Breastfeeding at work made easy

Breastfeeding at work for those mothers who cannot or do not wish to delay their returning to work beyond a few months. They have the option, in most cases, of continuing to breastfeed their children using different techniques.

In fact, more and more mothers wish to prolong their children’s breastfeeding but unfortunately, they end up stopping it after coming back to work because they do not have access to adequate information and assume, based on popular belief, that they have no other option. The absence of role models, the fear of social rejection or of discrimination in the workplace can aggravate the problem.

To be able to work while continuing to breastfeed, the mother needs first and foremost

  • Information: To know how.
  • Confidence: In herself and in her rights.
  • Support: From her peers, as it will be very difficult, although not impossible, for her to keep going if those around her (partner, family, friends, acquaintances,…) continually urge her to give up.

Who takes care of the child in the absence of the mother?

Babies need individual attention. If they cannot be with their mother, it is best for them to be with their father, grandparents or other relatives, or with a trusted babysitter.

Day care is a last resort, especially before the first year. They usually catch a lot of viruses and if there are more than 3 children per caregiver, it is difficult for them to get enough attention. In this case, more than ever, breastfeeding helps mothers to re-establish contact.

couple carrying a baby

How old is the child?

World Health Organization and UNICEF recommend that the ideal for infant feeding is that all babies are exclusively breastfed up to six months and continue to be breastfed, with other complementary foods, up to a minimum of two years and for as long as the mother and child wish.

If the mother is interested in following these recommendations, but must return to full time work before the age of six months, techniques must be found to continue breastfeeding the baby, either directly or through deferred breastfeeding.

If for any reason this is not possible, supplementary feeding can always be offered at 4 months so that, in the mother’s absence, the baby can have some mash. Before the age of 4 months, all babies should be fed only breast milk or adapted milk.

Place and time of work

Reconciling breastfeeding and full time work often requires a customized plan.

It is not the same if the mother works near or far from her home. It is not the same if she works full time or part time. If the workday is intensive or split. Whether she has adequate space in her workplace to breastfeed her child directly or not. But whatever the circumstances, it will always be possible to find the formula that best suits each case. After all, as the breast has no schedule, it adapts perfectly to any work schedule.

Personal preferences of each mother

It is often said that every child is different, but also mothers are not the same. Some are real breast pump enthusiasts, others just don’t want to use them. Some appreciate someone to bring their child to work, others would prefer to go out and breastfeed elsewhere. All options are respectable and together with the other parameters will determine the best strategy in each case.

Direct breastfeeding

One option is simply to keep nursing direct and to do this, either the caregiver can take the baby to the mother’s work to breastfeed there or the mother can leave work to nurse at home, at daycare or elsewhere.

Children over three months old already breastfeed very quickly so an hour or two half-hours of leave for breastfeeding may be enough in many cases.

Delayed breastfeeding

If the mother is interested in following the World Health Organization and UNICEF recommendations but direct breastfeeding is not feasible, she can resort to expressing her milk so that her child can be fed with expressed breast milk in her absence until it is time to introduce other foods.

Some mothers prefer to express their milk at home, but it may be more convenient to do so in the workplace, where production is established and when the child stops breastfeeding (in his or her absence), the mother will find it quick and convenient.

Breastfeeding at work
special room at office to express breastmilk

For this you will need:

  • A good breast pump, preferably a mini electric one for speed and comfort.
  • A refrigerator or a beach fridge with an ice block or similar.
  • Containers to transport the pumped milk that can be specific made for that or any container for food use with a lid.
  • A minimally clean, reserved place with an electrical outlet, although if necessary there are breast pumps that can also be battery operated (offices, archives, toilets, back rooms, etc.).

The best is the mother to nurse her child directly before going to her job and as soon as she returns, as well as all the time she is with her child. The breast milk pumped at work and transported in the beach fridge is put in the refrigerator when the mother returns home and will be used the next day by the caregiver to feed her child while she is away.

Mothers who take their children to day care can also take pumped, refrigerated or frozen milk into another cooler with ice. Daycare centers usually have implemented in their protocols that the breast milk is delivered to them already inside properly labeled bottles, which they then warm up before feeding the baby, avoiding handling the milk as much as possible.

During the weekends the mother can nurse her child directly again, so it will facilitate the milk production.

Bringing forward complementary foods

If the mother is unable or unwilling to directly breastfeed or express milk, she may choose, depending on the age of the child (over 4 months), to offer the baby complementary foods.

These foods have the advantage of being spoon-fed and also cause fewer allergy problems than infant cow’s milk (hence the importance of maintaining breastfeeding for at least the first 4 months).

open can of baby formula milk

However, healthy foods with low allergenic potential should be used.
If you choose to temporarily introduce formula (babies under 4 months old), it would be advisable to also dispense with the use of bottles, to prevent the child from rejecting the breast afterwards, and to resort to alternative systems (cup, spoon, …).

When the child already accepts baby food, you can first replace cow’s milk with baby food and then continue to offer other foods at other times of the day. In any case, at the weekend, you can return to direct breastfeeding if you wish.

Breastfeeding and full time job: frequent asked questions

How much breast milk will I need?

This is always a question at first, as there can be many differences from one child to another. After the first few days we will soon know “the size” of our child.

It is recommended:
Leave more than enough breast milk at the beginning.
Keep it in small quantities (2 – 3,5 Oz).

It is necessary to calculate the time when the mother will leave the house, and the time when she will return. Estimate that the baby will take approximately one intake for every 3 hours while the mother is absent.

The intake of pumped breast milk varies greatly from child to child, but in general it is significantly less than expected.

Usually, if a mother return to work at the end of maternity leave, her nearly 4-month-old child will probably take between 2 and 5 Oz of expressed breast milk per feeding.

Therefore, it is necessary to calculate a minimum initial reserve of 5 Oz of pumped breast milk for every 3 hours of absence, stored 2 Oz at a time.

When the time comes, the first 2 Oz of expressed breast milk are warmed up and if they are taken, 2 more are warmed up and so on, until the baby says enough is enough. The process is repeated at each feeding.

Soon we will know how much of the pumped breast milk our child wants and we will be able to better adjust the amount we leave ready. It is important to note that although some babies take more, most rarely want more than 3 Oz at first, and many even less.

Should I use fresh or frozen breast milk?

Whenever possible, it is best for breast milk to be fresh. So, the milk the mother pumps on Monday will be good for Tuesday, Tuesday’s for Wednesday and so on. Friday’s can be kept in the fridge until Monday.

Once we know more precisely the amount of breast milk we will need, if the mother pumps more milk than it’s necessary, she can freeze the unused milk directly and reserve it for future occasions, whether it is for going out for dinner and a movie or to prepare cereal porridge later on.

Can breast milk pumped at different times be mixed?

Pumped breast milk can be mixed easily either to complete a feeding before giving it to the baby or to complete a “measurement” before freezing it. It is always best to use the oldest milk first.

When you first start pumping, especially at home, you may pump very little, so it may be helpful to keep it in the refrigerator. The next time she pumps, during the same day, she puts it in the refrigerator as well, and once it is cold, it can be mixed with the previous one until it reaches 2 Oz. As soon as the containers are full, or at the end of the day, whatever the quantity, if it’s not going to be used, it can be frozen.

Won’t my milk production be decreasing?

The production of breast milk depends on the stimulation of the nipple (the more suction the more milk) so it is a two-way street, if the stimulation decreases the production will go down but if later the stimulation increases the production will go up again.

It is true that portable breast pumps are not as effective at stimulating as a baby, so it is easy for a mother to pump her milk in her working environment, but the process is very slow and before less milk is pumped than her baby takes, she will probably no longer need it because it is time to offer complementary feeding. In addition, breastfeeding directly on weekends helps to regenerate production.

In any case, even though production decreases as demand decreases, either because the mother is not pumping or the child is taking other foods, all mothers will still produce all the milk they need. Breast milk does not magically disappear, and even if a child only suckles once a day, the mother will still produce milk for that feeding.

Could the breast milk has a strange color?

The composition of the breast milk varies throughout the feeding, at first it contains more lactose and other nutrients and it looks semi-transparent and slightly bluish, but gradually the concentration of fat increases and the breast milk becomes whiter.

This is completely normal and becomes very evident when using breast pumps, especially if the baby has been breastfeeding for many hours. If the mother fills several containers, the color of the breast milk in the first container may have little to do with the last one. It may be a good idea to mix the milk to make more balanced “measurements.

On the other hand, when the mother eats some foods, the colour of the milk may change and many mothers have had a good scare by watching her milk come out in a greenish colour several hours after eating spinach. Certainly, this is not very important and it is a good way for the child to become familiar with different flavours. Breast milk is far from monotonous and boring.

What if my breast milk smells?

Some women have commented that their frozen milk smells sour and even rancid. That smell is attributed to a change in lipid structure as a result of freeze-thaw cycles in the freezer-refrigerator with automatic defrosting. Although it may happen that occasionally a child rejects it, this is usually not the case and it is not harmful to the baby either.

What if my baby doesn’t want to be nursed?

Most children accept foods different than breast milk from people other than the mother, so it is completely unnecessary to get the baby used to eating porridge or expressed breast milk before the mother returns to her job.

In addition, babies generally react to their mother’s absence by taking advantage of her sleep, eating the minimum necessary until the mother returns, and then compensating when they have the precious breast at their disposal.

She may wake up at night to nurse, and although it may seem tiring, many mothers find this a good deal: “my baby hardly notices I’m gone”. They often choose to sleep next to their baby, making night-time feedings much more comfortable and the warm contact throughout the night compensates for the forced separation during the day.

In any case, you should never force a child to eat.


BREASTFEEDING: Breastfeeding and paid work. Conference, 2001.

ACPAM: You can also breastfeed and work. Brochure, 2000.

Dr. Carlos González: My child doesn’t eat me. Temas de Hoy Editions, 1999

Ruth A. Lawrence: Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Profession. Mosby. 1996

I Spanish Congress on Breastfeeding. Posters and papers (abstracts). Valencia, 2000


(1) N. Vallmajo, M.V. Fernández, I de Molina. PAD Reus-Altebrat. Incorporation to the working world and breastfeeding. I Spanish Congress on Breastfeeding. Abstract 92. Valencia, 2000.

(2) A. Fernández, JM Paricio, L. Santos, M. Ferriol, B. Beseler, G. Serer, M. Sánchez, R. Perelló. Paediatric Service. Marina Alta Hospital. Marina Alta Health Centres (Alicante). Breastfeeding according to studies and maternal work. I Spanish Congress on Breastfeeding. Abstract 137. Valencia, 2000.

One reply on “Breastfeeding at work made easy”

There are some who say that the electric pump is more efficient as compared to the manual one. However, this pump cannot be used for breastfeeding if the breast milk is contaminated with any kind of bacterium. There are other women who claim that it is more convenient to use the hands free breast pump as compared to the mechanical one. They have also claimed that the breastfeeding can be done comfortably without disturbing the baby.

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