Top 5 Questions: Going Back to Work while Breastfeeding

One of the things we enjoy most is not reinventing the wheel.    When we founded Best for Babes, we knew that there is already tons of great information out there for moms . . . just not enough moms know about it!   As we’ve said a million times, moms know more about which stroller to buy than how to breastfeed.   So we’re here to help level the playing field and get some of that awesome info into your hands, babe!

Here’s a great example.    A website for moms who are going back to work, to answer all your questions.   Created by a really smart mom (she’s a scientist, and we’re totally impressed), Kirsten did all the work and research so you don’t have to.    She even created handouts for your employer that you can just print out, and goes over everything you need to know from how to build up a stash of milk to a packing checklist for work.

Kirsten very kindly gave us her top “FAQs” — frequently asked questions — and answered them for us!   Here they are, and don’t forget to check out her website for detailed information.

1) How can I tell my boss I’ll need pumping breaks when I come back? First, the facts: when employers support breastfeeding moms, they save tons of money.  Yes, you’re taking breaks all day for about a year, but here’s what your boss gets: you and your baby cost less in health insurance – it costs insurers over $450/year in additional health care costs when a baby isn’t breastfed. You miss less work – because your baby is healthier. You are a better employee – because you feel supported by your boss, and are (statistically, anyway) less likely to quit. So – go into the conversation with these facts in mind. You don’t have to rattle them off, but just knowing that you help the company’s bottom line by breastfeeding can help you feel better about asking. Second, check state laws. To date, 24 states have legislation relating to breastfeeding moms in the workplace (check here for updates and to see what your state’s laws say: If you’re protected by the law, a copy of the legislation dropped in your boss’ box may be enough. But when it comes down to it, just ask for what you need. A private (non-bathroom) space and a few breaks each day. You can say you need to “express milk to feed the baby” if you don’t care to have your boss and the word “breast” in the same room. Tell your boss it’s a limited time benefit that’s being supported by more and more companies, including our own US government’s Offices of Health and Human Services (who are supporting the Business Case for Breastfeeding Project to encourage more businesses to accommodate their breastfeeding moms.)

2) How much milk do I need to leave for my baby? It depends. An average baby between the ages of 1 and 6 months takes in about 25 ounces per day. But remember, “average” means some take more, some less, but one ounce per hour is a reasonable starting point. Factor in the time your baby is sleeping and not eating at night, and usually about 12-15 ounces is more than enough for a 9 hour separation. Let your baby help figure it out – the end of a feeding should be determined by the baby, not the amount of milk left in the bottle. And really, the daily amount doesn’t change in the first 6 months – it just seems like it because they sleep longer at night, so need to eat more when they’re awake.

3) How can my childcare provider support my breastfeeding? Easy, don’t overfeed the kid! If your baby is fed too much while you’re gone, that’s more milk you have to pump or express. Give them this fabulous handout from the Australian breastfeeding association – it explains how to pace (i.e. slow down) feedings, and has lots of breastfeeding-supportive information – written just for child care providers.

4) What’s the best kind of bottle for a breastfeeding baby? Depends on the baby, there’s no one best choice. Go with the one that they’ll accept, but not drink too quickly from. The most important thing is to stick with the lowest flow nipples you can buy. Why? Because if feeding from the bottle is too easy, your baby may begin to prefer the bottle. He may also overeat while you’re away – meaning more pumping and less nursing time for you – not a good deal.  (Note:   Choose a bottle that is BPA-free)

5) How often do I need to pump at work? Again, it depends. The average is every three hours. But some women can store a large amount of milk in their breasts and may be able to pump only twice a day and express all they need. Others can store smaller amounts, and need to pump more often. However, in both cases, these two things are true –– when breasts are full of milk, they tell your body to stop making so much. And, when breasts are empty, they make milk much faster. So, frequently emptying them is the best way to make more.

Happy working and pumping!!

2 thoughts on “Top 5 Questions: Going Back to Work while Breastfeeding

  1. The important long term benefits of breast feeding include reduced risk of asthma, allergies, obesity, and some forms of childhood cancer. The more that scientists continue to learn, the better breast milk looks. In addition to making your baby healthier, breast feeding may also make him smarter. Many studies have proved that breast fed babies tend to be more smarter than babies who were fed with formula or other methods


  2. Thanks for sharing your FAQs! The more mamas get to believe pumping is not such a big deal, the more success they will have at meeting their nursing goals 🙂

    The only thing I would take issue with in your FAQ is that if you are going to be be separated from your baby for 10 hours, leave ten ounces, and maybe an extra mercy ounce if mama is delayed. Given that nursing your baby will probably be the last thing you’ll do before leaving them, they will be starting with a full tummy. If a mum is struggling trying to pump 12-15oz for a ten hour separation, it may prompt her to give up pumping when she did not need to leave that much. If daycares/caregivers pace feedings, chances are the three ounce bottles will be ample. Part of the goal of bottlefeeding a breastfed baby is for baby to feel that the bottle is less satisfying and less easy to get milk from than the breast, in order to prevent bottle preference.

    Also, when leaving a baby, don’t be surprised if they drink a lot less milk (or none, in my guy’s case), and make up for it at night. It is ‘reverse cycling’ and is totally normal. My 11 month old won’t drink mama milk no way, no how, except on tap, so I pump once a day to prevent clogs and for comfort and donate the milk.


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