Breastfeeding Once You've Returned to Work

The back-to-work basics.

© Nataliya Hora |

The benefits of breastfeeding your baby can continue once maternity leave is over and it’s time to return to work. Not only can breast milk help baby fight new germs she encounters outside the home, but nursing can decrease stress for you as well.

Naturally, being away from your little one all day may feel scary or even overwhelming at first. But knowing your infant is still receiving the benefit of your breast milk will help. Breastfeeding takes dedication and planning on your part — along with support from your employer — to make it work.


A private place to pump

Tennessee law requires that companies supply nursing mothers with flexible break times and a private, secure room (NOT a bathroom) with lighting, electricity, and a comfortable chair where you can pump. Ask if your company has a hospital-grade electric breast pump, and consider how you will refrigerate your milk.

Pediatrician Allison Stiles teaches breastfeeding classes and advocates for breastfeeding mothers. She encourages moms to view their pumping sessions at work as a special time and recommends creating a happy baby place to pump. Keep photos or videos of baby on your phone, since this will help you “turn off the stress from work for a few minutes and focus on the joy of feeding.” It’s not uncommon for women to hit a wall with milk supply three or four months after returning to work, she says, so Stiles offers several tips on how to overcome this (see link below).


Pumping in spite of challenges

Nursing mothers who work in an office setting are more likely to have a private place to pump. Some workplaces, like Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, even offer a specific room for nursing moms. A supportive work environment can diminish stress. But many women don’t work in a setting that readily accommodates nursing mothers.

Jessica Ringer, a 911 paramedic, works 12- to 24-hour shifts on her job. To continue supplying milk for her infant daughter, she had to pump wherever she could, which sometimes meant doing it in the back of the ambulance. What helped was that her co-workers and supervisors supported her choice. “My coworkers were fabulous, especially being guys. A few of their wives had breastfed and pumped so they were extra aware of the effort it took”

Teacher Melissa Mitchell supplied breast milk to all three of her children while working at her school. “There were times it was difficult to work out the logistics of who would supervise my class while I pumped, but I always had the support of my principal.” Several women I spoke with worked sales jobs and sometimes pumped in the privacy of their cars.

The working mothers I spoke with said they would not have reached their breastfeeding goals without the support of co-workers and bosses. While it may not be easy, if you’re committed, pumping at work is doable.


Back-to-Work Basics

• Discuss your plans to pump with your employer BEFORE giving birth. Establish a mutual understanding of expectations and needs.
• Build a milk supply in the weeks before returning to work by pumping once or twice a day after baby nurses.
• Ease back into your job by returning on a Thursday or Friday. Flex your schedule to work longer hours on fewer days and if possible, take the first month of Wednesdays off.  
• Set aside three sessions of 15 to 20 minutes every day to pump.
• Work with your child’s care provider to establish baby’s eating schedule. If not with a family member or friend, choose a provider close to your job so you can nurse on your lunch break or at pick up.
• Nurse frequently at home to keep your milk supply up.
• Wear your baby to increase bonding.
Source: La Leche League



Pick up the book, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, by La Leche League International or go to its website,

Visit, a local nonprofit that provides breastfeeding support to moms.

Read Breastfeeding 202 - Beyond the First Month by Pediatrician Allison Stiles, 276-0249 •

Call the 24-Hour TN Breastfeeding Hotline, (855) 4BF-MOMS • One of the only statewide hotlines nationally with counselors available 24/7 to answer your breastfeeding questions.

Visit, an excellent website dedicated to helping women breastfeed and work. Addresses many common concerns per increasing milk supply, how to pump, and helpful checklists for preparing for your return.

Are You an Employer? Breastfeeding & the Workplace Tennessee’s department of health offers businesses many tips and tools to educate and encourage employers about the benefits of breastfeeding. To learn more, go to and

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