Breastfeeding Success After A Return To Work

In an earlier article we discussed the many important steps a breastfeeding mom should take to prepare for a return to work. Now that you are prepared is how each work (or school) day should go:

  • Set your alarm for 20 minutes before you need to get up. Go get baby and bring him to bed for a relaxed breastfeeding session. While relaxing and fun, this also is meant to keep baby happy while you get ready for your day.
  • If baby is staying at home or is being brought to the sitters by someone else, right before you leave, breastfeed again. Try to encourage as much active (not comfort) breastfeeding as possible. This is his “thanksgiving dinner.” Otherwise if you are dropping off baby at the sitters, plan enough time to breastfeed baby at the sitters, trying to encourage as much active (not comfort) breastfeeding as possible. By breastfeeding him right at the sitters it gives you a little bit of bonding time before you go, and tanks baby up so that less bottles are needed while you are away, and it sets your clock for your 2 or 3 hour mark for when you need to pump. Otherwise without this breastfeeding session, depending on your commute, and when you last nursed baby at home you may need to pump as soon as you get to work. You want to get in as much breastfeeding as you can, whenever you are with baby.
  • Pump every 2-3 hours for 20 minutes on both sides – you’ll definitely want a dual pump to only use 20 minutes to do this. I found it best to schedule pumping every 2 hours. That way if I got held up and missed this pumping by a whole hour, then I was still pumping every 3 hours. Inevitably whenever I would aim for 3 hours I would get held up on a project, meeting or conversation and not be able to slip away when I needed – remember, anytime you go over 3 hours your milk supply will start to diminish.
  • Keep to your schedule and try not to miss any pumping sessions. Missing pumping sessions is the number one reason moms have their milk supply drop after a return to work or school. Even if you can only get away to pump for 3 minutes, pumping something is always better than pumping nothing. If you miss a session, try to make it up as soon as possible. At a minimum, try to pump during your morning break, lunch break and afternoon break and let no more than 3 hours pass between pumping sessions. ?
  • ?Use your letdown kit to increase the quickness and effectiveness of your pumping session.
  • Instruct the sitter to not feed your baby just before your arrival. If he just can’t wait, instruct the sitter to give one ounce or two to tide him over. Then when you are reunited with baby, breastfeed him. Don’t wait until you get home – breastfeed as soon as you are reunited, doing this can allow you to get in a whole extra breastfeeding session in the evening, and baby may be encouraged to wait for you rather than fuss for a bottle if he knows everyday when he sees you, he gets to breastfeed.
  • Continue to night cycle.
  • Be sure to read our article on valuable insights about using psychology to get more milk out of each of your pumping sessions.

Evaluate And Make Adjustments

After you’ve been back to work or school for a week or two, it’s time to evaluate what went right and what went wrong and make adjustments so you can succeed. Here’s some things to consider.

Pumping Environment At Work

How do you feel about your pumping environment at work? Are you able to fully relax? Is there anything about your pumping environment that makes you feel tense? If anything is preventing you from fully relaxing, it’ll make it very difficult for your body to have letdowns. Try to fix anything in your environment that’s making you tense – for example let’s say you’re pumping in a room with a window that people occasionally walk by – request blinds or curtains to be installed or stack boxes in front of the window.

If work or school is causing you stress, be sure to spend a couple of minutes relaxing your body before you pump.

Letdown Kit

Is your letdown kit working? Or are you finding that reminders of your baby are more heartbreaking than heartwarming? If so, it’s time to try something different. Some women have better success by imagining milk flowing like rivers from their breast, or picturing waterfalls or any sort of moving water. Another strategy is to completely distract yourself from pumping. Consider talking to a friend on the phone or playing an addictive game on your iPhone or doing Sudoku or working a crossword puzzle if you enjoy that, or read in a book you’re really into or bring your favorite part of your job and work on that. Try to keep your mind far from pumping.

In most cases staring at the pumping bottles and feeling stressed about the amount of milk you are (or are not) getting is a sure way to increase tension and derail the entire process.


How faithfully were you able to follow your schedule? Were there any times when you went more than 3 hours between pumping sessions? If so, why? Can that be avoided in the future?

If you ran into any scheduling problems that caused you to go more than 3 hours between pumping sessions, do everything in your power to make sure that doesn’t happen again. Missed or delayed pumping sessions is the fastest way to lower your milk supply.

Follow these suggestions and breastfeeding success will be yours even following a return to work.

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