You’ve spent the last several weeks knee deep in dirty diapers, figuring out this whole breastfeeding thing, and of course bonding with your precious new bundle of joy; but maternity leave is coming to an end, and you will be returning back to work before you know it.

You’re probably going to be experiencing a wide range of emotions during this time. You’ll be sad to have to be away from your little one and nervous about your leaving your little with someone else. But you’ll also be excited to get out of the house, get some adult time, and remember that you are still “you.”

Us breastfeeding moms have the additional stresses of pumping at work and making sure that our little ones will take a bottle. All in all, this time can be overwhelming. Here are 5 must-know tips to make the transition from maternity leave back to work a little smoother when you’re a breastfeeding mama.

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5 Must-Know Tips for Breastfeeding Moms Returning to Work 

1.) Know Your Rights

I hope you don’t have to deal with an unreasonable and unsupportive employer when you return back from maternity leave, but unfortunately some women do go through this, and this is when knowing your rights when it comes to pumping becomes so important. According to federal law, under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), companies with 50 or more employees must provide non-exempt employees with reasonable breaks and a private place, other than a bathroom, to pump. The break does not need to be paid, unless other employers are getting paid breaks which you are using to pump, such as a paid smoke break or lunch break.

Here is a link that covers this law in more detail. Print it out and give it to your employer if they are giving you a hard time. If you’re not covered by this law, try not to fret and contact your state breastfeeding coalition to see if you are covered by a state or local law.

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2.) Create A Freezer Stash

Start pumping a few weeks before you head back to work to start building a freezer stash. Don’t pump any earlier than you need to, as introducing a bottle to little one too early can sometimes create nipple confusion, and pumping too much in the early days can create an over-supply, which trust me, isn’t necessarily a good thing.

You will need to stash enough milk for the full first day of work, plus extra for times when you are sick, or about to start your period, or maybe you start not responding to the pump as well as you had been. Pump once a day after baby’s first morning feeding. Your milk supply is  greatest first thing in the morning, so this is the optimal pumping time.

3.) Practice Getting Baby to Take a Bottle 

When you are getting close to returning back to work, practice getting baby to take a bottle, but do NOT do this yourself. Most breastfed babies will never take a bottle from their mom or even if mom is anywhere nearby. My little one was certainly not a fan of the idea. My advice would be to leave the house completely (because baby will know when you’re just in the other room) and have your husband bottle feed baby.

My husband found what worked best for our little one after a few days; he would have to take off his shirt and lay baby semi upright with her cheek touching his skin. He spent a little bit of time playing around with different bottles and nipples that were supposed to closely resemble breastfeeding, but the standard Dr. Browns glass bottles and Lifefactory bottles did the trick. Those are the only ones she would take. They also worked out perfectly, as the caps were interchangeable with the Medela bottles that came with my pump. I have also heard people say that having a shirt that has mom’s smell on it really helps to get baby to take a bottle as well.

4.) Make Sure Your Provider Knows How to do Paced Bottle Feeding

Sit down with your provider and be sure that they know how to pace bottle feed a breastfed baby. If your provider does not know how to do that, then your baby will most likely get over fed, and you’re provider will tell you that you need to provide them with more milk and your freezer stash will get depleted QUICKLY.

That golden milk is so precious, and you spent so much time and effort pumping out that milk for your baby, so that’s the last thing you want to hear. Plus, over-feeding can cause baby’s stomach to stretch and could cause gastrointestinal issues.

As a general rule of thumb, breastfed babies should be getting 1-1.5 oz. for every hour that mom and baby are apart. Most breastfed babies typically eat somewhere between 3-5 oz. per feeding. It’s a good idea to pre-make your bottles with the desired amounts to send to day care, so they can just pull it out and warm it up.

Also, be sure you are using slow flow nipples, and It may be a good idea to go over proper breast milk storage and warming with your provider as well. Here is an article on paced bottle feeding you can print out and give to your child care provider.

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5.) Prepare Yourself for the New Routine

A week before you head back to work, act as if you are going to work. Wake up at the time you would need to in order to get to work on time. Get into a set morning routine. Maybe even drive to the daycare and your work to see if you’ll get there on time. But we all know that babies are unpredictable, so this time may take you longer on some days.

I was still always so late to work most of the time. I needed to give myself much more time to get to work. Learn from my mistakes, and be sure to give yourself PLENTY of time to get to work. But, let’s face it, kids just make you late. 😉

There you have it; 5 must-know tips for returning to work when you breastfeed. Remember to know your pumping rights, build a freezer stash, have someone else practice giving your baby a bottle, be sure your care provider knows how to do paced bottle feeding, and give yourself plenty of time to get into this new routine. This time can be overwhelming, but I hope these tips will help make your transition back to work a little smoother.

What About You? 

What helped make the transition back to work easier for you? Did you find this post helpful? Feel free to leave a comment or share this post with your breastfeeding mama friends.

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  1. Nicole on July 17, 2017 at 11:49 am

    I never had to return to work while I was still breast-feeding, but I have had a lot of friends that I know have had too and I totally wish they could have read your tips prior to doing so! I know that doing such both breast-feeding and returning to work and pumping and everything that goes along with such can be so draining, physically and emotionally and I admire each and every woman that has ever done it. These are great tips. Thanks so much for sharing.

    • Messy Mom Nicolle on July 24, 2017 at 8:36 am

      Thanks for the kind words Nicole! It really is such a difficult task to return to work and continue to be successful at breastfeeding.

  2. Becca on July 17, 2017 at 11:48 am

    Pumping is no joke and moms can use all the support and tips we can get. Thanks for sharing!

    • Messy Mom Nicolle on July 24, 2017 at 8:37 am

      Yes, I think pumping is much worse than nursing. I admire all of the exclusive pumpers out there. Two to three times a day was plenty for me.

  3. Sylvia on June 29, 2017 at 3:55 pm

    Very informative. Will be sharing with a friend who is getting ready to return to work in 3 weeks.

    • Messy Mom Nicolle on July 1, 2017 at 9:41 pm

      Thank you for sharing Sylvia! I hope these tips make the transition back to work much smoother for your friend!

  4. Sophie on June 28, 2017 at 9:54 pm

    I think these are great tips. I really like your suggestion to talk about paced bottle feedings. It’s highly stressful for baby, caregiver, and Mama when the milk runs out!

    • Messy Mom Nicolle on June 29, 2017 at 10:27 am

      Yes, paced bottle feeding is SO important for the breastfeeding relationship!

  5. Kayla Nigro on June 28, 2017 at 9:22 am

    These are great tips! I’m sad to say that breastfeeding didn’t work out as planned for me but I know these will definitely benefit other moms! Thanks for sharing!

    • Messy Mom Nicolle on June 28, 2017 at 5:07 pm

      I appreciate the kind words Kayla. I’m sorry breastfeeding didn’t work out for you, but in the end, a happy, healthy, and fed baby is what is most important!

  6. Belle on June 28, 2017 at 9:18 am

    Such a very informative and helpful post! A lot of moms will find these helpful!

    Belle | One Awesome Momma

  7. Clair on June 28, 2017 at 8:47 am

    Great informative post! I was so nervous about returning back to work with my older 2…wasn’t sure of a good game plan since I was nursing/pumping. I wish I had this when I was going through all that ❤️

    • Messy Mom Nicolle on June 28, 2017 at 5:14 pm

      I never knew how much research I would end up doing with nursing/pumping! I also wish I could have written this much earlier, so women like you would have been able to make the transition back to work smoother! Thanks for the kind words Clair!

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