Breastfeeding and Work: 8 "Don't Dry Up" Tips

Cynthia Dermody | Feb 9, 2010 Baby

  • Breastfeed Exclusively


    That means no pumping or bottles for the first four to six weeks, just breastfeeding frequently, a minimum of eight to 12 times every 24 hours.

    Frequent early breastfeeding helps to build prolactin receptors. The more of these a mother has, the more milk can be made from her glandular tissue. If enough prolactin receptors are not established in the early weeks, then once prolactin levels have reached their normal lower baseline levels at around two to three months, milk supply becomes at risk.

  • Buy the Right Pump

    automatic milking device on dairy cow

    With pumps, you get what you pay for. Many moms say an electric pump is essential for pumping at work. A hospital quality pump rents from  $30-$70 a month. Buying runs $200-$300. Pumps made by companies that specialize in breast pumps, such a Ameda and Medela, tend to be better than pumps made by bottle companies.

    Your pump needs to "fit," as well. The specialized companies sell a variety of sizes of breast shields to fit different shapes and sizes.

  • Gear Up

    pinecone frozen in the ice

    Photo  by AshBayGrammy

    About two to three weeks before your return to work is a good time to start pumping and introducing the bottle. Pumping once a day for two to three weeks is usually enough time to boost supply, learn how to pump, and set aside some freezer stash.

  • Learn to Pump

    mom holding new baby

    Photo by Darkangel45177

    The key to success is learning how to "let down" for the pump:

    1. Find a private, comfortable place. Begin with a pre-pumping ritual, such as relaxation exercises, warm compresses, breast massage, or visualizing your baby nursing (you could use a picture, a tape recording, article of baby's clothing).

    2. Pump until the milk sprays out. When it slows to a trickle, detach the pump, massage breasts, imagine the baby nursing, and resume pumping until the next let down. Repeat for however long you can.

    3. When the milk slows, try turning the pump to low speed, low suction for a minute or two before turning back to high speed, low suction, mimicking an infant's flutter-suck. This can lead to a second letdown. Once the milk stops, decrease the speed and increase the suction.

  • Don't Freeze Too Much


    Photo by JayGirlsMom

    If you want to maintain a full milk supply for your baby, it's important to pump out every day at work at least as much as your baby is drinking while at daycare. But a large supply is unnecessary and not optimal for baby.

    Breastmilk has maximum antibody levels when it comes directly from the breast. While it's still excellent nutrition for your baby, it's second-best when freshly pumped. And the longer it's stored, the more antibodies that are deactivated. Freezing destroys still more.

  • Rotate Your Supply

    opened freezer

    For the maximum amount of antibodies and best nutrition to protect from illness:

    1. Pump on Monday, give to your babysitter to use on Tuesday.

    2. Pump on Tuesday use on Wednesday, and so on until Friday.

    3. Pump on Friday, label with the date and freeze; put in the back of the freezer.

    4. Use the oldest milk in the freezer for Monday.

    5. Use your freezer stash only when you have an unusual need for extra milk (growth spurt or accidental spillage).

    This prevents the frozen milk from getting too old. Another option would be to refrigerate Friday's milk over the weekend, and let your babysitter use it on Monday. This would preserve more of the antibodies in Fridays milk, and prevents the frozen milk from expiring.

  • Give the Right Amount

    day care center

    Photo by TLCDAYCARE

    Tell your caregiver that you don't give a breast milk baby the same amount as a formula-fed baby. Even though breastfed babies grow at the same average rate as formula-fed babies, they consume 25 percent fewer calories because their metabolism works more efficiently.

    Most breastfed babies take between 2-4 ounces about eight to 12 times per day, about 28-32 ounces total per day. (Your baby gets much of this directly from you when you are together, so he only needs a portion of this at daycare. The amount depends on how many hours at a time he spends there.)

    Tip: Many mothers find that making up several 2-3 oz bottles leads to less waste than fewer larger bottles.

  • Know Your Rights

    clean public bathroom

    Many states have laws to support breastfeeding/pumping moms when they return to work. Some states require that employers provide adequate pumping space that is NOT a bathroom stall. Read a summary of breastfeeding legislation at La Leche League International.

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