Can I still breastfeed when I return to work?

Keep abreast of the options... pardon the pun!

Going back to work does not mean you have to stop breastfeeding. 

It is hard to be separated from your baby, so being able to nurse when you are together can benefit both of you physically and emotionally. It can take some effort to maintain but many mums say they found it worth it.

The logistics very much depend on your job, your employer and your childcare but here are Tommee Tippee’s list of five different examples of how nursing mums can make breastfeeding at work a success.

Top and Tail

You continue to breastfeed your baby in the morning and evenings. The carer then offers your baby a cup or bottle of formula, water or your expressed milk if your baby is hungry or thirsty at other times. Expressing milk means your baby still gets all of the goodness from your milk and it can help maintain your milk supply for feeding during the day at weekends too.

Working from home

In today’s world, with all of the freedom that technology allows, it is often possible for many mums to work from home. If this is not possible full-time, then perhaps your employer would consider you only being in the office once or twice a week?

Breastfeeding breaks

If you can find a daycare provider close to work, then it is even possible to consider arranging times to visit and breastfeed during the day instead of using those times to express. Some employers now even have on-site daycare. 

Visits from your baby

If Dad or Grandma are chief-childcare provider, then it might be possible for you to feed at work or at a nearby meeting spot either during your lunch break or at other times during the day.

Bring your baby to work

While this is not possible in a lot of jobs, many employers are more than happy to allow babies in the workplace. After all, newborn babies are very portable. As long as you have a suitable place for naps, nappy changing and nursing, you’ll be all set.  You could even try baby-wearing at work.

Talk to your employer to see what they can do to support you when it comes to breastfeeding and returning to work and the best option for both of you. And remember, mums who give their babies breastmilk take less time off work than mums of formula-fed babies, so it’s in their interest to help you.

We understand that it can be a real juggling act though, so we asked mums who have managed it for their thoughts on how to make it as stress-free as possible:

A care provider who ‘gets it’ is worth their weight in gold

Having a good care provider who understands your desire to continue breastfeeding can make all the difference in supporting you on this journey. Whether you choose formula or expressed milk, your caregiver can help by holding your baby for all feeds, letting them suck on a soother or clean finger for comfort when needed and helping ensure your baby is awake and ready for a good feed when you return from work.

Get to know that pump

Ah, the breast pump! Definitely a love-hate relationship. On the one hand, they are givers of freedom and flexibility and on the other, noisy, messy and thankless little things! It makes sense to get used to your pump a few weeks before you plan to return to work. For starters, storing some milk in the freezer will give you peace of mind that your baby is not going to go hungry and you’ll also be confident on how to put it together, use it and clean it — saving precious time at work.

Be clear on your pump plan

There is nothing worse than wandering around the office with breasts full of milk trying to find somewhere suitable to express on your first day back! If there is no dedicated room, then you will need somewhere private, preferably with a lockable door or a privacy sign, a plug for your pump if it is electric and a comfortable chair. A bathroom is NOT acceptable. You’ll need to express as often as your baby nurses; ideally every 2-3 hours. And then think about where to store your milk. A refrigerator is ideal but ice packs and a cooler can work too. Read more on how to store breast milk here.

Be prepared to be flexible

Not all days will go to plan. Don’t stress about it. Your milk supply will not dwindle if you miss one feed but stress will not help production. Same goes for all those other chores that will seem to build up. Working full time and nursing is exhausting, so delegate the cooking and housework if you can or be prepared to let some things go. You can’t do it all.

It’s not an all or nothing deal

The important thing is that your baby gets fed, whether that is with your expressed milk or formula, so decide what is right for you. If you do combination feed, then you may need to still express at work to avoid blocked ducts and mastitis as well as keeping up your milk supply.

Don’t cry over spilt milk

Expressing straight into pre-sterilised pouches means there is no need to decant and less risk of spilling your liquid gold. These are super handy for passing over to your caregiver too.

Connect with others

Chances are you won’t be the only nursing mum in your workplace! Seek out others and share experiences, tips and even expressing sessions if you’d like the company.

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I felt I was going back to what makes me who I am.
Read Amy's story

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