Breastfeeding and Back-to-Work

Lifespan Health
Public Health

What would you like to do?

What you need to know

Breastfeeding Preparation

Are you ready to breastfeed your child?

An important step before you deliver your baby is to understand the facts and principles of breastfeeding.  Breastfeeding is natural, but it is not as automatic as one would think. Be confident in yourself—you are going to breastfeed, instead of trying to breastfeed!

  • Get good prenatal care and review your health with your care provider regarding any medications you are taking or past breast surgery or injury and breastfeeding. 
  • Take a breastfeeding class to increase your knowledge.
  • Talk to your healthcare professional about your choice to breastfeed. 
  • Ask if your birth place has staff and the education and system to support breastfeeding.
  • Attend a breastfeeding support group.
  • Find a lactation consultant to have available if needed after birth. 
  • Contact a lactation consultant with questions or concerns.
  • Inform your family and friends that you are breastfeeding and will be spending the first hours after birth with your baby skin to skin and breastfeeding your baby.
  • Breastfeeding can be challenging, especially the first few weeks. It is very important to remember you are not alone. Seek help from your doctor's office, a lactation consultant, family and friends who have breastfed. Inform family and friends that you are breastfeeding your baby. Ways they can help are:
    • Get informed about breastfeeding and respect your decision to breastfeed. 
    • Be supportive and thoughtful—offer to burp the baby or change diapers when done breastfeeding.
    • Bring you water or a snack while you breastfeed.
    • Cook meals, clean the house or care for other children.
    • Make meals for the freezer that are easy to reheat later.
    • Go to the grocery store as needed.
    • Be with the baby between feedings so you can nap and get some much-needed sleep.

Make sure to take care of yourself.  Production of breast milk, in addition to other changes going on in your body after giving birth, takes energy.  Make sure you sleep when the baby is sleeping.  Drink a glass of water and eat a healthy snack while breastfeeding.

How do I know the baby is getting enough to eat?

Comparison of a marble and a golf ball 

Babies eat frequently—​at least 8 to 12 times in a 24-hour period.  The amount of colostrum made is just the right amount for a newborn.  A baby's stomach is about the size of a small marble at birth. It can hold only about 5 to 7 cubic centimeters or ½ tablespoon. By the time the baby is 10 days old their stomach is the size of a golf ball and can hold 1 ½ to 2 ounces.

You can also tell if the baby is getting enough to eat by the amount of wet and dirty diapers.

  • Day 1 – 1 wet diaper
  • Day 2 – 2 wet diapers
  • Day 3 – 3 wet diapers
  • After the milk is established on the 3rd to 4th day, the baby will have 6–8 wet cloth diapers or 5–6 wet disposable diapers in a 24-hour period. 
  • The baby will have 1–2 dirty diapers in the first two days of life, and then 2–5 dirty diapers a day in the first 6 weeks.

Breastfeeding Challenges

Breastfeeding can be hard at times, especially in the early days.  Some common challenges are:

  • sore nipples 
  • low milk supply
  • over supply of milk
  • strong let-down reflex
  • engorgement
  • plugged ducts
  • breast infection (mastitis)
  • fungal infections
  • inverted, flat or very large nipples
  • nursing strike

Learn more about common breastfeeding challenges and ways to handle them!


Back to Work

Returning to work does not mean you have to quit breastfeeding. Still, returning to work is one of the biggest hurdles nursing moms face with breastfeeding. Planning ahead will help ease the transition. Talk to your employer before you deliver about your options to continue to breastfeed when you return to work.

Here are a few tips to help with the transition:

Before you deliver

  • Talk with your employer regarding your plan to breastfeed after returning to work. Discuss different types of schedules and pumping times. 
  • Research, select and buy a breast pump.  There are several types of breast pumps available.  Manual or electric, double sided or single side. Talk with other moms who have returned to work to see what worked well for them.  An electric, high quality, double-sided breast pump will be more efficient to quickly pump your breast milk.  Talk with a lactation specialist and other moms for recommendations.
  • Find out where you can use your pump. 
    • Is there a private, designated location to pump?
    • Is an electrical outlet available?
    • And is there a refrigerated area to store your pumped breast milk?
  • Talk with employees who continued to breastfeed after returning to work.
  • Select a care provider who supports your commitment to breastfeed.

After you deliver

  • Once breastfeeding is well established, learn how to express your milk by hand.
  • Once breastfeeding is well established, learn how to use your pump and start building up a supply of milk for when you return to work.  Freeze the pumped milk in portions of 2 to 3 ounces. Remember to label portions with name and date.
  • Before you go back to work, have someone else feed your pumped breast milk to your baby so he/she gets used to eating from a bottle.  Many babies will not take breast milk from a bottle if mom is feeding them, as babies know that they receive breast milk from mom's breast.

Returning to work

  • Keep talking with your employer about what is working or what isn't working for you.  Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, most employers must offer breastfeeding employees reasonable break times to pump for up to 1 year after the baby is born.
  • Plan to pump at least 2–3 times each day to make enough milk for your baby while you are at work.  Plan to pump at times the baby would normally eat.
  • Expressing milk may take about 10–15 minutes.  Many women use their regular breaks and lunch break to pump, or adjust their schedule to come in early or stay later to make up time needed to pump.
  • Store your pumped breast milk in a food-safe refrigerator or a cooler with ice packs.  Be sure to label the milk container with your name and the date you pumped the milk. Store the container discretely in a canvas or insulated bag to store with other employees' lunch bags. 
  • Research shows that breastfed babies between 1 and 6 months old take in an average of 2 to 4 ounces per feeding. As your baby gets older, your breast milk changes to meet your baby's needs. So, your baby will get the nutrition he/she needs from the same number of ounces at 9 months as he/she did at 3 months. 
  • Learn more about pumping and storing breast m​ilk



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