Are you a new mom who is heading back to work soon? Are you unsure how you can breastfeed while working full-time? Do you have a breastfeeding goal that seems impossible to meet because of your job? In this article I am going to plainly lay out how to successfully follow a breastfeeding and pumping schedule while working full-time out of the house.
As a mom who nursed my first child 16 months and my second child 11 months I know a thing or two about breastfeeding. Once you get over the initial hurdles and basics of breastfeeding, the most difficult part of breastfeeding is figuring out a good schedule.
Can you really breastfeed and work full-time?
So the time has come! It’s time to go back to work and the looming question in your mind is:
Can I really keep breastfeeding now that I’ll be away from my baby 8-9 hours a day?!
The short answer is: Yes
The long answer is: Yes, but it will take some real effort and organization on your part.
The Hurdles of Breastfeeding While Working Full-Time
I mean let’s be real. It will be much easier to let your milk dry up, not worry about carrying pumping equipment back and forth and not feel like you’re taking away company time by excusing yourself to pump every 3-4 hours.
Also another big hurdle women face when going back to work is that initial drop in supply.
It’s normal and it happens. While at home your baby was always in arms reach to nurse and that’s what kept your supply going. When you go back to work your body is trying to sort out what’s going on.
Remember, breastfeeding is all about supply and demand. Once you start making demands, the milk will come back.
When I went back to work I noticed my supply decreased and I was able to increase it in less than 24 hours. Read more about that here.
Before you set any type of schedule you will need supplies. So let’s get into that first:
Working Mom’s Breastfeeding and Pumping Supplies:
- A breast pump. Most women opt for an electric one, but I loved my manual pump.
If you are thinking electric I recommend The Medela Pump in Style Advanced it is very popular and has excellent reviews.
- Storage for your milk. I used Lansinoh Breastmilk Storage Bags
(DO NOT use a sandwich bag, unless you are in a crunch. You need bags designed for holding breast milk. They are thicker, pre-sterilized and will not leak. I stored in bottles on days I forgot or ran out of bags.)
- Nursing Pads – These were real lifesavers. There were times I could not leave a meeting or get off a call at the exact time I needed so naturally my breast began to leak out. By wearing these pads, I never ruined my bra or clothes.
(I used Lansinoh Stay Dry Disposable Nursing Pads they are lightweight and super absorbent.)
- A lunch bag to store milk in work fridge (this is totally optional). If you are private or don’t want anyone touching your milk while shuffling through the community fridge, make sure to have a bag to put your milk bags / bottles in.
(A male co-worker made a awkward comment to me about my breast milk after seeing it in the company’s fridge. I normally brown bagged but I decided to buy an actual lunch bag after that. )
Working Mom’s Breastfeeding and Pumping Schedule
*Please note this is based off of a 9a-5p work schedule please adjust accordingly.
7:30 a.m. – Nurse your baby. Make sure your breasts are completely or close to empty. This first feed is important because it sets your schedule for the rest of the day.
8:30 a.m. – Nanny Arrives / Daycare Drop-off (I had neither, my wonderful mother-in-law kept Savannah but you catch my drift)
11:00 a.m. – FIRST PUMP. After 3.5 hours since your last nursing session your breast will be ready to release. Once I got in the swing of things it took about 15 mins to pump 6-8 ounces, don’t get discouraged if you aren’t hitting those types of numbers at first. You will be become more efficient the more you pump.
1:00 p.m. – SECOND PUMP.
3:30 p.m. – THIRD PUMP.
5:30 p.m. – Reunite with baby and resume nursing
Simple, straightforward and to the point. The magic is really in the consistency. After following that schedule for a little while it will really become second nature to you.
By consistently breastfeeding and pumping at the same time every day you are telling your body when to start making and filling you breasts with milk.
If you want to continue to breastfeed while also working, it is possible. If you become overwhelmed or discouraged think about why you wanted to do it in the first place.
Also, because I feel like this needs to be said in all of my breastfeeding articles, I firmly believe Fed is Best. You have a lot on your plate so if you keep hitting a brick wall or your work schedule is not conducive, please do not let your mental health deteriorate in the name of breastfeeding.
Lastly, please know your rights.
Your Breastfeeding Rights at Work
The federal Break Time for Nursing Mothers law requires employers covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to provide basic accommodations for breastfeeding mothers at work.
These accommodations include time for women to express milk and a private space that is not a bathroom each time they need to pump. Find more about this here.
Cieara is a wife and mom of two, passionate about empowering parents to not just survive but thrive. She offers practical and expert advice on topics related to parenthood.