Breastfeeding

Returning to Work or School

After spending time at home with your baby, returning to work or school can be hard. Here are some ways to make it easier.

Start thinking about how you will express milk at work or school before you return. 

 

  • Talk to your employer or school about support available for moms who want to express milk. 
  • Ask your employer/school about a private space that isn’t a bathroom. Ask if there is an electrical outlet available. 
  • For the workplace, discuss a reasonable break time to pump each time you need to express milk while at work. 
  • Review this information about your right to express milk at the workplace.

Start pumping at least 2 weeks before you return to work or school so you can freeze your breast milk ahead of time.

 

Pumping and expressing milk at HOME

  • Some women are able to hand express breast milk without using an electric pump. 
  • If you are using a breast pump, find one that fits your needs. Call your local WIC office for more information on getting a breast pump. 
  • 2 weeks before starting back, pump at least 2x daily to store for use when you are back at work. 
  • Try to pump once in the morning when you wake up and again before going to bed. Continue breastfeeding on demand, you will have enough milk! 
  • Store pumped milk in the freezer to be used for those first few days at work.

 

Pumping and expressing milk at WORK/SCHOOL 

  • Count how many times your baby feeds during your typical work or school hours. This will give you an idea of how many times you may need to pump when you go back to work or school! 
  • Consider pumping for 15-20 minutes each time and allow yourself some extra time for set-up and cleaning pump parts. 
  • Label and refrigerate pumped milk to be used for the next day’s feedings. 
  • Have cold packs and an insulated bag if a fridge is not available to store your milk while at work or school. 
  • Talk to your baby’s caretaker about safely preparing stored breastmilk for feedings. (Also see the info on Milk Storage below.)

 

Change can be hard… 

  • You’re doing such a great job at making sure your baby receives your breast milk while you’re away! 
  • Keep breastfeeding whenever you are with your baby to ensure you both have that special bonding and snuggling time. Doing this also helps make sure you have a great milk supply! 
  • Looking at pictures, watching videos, or even taking something with you that smells like your baby can help while you are pumping. 

• And remember: any amount of breast milk is beneficial. If you are struggling or feel like you are not pumping enough milk to feed your baby, please call the WIC office to talk with one of our breastfeeding specialists.

If you are pumping breast milk for your baby to have while you’re away, it is important to know how to store and prepare breast milk in a safe way. You can also share these guidelines and tips with your baby’s daycare provider or caretaker. 

Start CLEAN to keep breast milk safe 

  • Breast milk storage and preparation safety begins with clean hands. 
  • Wash your hands before expressing milk and before preparing a breast milk bottle for storage and use. 
  • Make sure bottles, nipples, and all your pump parts have been cleaned and sanitized. 
  • Use BPA-free bottles and nipples for your baby. 


Storage tips 

  • You can store your breast milk in clean BPA-free storage containers, bags, or ice cube trays. 
  • Label and refrigerate pumped milk to be used for the next day’s feedings. If breast milk will be stored for future use beyond the week, store in the freezer and label. Breast milk should be stored at the back of the fridge or freezer; this prevents it from getting too warm if the door is opened frequently. 
  • Use the FIFO (First In, First Out) method to make sure the oldest breastmilk is being used first. 
  • These guidelines are for healthy, full-term babies:

Place Temperature How Long
Countertop or table Room temp. (77°F or colder) Up to 4 hours
Refrigerator 40°F or colder  Up to 4 days
Freezer with separate door 0°F or colder; Within 6 months is best, up to 12 months in acceptable


Preparation 

Although you are not required to warm bottles that have been refrigerated, some babies may not like it cold. If you choose to warm your stored breast milk, here are some great tips: 

  • Never use a microwave to warm breast milk for your baby! Microwaving can destroy nutrients in your breast milk and creates hotspots that can burn your baby’s mouth. 
  • To warm, put the bottle or bag of breast milk in a cup or bowl filled with lukewarm water. This allows the bottle or bag of breast milk to warm gradually. OR you can swirl the bottle gently under lukewarm running water. Swirling gently also helps to mix milk that might have separated during storage. This is normal. 
  • You’ll know the milk is ready for your baby when you test drips on your inner wrist and they are comfortably warm, not hot. 


More questions? 

Call your local WIC office and ask to speak with one of our breastfeeding specialists! You can also find more information here.

If you’d like to introduce a bottle to your breastfed baby, you might consider waiting until your baby is breastfeeding well (3-4 weeks old). Sometimes introducing a bottle earlier can make it harder for your baby to learn to breastfeed. 

If your baby is not breastfeeding well in the first few weeks, it may be necessary to introduce a bottle earlier. Make sure to ask for help if you are struggling with learning to breastfeed. We are here to help!

There are many different shapes of bottle nipples. Because every baby is different, one type of bottle and nipple will not be the best choice for every baby. You may need to try several bottles before you find one that works well for your baby. In general, choose a slow-flow nipple and a nipple shape that gradually flares from the nipple tip to the base. This allows your baby to have a wide, deep latch. 


Paced Bottle Feeding

Paced bottle feeding means helping a baby eat more slowly with a bottle to mimic how a baby naturally feeds at the breast. It allows your baby to be more in control of how fast he drinks the bottle. The goal is to slow down the flow of milk, allowing your baby to take breaks and eat more slowly. 

  • Hold baby semi-upright (rather than laying back), supporting his head and neck if needed. 
  • When your baby shows hunger cues, touch his lip gently with the bottle nipple and wait for him to open his mouth wide. Make sure he has a deep latch on the bottle nipple. 
  • Hold the bottle horizontal to the floor to start (no milk is in the tip of the nipple yet). 
  • Allow the baby to start sucking, then tip the bottle slightly to allow some milk in the tip of the nipple. 
  • Let the baby suck and swallow for 3-5 swallows (20-30 seconds), then tip the bottle down to give your baby a little break. 
  • When your baby starts to suck again, tip the bottle back up slightly to allow the milk to flow into the nipple again. 
  • Repeat the process, taking breaks and allowing your baby to start sucking again to pace the feeding. Continue feeding until he shows fullness cues (no longer sucking after taking a break, turning away, or pushing away from the nipple). 


If Your Baby is Reluctant to Take the Bottle 

Some breastfed babies take the bottle easily and some are more reluctant. If your breastfed baby is reluctant to take the bottle, here are some suggestions that may be helpful. 

  • Have someone other than mom offer the bottle. 
  • Offer the bottle before your baby is too hungry. 
  • Offer a small amount of milk in the bottle (1 oz) to practice. 
  • Try offering the bottle when your baby is drowsy. 
  • Try different types of bottles and nipples. 
  • Try holding your baby in a different position when giving the bottle. 
  • Offer the bottle consistently (once a day or at least a few times per week).