7 Ways to Survive Going Back To Work

The day is fast approaching when you and your breastfeeding baby will have to part ways, at least for a few hours each day. Whether your baby is 6 weeks, 12 weeks or 6 months, there are some ways to make the transition be a less stressed one.

  1. GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK. Ultimately, breastfeeding and working away from your baby was not how breastfeeding was intended to be. Lesson number uno of being a parent is knowing the fine art of compromise. (a good lesson in business too!) ANY breastmilk/breastfeeding your baby gets is better than no breastmilk/breastfeeding. REPEAT for those type A personalities out there… ANY breastmilk/breastfeeding your baby gets is better than no breastmilk/breastfeeding. There are nutrients and antibodies and all that good stuff in there whether she gets 5 ounces a day or 30 ounces a day. Think about this while you are pumping instead of OMG, what am I going to do if I only pump 5 ounces and he’s gobbling up 10 at day care.
  2. DON’T LEAVE FINDING THE RIGHT CHILD CARE TO THE LAST MINUTE. Finding the right place for your baby is really important to making the transition back to work easier. Nothing is worse than worrying about your job AND your baby on the first day. As a breastfeeding mother, it is especially important to ask the child care provider what their philosophy on breastfeeding is. You have worked hard to make breastfeeding work at home; don’t let an unsupportive caregiver sabotage your efforts once you return to work. You should ask specifically how many other babies are breastfed, what would the caregiver do if there wasn’t enough breastmilk, and how they feel in general about breastfeeding. It’s just defeating to spend all your breaks at work pumping to get 10 ounces only to have the day care say your baby took 12 ounces and what are you going to do about it tomorrow. (and the look on the face is “you bad mommy – why are you starving your baby?”)
  3. REMEMBER THE GOLDEN RULE OF SUPPLY AND DEMAND. Don’t get caught in the supply/demand downward spiral. Many moms think they need to pump and pump and pump before going back to work. This isn’t true, and unless you are going to be away from your baby for many days at a time, can actually sabotage your supply. How can that be you ask? Well this is a little tricky, but I will give it a try… Let’s assume Johnny eats about 30 ounces of breastmilk a day. (BTW, that is about the maximum all babies SHOULD take in a day by the time they are 3-4 months – breast or bottle). Now you go to work and you pump your little heart out every chance you get and you make about 13-14 ounces (about average what most moms make in a 8-10 hour period at work). Now you go pick up your baby and the caregiver says, Johnny was really hungry today, he drank all his milk you sent- can you send more tomorrow? Ugh… okay so you pack up the 13 ounces you pumped from yesterday and throw in an “emergency” 4 ounces just in case. Now you go to work and pump about 13 ounces again and you pick up Johnny and the caregiver is all smiles cause today Johnny was happy as a clam – he ate ALL the milk you sent, including the emergency supply. (oh and also took a nice 3 hour nap) Besides being a real confidence buster, this can mess you all up. Now you go home that night and Johnny who usually eats voraciously at the breast the second you see each other, isn’t quite as interested as he usually is. He eats, wakes as usual in the night to eat, eats in the morning and goes off to day care again. The tally for the 24 hours? Well, Johnny ate his usual 30 ounces, 13 pumped, 4 from the freezer and 13 directly breastfeeding (when he usually takes 17 directly). So the breasts are really smart and they say, hmmmm, I guess Johnny is growing up and getting his food from somewhere else and I don’t have to make so much any more. Tomorrow your breasts make a little less. If you keep this up and your breasts will make less and less everyday. So what should you do?
  4. ONLY GIVE WHAT YOU PUMPED IN THE LAST 24 HOURS. Notice I said in the last 24 hours. Many moms make pumping and working possible because they pump at home too! No one said it had to all happen at work. Actually pumping at work is usually the worst place to pump given the lack of privacy, the pressure to produce and the time constraints. I’ve heard all kinds of solutions to this problem. One mom pumps on the train on the way to and from work. She said it is so noisy that no one has any idea what is going on under all those clothes, jackets etc. Another mom pumps in the car to and from work with a cigarette adapter for the pump. (This might not be legal?) I think finding a consistent time in the early morning, usually after nursing the baby at the breast and another short pumping session before you go to sleep are great times to add a few extra ounces to the supply for the next day. The more consistent the timing of your pumping , the better the results. Over a few days/weeks, your body will adjust and you will make more. A little fenugreek might help here.
  5. REVERSE SCHEDULE. This is only for those of us hardy soles that don’t mind waking up at night – even when we need to go to work. Since most babies can go 6-10 hours without eating once they reach 3-4 months of age (meaning they can “sleep through the night”) why not flip their schedule? They could go most of the day without much to eat and do all their eating when they are with mommy. This works well in a baby that isn’t really sleeping through the night already cause they are already used to getting up a lot to eat. Some babies will actually do this on their own – much to their family’s distress!
  6. ONLY BREASTFEED WHEN YOU ARE TOGETHER. This survival tip goes back to lesson number uno – compromise. Some mothers make it all work by giving formula during the days, not pumping much at work and only breastfeeding directly when together with baby. This might look like: breastfeed before work and when baby goes to sleep in evening. As long as you transition to this schedule over a few days to weeks, your breasts will adapt easily. Remember that your boobs are really smart and so is your baby!
  7. GIVE IT A "WET RUN". Whatever you decide, you will have enough craziness on your first day back at work without having to worry about how much you are going to pump, whether your baby will take a bottle, how much he will drink in the bottle and of yeah, figuring out how to use the darn pump. I recommend a “wet run” for a few days before going back to work. Now some mommies want to squeeze out every last minute of breastfeeding, but in reality those first few days will go much better if you “pretend” you are at work while still at home. This means waking up at the time you will be waking, pumping, feeding etc. all like it will be with you at work. You WILL THANK me for this little tip. With all this practice for both mom and baby, you can go off to work with confidence. And with all that confidence - the milk will flow!


  1. Just found this. Going back to work shortly. DS will be almost 12 weeks. Guess I wad looking for validation regarding the reverse scheduling, and how much he should have per day at daycare. Learning more with this lo-#2. Hopefully I won't sabotage my supply exactly like you mentioned. I'm confident that's what happened with DS1.

  2. Your blog helps me a lot! I'm actually planning to go back to work after giving birth to my first baby. :-)

  3. I have read your post. I have 2 little kids so i had fallen in the same case but i maintained them very critically.

  4. My son is 16 months old and pumping at work became very difficult so I decided to start my own Scrubs company. Sweetheart Scrubs is a company made for milk mamas needing access to their breast to make it easier and cleaner for pumping!! We release in the next few weeks. Please follow us on Instagram to get updates @sweetheart_scrubs
    Thank mamas!