The Ultimate Guide to Breastfeeding as a Working Mom

Are you breastfeeding as a working mom? No problem! Here is everything you need to know about pumping in the workplace, working with your care provider, and more!

I’ve been fortunate to be able to stay home with both of my boys since birth.

When Jack was born, I was still in college, but I was actually able to bring him to a lot of my classes (because they were so small, and he was little).

With Oliver, Forrest and I both work from home, so there was no need for child care outside the home either.

However, I know that is not the case for many, many moms, so I feel that it’s important to share a post about how to continue breastfeeding when your baby goes back to work.

The breastfeeding rates by six months in the USA are alarmingly low. While I totally support a mother’s decision to use formula, I believe that many moms feel like they have no option, and it’s a lack of support and available knowledge on the topic.

So, my main hope is that this post will help mothers who want to breastfeed but need to work continue that relationship successfully for as long as they want to.

It’s important to remember that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all scenario for everyone. This information is simply meant to be a starting point for moms so you can be informed and prepared when you go back to work! Do what is best for you and your baby!

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For Mom

First off, I want you to know that it is possible to do this. I’ve talked with many women who have breastfed to a year and beyond, and while it can be hard, it is absolutely possible. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

It does take some work though! You have to take breaks during work, figure out where to pump and where to store your milk, as well as manage your baby’s milk intake while you aren’t even there!

When to start Pumping?

This is a very commonly asked question – when should you start to build a stockpile for when you go back to work.

First off, I want to stop the myth that you “have” to have a huge stockpile. Some women do, and that is great. It can bring some peace of mind. However, you don’t need this and you shouldn’t feel bad if you don’t have gallons frozen before you go back to work.

In all honesty, all you technically need is enough to take to work the first day – because, ideally, you will pump what baby needs the next day while you are at work. However, I do think it’s get to have some of a stash.

From everything I’ve heard and read, it’s generally recommended to start pumping at about a month postpartum – maybe once a day. You can quickly start to build a stash with just that one session a day. I found that I would personally get the most milk from a pumping session about 15 minutes after Oliver nursed around 8:00 in the morning.

My lactation consultant I used to see would often say, “Put down the pump for the first month and enjoy your baby!”

This is also when you could start to introduce a bottle as well. Some babies will take to a bottle right away, while others take longer to get used to it.

Also, be sure to read my post – 25+ Breast Pumping Tips for New Moms. I think it has some good advice for pumping!

How Often Should I Be Pumping at Work? 

Ideally, you should be pumping when your baby is eating at daycare. However, depending on your job, this may or may not be possible. If it’s not, I would try and pump at least twice during the day if you can.

The hard thing is that if you don’t pump while you are at work, it will hit your milk supply pretty hard. So try and make it a priority (and emphasize that to your management) if you want your baby to be fed your breast milk while you are at work.

Know Your Rights – Breast Pumping in the Workplace

There are different laws in place across the country regarding breastfeeding and breast pumping in the workplace. The Affordable Care Act actually requires that employers who have more than 50 employees must provide mothers with adequate break time to pump, as well as an appropriate clean and private space (that is not a bathroom) in order to pump milk. The actual law states:

An employer shall provide—

  1. a reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk; and
  2. a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.

Unfortunately, many employers do not follow these rules, but you are entitled to being able to pump milk in the conditions stated above. If you click here, you can get an information card you can give your employer with the law, and you can also report an employer who is refusing to abide by the law.

If your company has less than 50 people, they can be exempt from this if “such requirements would impose an undue hardship by causing the employer significant difficulty or expense when considered in relation to the size, financial resources, nature, or structure of the employer’s business.” So if you are working for a small company, be sure to talk with them beforehand about your circumstances.

I also recommend checking out this great resource from Medela for working moms. You can see what your state’s laws are regarding breastfeeding and pumping in the workplace. For instance, in Colorado, they specifically require that any employer must allow adequate break time for up to two years, as well as make every effort to have a place for the mom to pump.

Be comfortable

I think a lot of mom’s come to have a love-hate relationship with their pump. It’s understandable to not entirely look forward to pumping – it’s hard to feel the same bond with your pump as you do while breastfeeding your own baby (understandably so).

So, try and make your pumping sessions as comfortable as possible. If you can, listen to music. Bring a special snack in. Look at pictures or videos of your baby. I’ve heard of women even bringing a piece of their baby’s worn clothing to help them feel a little closer to them.

If space allows for it, make sure the pumping room is comfortable. I know a lot of employers are happy to provide a comfortable glider, a fridge to store milk in, etc.

Oh, and this isn’t really about being comfortable, but it certainly will make pumping easier. You can just put your pumping supplies in the refrigerator in between pumping sessions each day. That way, you don’t have to worry about cleaning and sanitizing them each time.

However, if you don’t have a refrigerator at your disposal, these Medela Quick Clean Steaming Bags are WONDERFUL.

Breastfeeding Equipment for Working Moms

If you will be working full-time, you need to have a good quality pump. Fortunately, insurance companies are now required to provide new moms with a breast pump (either cover the cost of a new one or pay for the rental). I recommend contacting your insurance company before your baby is born to figure out what the rules and regulations are because they do vary.

Some companies will only provide you with a manual pump – however, from what I’ve seen, most will provide you with a quality double pump. Some insurance companies let you choose from a variety of pumps, while others are a little more stringent (for instance, Kaiser, which I used to have, only offered the Ameda Purely Yours Double Pump).

EdgePark.com is a great website that will actually let you type in your state and insurance company to see what pumps are available – and often, you can order the pump straight from the website.

The only exception to this is Medicaid. Not all state Medicaid programs will cover a breast pump, so make sure you check with them before your baby is born. If they do not, you can check with your local WIC office. They occasionally will be able to provide you with some kind of pump – especially if you are working full-time.

If for some reason, you aren’t able to get a pump, the Spectra Pumps are VERY affordable, and they work just as well as hospital grade pumps (which are thousands of dollars). You can buy them on Amazon, and I even see them on Groupon. I’ve seen a lot of women say their pumping output was substantially better using this pump over other ones.

The Freemie Hands-Free pumping system is being praised by working moms everywhere – it works with most pumps, and it allows you to pump more discretely.

I also recommend having good quality breast milk storage bags. I never had any trouble storing milk in the Lanisinoh brand of bags or in the Kiinde Pumping System.

I really like the Kiinde Pumping System since you can pump directly in the bag, so you really get to save every last drop. If your baby likes the Kiinde nipples – even better! They can drink directly from the bag.

I know a lot of working moms really like to have a high-quality pumping bra – which I agree with! This can make pumping a little bit easier as well. If you work in a private office or cubicle, it makes it so you can work at the same time.

Finally, if you have a long commute to and from work, you can look into getting a car adapter for your breast pump. Combined with a pumping bra, you can pump during your commute if you want.


For Baby

How much expressed milk does baby need? 

This is one of the most widely asked questions from moms – how much does baby need while you are at work?

It’s tricky, and it’s often a source of conflict/stress.

 You see, many care providers are familiar/used to feeding formula fed babies. Unfortunately, feeding breast milk from a bottle instead of formula is different. 

 First off, the amount that baby needs during the day DOES NOT change from 1-6 months, regardless of size. According to Kelly Mom, the average amount a baby during this age span needs is 25 ounces (maxing out at about 30 ounces). 

At that same link, there is a great calculator to help you determine how much your baby needs.

While your baby is at work, it is recommended that they have no more than 1-1.25 ounces per hour that you are away. 

This article – ‘The “One-Ounce-Per-Hour” Rule’ explains this beautifully. I highly recommend reading that article, but I think this part sums things up nicely:

What the one ounce per hour rule does is it encourages baby to view the bottle feeds as “low supply”, and mom-feeds as “high supply” and baby nurses more with mom and less with the bottle. Baby’s needs are met, not exceeded. More than one ounce per hour means baby finds bottle = high supply, breast = low supply, and starts fussing for more bottle, less mom. This means mom is stuck pumping HUGE amounts of milk.

You aren’t starving your baby to keep to this. It helps to preserve the breastfeeding relationship and helps you be able to pump a reasonable amount of milk. 

Whenever I see a mom who feels so overwhelmed because she is trying to pump way more milk than she needs to, I feel so sad – because it doesn’t have to be that way! 

 If you are exclusively pumping and bottle feeding around the clock, bottle size matters less. As long as they are getting around 24-30 ounces total daily, it doesn’t matter quite as much what the bottle size is.

Choosing a Bottle for Breastfed Baby

As I mentioned earlier, you should introduce your baby to a bottle well before you go back to work – usually around four weeks. 

 If your baby has trouble eating from a bottle, you can try and have someone other than you give them the bottle. 

While it can get pricey, you may need to try several different bottles. We had pretty good luck with Dr. Brown’s Bottles, though I know a lot of people really like Avent Naturalthe Mimijumi Bottle, and the Comotomo Bottle.


Make sure that your baby is using the slowest flow nipple they can stand. Many babies never actually need to move up to a different flow – I would only do this if a feed is taking a VERY long time or they are acting frustrated.

 Back when we used a bottle with Oliver, I used the preemie nipple from Dr. Brown, and it worked great. 

You can read my article about bottle feeding a breastfed baby for more information. Here is a great article from Life with My Littles on popular bottles for breastfed babies.

Pace Feeding

It is SO important for breastfed baby’s to be fed this way. Pace feeding more closely mimics the breastfeeding process, and it allows baby to feel that they are full. When a baby isn’t being pace fed, it becomes very easy for them to be overfed and act hungry – even if they have had enough.

Here is a great video on how to pace feed. I recommend asking anyone who will be feeding your baby with a bottle to watch it:

This is a great handout that you can give to your provider with information on bottle feeding a breastfed baby.

How to Bring Milk 

I recommend bringing just the amount of milk your baby needs – maybe a few ounces more in case some of it gets spilled. You can freeze your milk in 2-3 ounce amounts to help make it a little easier to make bottles and not waste milk.

Sample Working Mom Breastfeeding Schedule

Everyone has a different work schedule, but this is a sample schedule that you can try and adjust to fit your needs. If at all possible, nurse baby at pick up and drop off to lessen the number of times baby needs to eat during the day

8:00 AM (Drop Off/Nurse)

10:00 AM (Bottle – 2-2.5 ounces)

12:30 PM (Bottle – 2.5-3.125 ounces)

3:00 PM (Bottle 2.5-3.125 ounces)

5:30 (Pick up/Nurse)

Baby should eat every 2-3 hours. As they get older, the time between feedings can increase, but you shouldn’t really ever go more than four hours (try and have the provider to keep at every three hours).

When you are with baby, allow them to nurse as frequently as they want.

Some babies will do something that is called “reverse cycling”, and they will refuse to eat very much at daycare, only to make up for all those calories while they are with mom. This can be frustrating, but it does happen.

You are the mom

I have seen a lot of moms lament on the fact that their provider gives them a hard time about pace feeding, not increasing bottle size, etc. Some of them will say, “Well we have other babies. We can’t just sit and feed them for 20 minutes.”

It makes me sad when I hear this, because when it comes down to it, it is your child. They should be fed the way you ask.

However, I think that many providers are more than happy to do as you ask and are willing to learn more about how to bottle feed a breastfed baby. Before you jump to any conclusions, just sit down and talk with them. More than likely, you can come up with a great plan that works for everyone.

Are you going back to work and hoping to breastfeed? No problem! Here is everything you need to know about pumping in the work place, working with your care provider, and more!

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