Leaving your infant to return to work or school is emotional, to say the least. Continuing to breastfeed is the best thing you can do for your baby, but for some, can add to the stress. Learn tips that can help ease the transition and support your breastfeeding goals.
- Count the number of times your baby usually breastfeeds every 24 hours. This is your “magic” number to keep steady once you return to work or school. Most women find they need to express milk every 2-3 hours.
- If you’re using a “double” electric pump that expresses from both breasts at the same time, it may take around 20-30 minutes each time. Expressing by hand or with a manual pump will take longer.
- Use your regular breaks and meal period to express milk. Some moms eat their lunch or dinner while they pump.
- If you clock in and out and find you need a little extra time, talk with your supervisor about coming in a few minutes early or staying a few minutes later to make up the time.
- If you work in a restaurant or retail store, express milk when business is slower, or ask about working a “split shift,” so that you work during the busiest periods and go home between those busy periods.
- Ask if a family member can bring your baby to you to breastfeed directly.
- Ask if someone else can cover your work station while you are expressing milk.
- If you don’t have a coworker who can cover for you while you’re expressing your milk, ask if you can post a “Back in 30 Minutes” sign while you’re away.
- Check out the sample pumping schedule for ideas.
Some employers or schools have a lactation room already set up. Ask first. Remember, by law, employers cannot ask you to breastfeed or pump in the bathroom.
Sometimes employers respond better when presented with possible solutions. Bring your ideas to the conversation. Here are some possibilities:
- Private office of the manager or another worker
- A conference room or small room not used very often
- A small closet or storage area converted to a lactation space
- Dressing room of a retail store
- A partition in the corner of a room
- A space that can be shared with other offices or stores
- Ask if the baby can be brought to you for feedings if that would help you
You can also nominate your employer or school for funding to create a lactation room at your worksite or school.
Privacy Signs for Breastfeeding Mothers
Storing your milk while at work or school can be easier than you might think. Your milk can be:
- Stored in an insulated lunch bag, a small cooler, or in a regular refrigerator until you can take it home to your baby.
- Refrigerated or frozen. Your milk will stay fresh up to 5 days in the refrigerator and up to 6 months in the freezer.
- If you will not be using refrigerated milk within 5 days, put it in the freezer.
- To freeze your milk, place small quantities (1-3 ounces) in glass containers or BPA-free milk storage bags. Label it with the date and use the oldest milk first.
- Place your milk away from the freezer door so it will not thaw when the door opens and shuts.
- If you will be adding fresh milk to a container of frozen milk, refrigerate it first since fresh milk is warm and can cause frozen milk to begin thawing.
- Thaw frozen milk under warm water. NEVER microwave breast milk! Fat separation is normal! Swirl (don’t shake) to remix it.
- Once milk is warmed, use it immediately, and only for that feeding.
- Milk left in the bottle after feeding should be discarded within one hour.
- Milk that has been thawed should not be refrozen.
Breastmilk Storage Recommendations for Child Care & Home
Ask your employer or school for a small refrigerator to store your milk or nominate them to receive funding for pumping and storage supplies at your worksite or school.