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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 the 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.

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. If unable to keep a regular pumping schedule at work, expressing small amounts of milk during quick bathroom breaks can help to maintain milk production better than going for longer periods without expressing any milk.

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 frequently in the evenings and on weekends can help you better maintain milk production. And, you and your baby will enjoy the time together after separation.

As solid food are added to your baby's diet, you may find you do not have to pump as frequently. Gradually lessen pumping sessions. You may want the care provider to offer the solid foods, so your baby continues to breastfeed more when with you. This also may allow you to begin gradually extending the time between pumping sessions.

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 experience a decrease in milk production the first week they return to work due to the stress and changes in schedule. If this does occur, it should increase with frequent pumping sessions. Continue to breastfeed your baby as often as possible when not at work.

Contact your doctor or a certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) for information, advice, and assistance about breastfeeding.

Online Medical Reviewer: Holloway, Beth, RN, M.Ed.
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Date Last Reviewed: 10/13/2014
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