5 Tips for Breastfeeding Moms Returning to Work

Shari Criso MSN, RN, CNM, IBCLC shares how to prep
for going back to work while breastfeeding

shari August 2, 2017 by Shari Criso

Going back to work after having a baby is never easy. For breastfeeding moms who are planning to pump while at work, prepping is essential to make the transition as easy as possible for both you and your baby. Here are 5 tips to help get yourself ready:

1. Plan ahead! Store enough milk for your first day back to work – and then some

Pumping enough breast milk is definitely not something that you want to leave until the last minute. Start several weeks prior to your first day back at work and calculate how many ounces you will need for your baby on the first day, as well as your freezer stash.

For example, if you will be at work and will need to pump 3 times for 3-4 ounces each, that equates to 9-12 ounces of milk needed for your first day back at work. If you add another 10 3oz bags for your freezer stash, this will add an additional 30 ounces. In this scenario, you will need about 40 ounces of milk to be fully prepared. If you wait until the last week before you go back, this will make it really difficult on you to achieve.

2. Practice pumping before going back to work

One week before you go back to work, think of the times when you’re actually going to be pumping and bottle feeding your baby while at work and start pumping and bottle feeding your baby. This way your baby gets in to the routine and so do you. You’ll also know if your pump is not working properly, if the flanges are not the right size or, or if the baby is having issues with the bottles that you’re using. Whatever it is, it will be so much better to know ahead of time.

By establishing your pumping routine while still at home you can actually identify what is working, what is not and if there are any problems without having the added stress of trying to figure this all out, deal with any unforeseen issues and also perform your job. So, start practicing!

3. Create a checklist for pumping at work

Create a checklist at least a week before returning to work to be sure you have all the pieces you need. Keep this checklist handy each morning and evening to keep you organized.

  • Clean and Dry Those Supplies. Make sure that you have properly washed and cleaned all of your pump parts and bottles thoroughly and allowed them to dry the night before.
  • Pack That Bag. Pull out that handy checklist so you don’t forget items like your AC adapter, extra batteries, pump parts and extra pump pieces like replacement valves and diaphragms. There is nothing worse than getting to work and realizing you can’t pump because you are missing one little piece, so once you check your list (and maybe twice), put your pump and supplies in a bag by the door.
  • Freeze it! Place ice packs in the freezer the night before so they will be ready in the morning.

4. Speak with your employer before returning to work

It’s important that you know your legal rights when it comes to pumping at work, and to make sure you discuss your plans with your employer prior to your return. There may be times when you will need to educate your employer – so be prepared with information about nursing moms in the Affordable Care Act.

Having an open dialog about what you will need will make it a lot easier for you and for your employer as you transition back to work. Stay flexible and work together to create a schedule that takes care of everyone’s needs.

5. Choose the right breast pump

Generally, pumps fall into two different categories:

  • Occasional use pumps. There are two different kinds of pumps will fall into this category – single electric breast pumps and manual breast pumps are easy choices if you will be pumping roughly once per day, or returning to work part time. For some moms, the occasional use pump is a great way to get through the first few weeks of breast-feeding and establish a milk supply.
  • Everyday use pumps. This is the pump that you will want to purchase if you are returning to work full-time. These pumps give you the option to pump one or both breasts at the same time, work efficiently to reduce your time spent pumping, provide more options on speed and suction control, and are meant to be used up to four or more times per day. Most “everyday” double electric breast pumps will come with accessories to make your pumping experience easier, like carrying bags, extra storage bottles, and coolers with ice packs.
  • One of the pumps I most often recommend is the Evenflo Feeding Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump, which comes with important "must-have" features, including easy cleaning, advanced control for personalized pumping, an advanced fit flange system with three different sizes and both of my online classes "Simply Breastfeeding" and "Breast Pumps & Briefcases" free with the purchase of your pump.

To learn more picking the right pump you can watch my "Breast Pump Checklist" video here, or check out special breastfeeding classes at your local Babies“R”Us store!


For over 25 years, Shari Criso has been a Registered Nurse, Certified Nurse Midwife, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, nationally recognized parenting educator, entrepreneur, and most importantly, loving wife & proud mother of two amazing breastfed daughters.