Breastfeeding: Returning to work

Returning to work:

Returning to work while breastfeeding can be a challenge, however, it’s not impossible. Trina /The Lactating Mama

How Much Milk Will I Need Stashed Before Returning to Work?

NOTE: Research tells us that exclusively breastfed babies take in an average of 25 oz per day between the ages of 1 month and 6 months. This number can vary depending on baby. **Typical range of breast milk intake can be anywhere from 19-30 oz per day. The example that I provide below will be based on a 5 month old who intakes about 25 oz of breast milk per day. Hopefully this makes it easier to understand.

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    Start PREPARING at least 2-3 weeks before returning to work. Waiting until the last min (a week or so before) can add additional stress. Especially if you’re new to the pump. Give yourself time to get use to how it works, and how your body responds to it. It may take a little practice.

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    Estimate your Baby’s feeding schedule. Many mamas, say, “I don’t know, I feed on demand” and that’s ok. You can figure out your baby’s feeding schedule by monitoring feedings and noting them for 2-3 days. (Example: A 5 Month old baby wakes at 7am & feeds, then feeds at 10 am, then again at 1:10pm, and so on. So, I know that this baby generally eats every 3 hrs give or take. This baby’s FEEDING SCHEDULE would look like this… 7am, 10am, 1pm, 4pm, 7pm, 10pm. This baby feeds 6-7x a day based on their schedule)

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    Figure out time frame in which you’ll be away from baby. Do this by calculating your travel time + work schedule. (Example: 1hr+8.5 hrs= Time AWAY. This mom is away from her baby for 9.5 hrs. She’ll be away from 730 am until 5pm)

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    Ask yourself how many times your baby eat during this time frame? Refer to Baby’s Feeding Schedule. (Example: This baby will need to eat 3x while mama is away. 10 am, 1 pm, & 4 pm.

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    Now divide the number of oz your baby eats per day by the number of feedings per day, to figure out how much milk baby gets approximately per feeding. (Example: 25 oz x 6 feedings = 4.2 oz of breast milk per feeding).

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    You should know how much milk you will need to leave while away from your baby now. (Example: This mama needs to leave at least THREE 4.2 oz bottles (12.6 oz) daily for baby to have while away. Note: I suggest rounding up a few oz just to be safe. So this mama would need to leave a total of 15 oz a day).

RESULTS: If this mama wanted to make sure she had enough milk to cover the first 3 days back to work, she would need to have a milk stash of 45 oz. That is 15 oz per day for 3 days.

I would suggest having at least 2-3 days worth of milk stashed. Is it ok to have more… absolutely, however, it is not mandatory. If she started pumping 3 weeks before returning to work, once a day, getting about 3 oz, she would be able to store 45 oz of milk.

MAMA’S, YOU DON’T NEED TONS OF MILK STASHED BEFORE YOU RETURN TO WORK. As long as you have enough to cover the first few days you’ll be fine. You can always try to store at least a week’s worth if that helps ease your mind, too. Remember, you’ll be pumping while at work. The milk you pump daily should be offered the following day.

Work & Breastfeed: The Lactating Mama Checklist


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When should I pump?

Try to plan your pumping schedule out before hand, if possible!

NOTE: This is just an example. You may find that you need to add an additional pump sess or even pump more often while away. That’s ok. Revise where needed. This is a sample schedule, pumping every 3- 3.5 hrs.

OK! You’ve downloaded your checklist, and have a sample pump schedule, NOW WHAT?
Use the tips below to help get things flowing while away from your baby!

Audio and Visual:

It’s amazing how your body will respond to audio and visual of your baby. This is a KEY tip. Just because you’re away from your baby doesn’t mean it’s impossible to get that milk flowing. Below you’ll find a few examples that will help you on your journey.

  • Baby Pictures: Use your baby’s pictures. Pick some of your favorite baby pictures and make a slide show for pump sessions. Put on replay and relax while you watch your baby. You can make a new slide show each week. There are many free apps you can use to make the cutest slideshows.
  • Baby Videos: Gather a few of those cute baby video’s and make a video collage. There are free apps that make this super easy. During a pump session push play, relax and pump, at the same time staring at your baby like shes right there with you. Being able to see and hear your baby will really help you get that milk flowing.
  • Sounds: Oh! The magical sound of WATER. Listening to water helps a lot. Turn on the water faucet, relax and think of baby. You’ll definitely see that milk flow. Also listening to your baby’s voice over the phone is a treat too. Engage in baby talk with your baby over the phone. Not only will your heart melt, but your milk will flow too.

Note: The truth is you may be without your phone one day. Leave it at home, drop it in the toilet, lose it etc. Yup! All those things have happened to me before, but know it’s not impossible to get that milk flowing without it.

WAIT! There’s More: Try The Next Few Tips and Increase Your Results

Lean Forward:

Simple right?! Yup!! Leaning forward while pumping can definitely help your milk flow. This is one simple tip that any mama can do. It’s all about the law of gravity I guess. =)

Drink Warm Water:

Drinking warm water before & during session can help relax you and allow your milk to flow more quickly. You can also accomplish this with a warm towel. Place a warm hand towel over each breast while you are pumping.

Extend Pumping Sessions:

If baby normally feeds for 10 mins on each breast, pump for 3-5 mins longer, e.g., PUMP FOR 13- 15 MINS on each breast. This will help you produce more milk the following days.


Use your hand to gently massage the top of your breast in a circular motion while you are pumping. Wearing a hands free pumping bra makes this easy to do. Also massaging the breast right before you start a session helps as well.


Deep breathes in and out. Think of things that make you relax. Close your eyes & THINK OF YOUR BABY.

Last But Not Least:
Below are Tools That can Help Make Your Journey a Little Easier

Get Nursing Bras:

Yes ladies, get a few nursing bras. It will help eliminate a lot of stress believe it or not. Being able to pump hands-free helps you to incorporate the tips I mentioned into your session with ease. Of course like any good bra those jokers can be expensive. Check out Pinterest for tricks on how to turn your favorite bra into a nursing bra.

Get a App:

Find a good app that can help you keep track of things. This way you can monitor how much milk you pump each day. This will help you to see what is working and what is not. Below are a few popular apps that can assist you on your pumping journey.

  • Pump@work App:
    $1.99 for Iphone This app is perfect for the new mom returning to the workplace. Tracks milk totals, storage totals, and even suggests how many ounces a caregiver will need while mom is away.
  • Milk Tracker App:
    $4.99 for Android This a simple app that does exactly what is says… tracks milk, calculates daily pumps, has alarms and charts.
  • Pump Log App:
    Free for Iphone
    This app was voted one of the Best Breast Feeding Apps of 2015 by Pump reminder, alarm, calculator and more.
  • Breastfeeding Tracker/ Pumping App:
    Free for Android This app also tracks pump sessions & has a pump reminder which is really cool especially when you are busy at work.

Note: I suggest finding the app that works best for you and your needs. I went with the “MILK TRACKER” app for android. It was easy to use and straight to the point. It tracked pump sessions, milk output and more. There’s also an unique alarm feature that allowed me to preset when to end a session which was perfect for me. It would have been the perfect app for The Lactating Mama if it was free or even cheaper.

Every woman is different and what works for some may not work for others. I suggest figuring out what works best for you by using the trial and error method. I had to try many things until I found what work for me. Please use these tips to see what helps you on this journey. From one Lactating Mama to another… YOU GOT THIS!

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6 Replies to “Breastfeeding: Returning to work”

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