Is Breastfeeding while Working Possible?

Breastfeeding and working at the same time isn't easy. Employment is possibly the biggest obstacle to a long-term breastfeeding relationship between a new mum and her baby.

Not every mum nurses. But many who do aim to breastfeed up to six months for exclusive breastfeeding as per recommended by WHO. For mums who want to keep breastfeeding and working, that means figuring out how to keep nursing without quitting your job.

These few steps will help you continue feeding your baby with breast milk even after you have returned to the work place.

Learn How to Express

There are a few ways to express breast milk. Hand express, manual breast pump, electric/battery operated breast pump and electric breast pump. Breastfeeding can be cheap as you want and it depends on you. If you’re comfortable expressing by hand, it should be fine as long you keep it hygienic. Nevertheless, it’s all about your comfort when expression. If you think a breast pump will help your breastfeeding process easier, then, by all means, get one.

Stock your Breast Milk

Start pumping as soon as possible after you’ve recovered from giving birth. Many mums find four or six weeks postpartum is when they're ready to stretch the tether between mum and the nursing. That's also a good time to introduce an optional feeding device (bottle, cup feeding, spoon or syringe) to a nursing baby. Breastfeeding should be well-established, but soon enough for baby to be receptive.

You may use the pumped breast milk immediately to have a time for a massage or doing house chores. But try to pump extra, so that you can start freezing two or three ounces at a time for future use. Be sure to label the frozen milk with the exact date and time it was pumped.

I found storage bags cheaper and more space saving than bottles. If you lay the bags flat for freezing, you can easily stack and store them. There’re a lot of brands in the market that can be used to store breast milk.

Try to stock as much as you can for frozen milk before your maternity leave ends.

Sneak In Pumping Sessions

It can be hard to fit a pumping session between rounds of nursing a hungry newborn. If your baby predictably sleeps for five or six hours at night, you can pump a couple of hours after bedtime. If he takes a long afternoon nap, pump as soon as he falls asleep.

Or, try pumping just before the baby wakes up. You may find that nursing after pumping leaves the baby a bit unsatisfied but your milk is still enough for your baby. Don't worry, in a few days, your body will adjust and start making more milk for the early-morning pump as well as your baby's first feeding.

Advice pumping on one breast while the baby is nursing on the other, it is good stimulation for both breasts at the same time. It’s similar to breastfeeding a twin baby and will increase your milk supply.

Nurse at Lunchtime

Once you return to work, nursing is the best way to keep stimulating your breasts to produce milk. If your child care is nearby to your office, stop by on your lunch break to nurse your baby. Make sure your child's caregivers understand not to feed her in the late morning so she'll be hungry when you arrive. Even better, ask them to call you when she seems ready to feed, and you can rush over for a nursing session.

Figure Out Where and When to Pump

When and where you pump depends largely on your work setup. Basically, it depends on you, how comfortable are you with your pumping activities. If your employer has a lactation room, feel free to decorate it with photos of your child. The imagery may stimulate your breasts to let down more quickly.

If you have a private office, you can simply close the door to pump. This is the easiest scenario for fitting in three or four sessions in a day. But I also know of a mum who works in a cubicle and pumps under a large shawl without anyone noticing.

Adjust your attitude about pumping to fit your workplace culture and attitudes toward mothers. Some mums put up a signage that reads “DO NOT DISTURB” at her door while pumping, so nobody interrupted her. There’s another who simply pumped with her back to the door, in case anybody poked a head in to see if she was there.

Best Pumping Schedule

It is recommended that you pump once for every feeding your baby has while you're apart. For most mums, that means three or four times during a workday about two to three hours gap per session.

Believe it or not, some mums who commute by car actually pump while driving. If you try it, be sure to have your seatbelt on and the pump hooked up before you put the car in drive. And be careful!

Tricks to Increase Milk Supply

For many mums, pumping is simply not as efficient as a baby nursing to increase milk supply. So don't be surprised if you pump less than your baby is drinking during the day. This is when you start dipping into that freezer stash.

At the same time, try some of these tricks to increase milk supply:

Massage Your Breasts: While pumping, massage your breasts in the direction of the nipple. You can think of it as squeezing and pushing out the milk.
Add a Pumping Session: See if you can pump one extra time, either first thing in the morning or last thing at night. Some moms even wake up in the middle of the night to pump!
Get More Rest: I know this is an obvious advice to new mums, but when you're exhausted, your body will not produce as much milk.
Please remember that it takes your body a few days to respond to these tricks by increasing milk supply.

Storing your breast milk

Breast milk is often referred to as "liquid gold," and storing it safely is the key. There is a lot of conflicting research about the advantages and disadvantages of storage containers made from particular materials. When storing breast milk at home after pumping, it's generally recommended that you pour the milk into a clean BPA-free plastic storage container or polyethylene bottle liner. Label the container with the date that the milk was pumped.

Pumped breast milk may be kept:

  • at room temperature for 4 hours
  • in the refrigerator for 3 days
  • Standard 2 door refrigerator freeze for 3 months

In addition, milk can be stored:

  • in a cooler beg/box with ice packs for 8 hours
  • thawed frozen expressed breast milk in the refrigerator for 24 hours
  • in a deep freezer for 6 months
  • Keep in mind that refrigerated or defrosted milk will naturally separate so that the fattier milk is on the top of the bottle. This is normal, and gently swirling the bottle will help mix the milk up.

Expressing breast milk is more on your comfort and creativity where, when and how. It’s your body, so you are the one who set it HOW.