Back to work and breastfeeding: Preparing to pump

Learning to juggle the demands of work with the needs of your new family is hard no matter how  you feed your baby. Pumping at work allows you to continue the special breastfeeding relationship you established and reap the health rewards for you and your baby.

Legally, your employer must provide break time and space for mothers to pump breast milk. Getting familiar with your rights as an employee and the logistics of pumping can help you feel more confident in your decision to continue breastfeeding.

Prior to Returning to Work

  • Learn how to juggle it all. AAMC’s Breastfeeding and the Working Mother class will teach you the secrets to maintaining a good milk supply, the proper use of your breast pump and proper feeding of baby while away from mom.
  • Get familiar with your pump. At least two weeks before you plan to return to work, get your pump out of the case and figure out how to make it work. Check to see if the maker of your pump has a helpful online tutorial. Remember, most insurance companies now cover the cost of your pump. Talk to your insurance company for their policy.
  • Start freezing. Don’t stress thinking you need to stockpile frozen milk before you return to work. Ideally, each day you will pump enough milk at work to feed your child the next day. Having some frozen milk can be helpful though. Before you return to work, find a time you can pump each day. Pumping after your morning feeding, when you tend to have the most milk, is recommended. Freeze the milk in the amount your baby takes in a bottle. Get familiar with tips for storing, freezing and thawing breast milk.
  • Discuss logistics. Talk to your employer about where you will pump and store your milk. Remember, the law is on your side. Legally, the space for you to pump must be functional for expressing milk, shielded from view, free from intrusion, available as needed and NOT a bathroom.

Back to Work

  • Block off your schedule. If you control your schedule, block out 30-minute time slots every three hours. Try to estimate when you will last feed your baby before heading to work, and go from there. Consistency in your pumping time will help you maintain your milk supply and help pumping become part of your routine, but your body can be flexible. The most important thing is to not skip pumpings. The number of times you pump will depend on how many feedings you miss while you’re away from your baby.
  • Find support. Get support from other women who are working and breastfeeding. Talking about the challenges, offering tips to simplify the process and sometimes just laughing about how you’d like to throw your pump out the window will keep you motivated. Join AAMC’s Back to Work and Breastfeeding Support Group or AAMC Smart Parents on Facebook to connect with other moms.

If you’re not sure if you want to continue breastfeeding after you return to your job, it could be helpful to set up a ‘trial period’ for yourself. Trying it for a set amount of time will give you a chance to get familiar with a routine and help you make the ultimate decision of how long you’d like to continue.


Kim Knight is a board-certified lactation consultant with Breastfeeding Works which offers home consultations and workplace lactation support. She has provided support to thousands of breastfeeding moms during the course of her career. Kim is a busy mother of three, teaching AAMC’s Breastfeeding Basics and Breastfeeding and the Working Mother classes in addition to leading the Breastfeeding Support Group.

Breastfeeding Resources

Breastfeeding Basics Class: Learn how to prepare for breastfeeding, how to hold your baby, how often and how long to feed, how to avoid common problems and much more.

Breastfeeding Warm Line: Anne Arundel Medical Center's lactation staff is available to answer any questions you might have about breastfeeding. You can reach our consultants seven days a week via our Warm Line at 443-481-6977. Simply leave a message and they’ll return your call between 9 am and 4 pm the same day. You can also e-mail our lactation staff anytime at

Breastfeeding Support Group: Breastfeeding mothers are welcome to this gathering on the second and fourth Thursday of each month. The group is led by Kim Knight, a board-certified lactation consultant. The group is very informal and welcoming to breastfeeding mothers regardless of experience or degree of commitment. Bring your baby!

Find a Lactation Consultant: A board-certified lactation consultant can help address your breastfeeding concerns or challenges. You can find one in your area through the United States Lactation Consultant Association directory.

Back to Work and Breastfeeding Support Group: Discuss questions and concerns common to nursing moms who returned to work. Share your experiences and hear new ideas on how to continue to work and breastfeed successfully. This group meets the first Friday of every month at the Big Vanilla in Pasadena.

AAMC Smart Parents: Join our Facebook community focused on the journey of parenthood. This is a safe, non-judgmental group to ask questions and get answers from local moms and dads, and AAMC experts.

Originally published April 15, 2016. Last updated Aug. 5, 2019.

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