-established by the time your baby is between 4 to 6 weeks old. By now, you are also likely to have enough time between feeding sessions to pump some extra milk that can be refrigerated or frozen for later use. Typically, you won’t need to start pumping until two weeks before going back to work so plan accordingly.

The importance of keeping up the milk supply

While it depends on your work hours, generally, most working mothers can still manage to get in as many as four actual breastfeeding sessions in a day. These include one early morning pre-work feeding, one or two evening feedings, and a before-bedtime feeding. Pumping breast milk is the solution for the missed feedings that will happen during the workday. Your baby’s caregiver can give your baby the bottles of your pumped breastmilk while you are away. For this reason, you will need to maintain your milk supply.

Whenever you are not at work, breastfeed. This not only strengthens the bond between you and your baby but it is also necessary for building up a good milk supply. Breastfeeding stimulates your breasts to produce more milk than pumping does.

Many women notice that if they have a five-day workweek, the quantity of milk that they are able to pump decreases towards the end of the week. However, when they keep nursing throughout the weekend, their breasts are much fuller on Monday, and they can pump more milk. You can save and store this milk for when your supply may be running low towards the end of the week.

After a couple of weeks of juggling breastfeeding and working, your body will naturally adjust to create the right quantity of milk that your baby needs.  

Introducing the bottle

It is recommended by lactation consultants to begin introducing the bottle once breastfeeding has been well-established. This will reduce the risk of nipple confusion and upsetting a good routine. Babies need time to learn the art of latching to the breast, they also need the time to learn the art of bottle feeding. While they may refuse and become upset in the beginning, slowly but surely, they will begin to accept this new way of feeding. It may be helpful to have someone other than yourself feed them. A baby does not understand why the bottle is now being introduced by mom, but it is known to be more readily received if it is not mom offering the bottle.

Preparing to go back to work - How much milk?

How much milk your breastfed baby will need while she is at daycare depends on how much time she will be spending away from you. You will have to pump about as regularly as your baby nurses, which could be once every two or three hours. This means that during an eight-hour workday, you will need to pump mid-morning, at lunch, and mid-afternoon. This should take about 15-20 minutes if you pump both sides simultaneously. However, if you pump each breast separately, each pumping session can take up to 30 minutes.  Read about your workplace rights here.

Research says that the average baby takes in approx. 25 oz of milk in a 24-hour period between the ages of 1-6 months. If you begin working on this routine 2 weeks ahead of your return to work, this will allow you to see just how much baby needs and you can adjust without too much distress for either one of you.

Milk Storage

It is also important that you figure out how to store your breast milk. Storing your pumped milk in 2-3 oz portions will minimize wasting this ‘cold gold’. Be sure to educate your baby’s caregiver about how to handle breastmilk.

Room temperature (Countertop 77°F (25°C) or colder) - up to 4 hours

Refrigerator (40°F (4°C) – up to 4 days

Pumping at work

Pumping at work may seem challenging, but once you get the hang of it, it will definitely become easier. One of the biggest concerns for many moms is where you will pump.  Most employers are now required to provide a private place for you to use.  Find out from your employer before you head back to work where that spot is.  This will save a lot of stress on your first day back.

Ideally, this spot should have an electrical outlet (so that you can use an electric pump), a comfortable chair and a table for placing your equipment. Bringing a photo of your baby will help with the ‘let-down’ or release of breastmilk. Dress in comfortable clothing that will allow for easy access and therefore makes the pumping task easier for you. A pumping bra will come in extremely useful at this time. We like this one from the Dairy Fairy. It can be worn all day long, not just for pumping.

If the spot is not completely private (large workplaces may have several pumping moms at any one time), or if there is not a lock on the door, you may feel more comfortable using a pumping/nursing cover like ours. These covers have an open neckline, allowing you to see your progress and keep you covered should someone accidentally walk in.

Once you have pumped your milk, be sure to store it in the fridge, labeling your bottles to avoid confusion.

It's a lot, but you can do this. You're already doing a fantastic job!

We hope you found this post useful. If you have discovered any other tips that you would like us to pass on to other working moms, please email them to




Shop New Arrivals