Breastfeeding and Working: Maintaining Supply, Connection and Energy

Breastfeeding and Working (2)

It is Labor Day in the United States! What better day to talk about working and breastfeeding? We know many are laboring in various ways at home, at workplaces, on the road, in the air, during the day, through the night and we salute you! And, we know that paid leave laws need to be improved. Until then, and even beyond, we are here to help you figure it all out. Incorporating breastfeeding into busy schedules and lives is not always easy.  With preparation, understanding and support, you CAN do this! Here are some helpful hints on how to maintain Supply, Connection and Energy:


  1. Exclusive breastfeeding when together
    • Breastfeeding is a supply and demand process at every phase, the more you breastfeed when together and pump when apart, the more your body will maintain
  2. Pumping during breaks while at work at least every 3 hours (protected by law!)
    • Hands free double pumping with bra or fitted shirt cut to secure flanges
    • Hands on pumping during breaks can help maximize output: massage for about 1 minute, double pump 5-10 minutes, stop and massage again for 1 minute, pump for a couple of more minutes beyond last drop
  3. Paced bottle feeding when baby is with caregiver
    • Your milk changes to meet baby’s daily development; send what is pumped the day before for the next day with caregiver to best match what baby needs
    • Studies have shown that the volume baby eats from 1-6 months is constant, around 25 ounces/24 hours, while composition changes to meet developmental needs; so, you don’t have to pump more and more milk as baby grows, just maintain the 24 hour need you have established!
    • Send milk in small increments of 2 oz to start, fed frequently via a slow flow nipple, allowing baby to begin and end feeding as would at breast; this satisfies the frequent time needed suckling as well as nutritive needs
    • Intake over an 8-9 hour period with caregiver is around 8-15 oz; aim for producing around an ounce for each hour you are separated


  1. Breastfeed before leaving for work, and when reuniting with baby
    • Breastfeed before you leave, and definitely breastfeed upon pick up or return home; any unwanted germ your baby has encountered is immediately detected when baby’s mouth contacts your nipple/breast, alerting your body to provide protection via your unique breastmilk that is alive and always changing to meet baby’s needs…so, that cold they were exposed to may just be a little less intense or completely avoided!
  2. Be familiar with reverse cycling
    • Some babies will feed more at night when day feedings change; sleeping with or near baby helps and is great for maintaining supply
    • Also be familiar with breastmilk supply changes that can occur if you find your baby is sleeping longer stretches around the time you return to work; this may present too much change in feeding pattern (time away, longer sleep at night) which, over time, diminishes supply
  3. Wear your baby when together


  1. Sleep near each other
    • Nighttime feedings are normal for the first several months and help with maintaining supply
    • Responding to nighttime needs can be easier and more restful when close
  2. Take time to rest
    • Avoid taking on too much for a while; sequencing is important when possible
    • Consider breastfeeding support groups to help with adjustment to general parenthood and working
  3. Help with cooking, cleaning, laundry
    • If only once a month, seek friend, family, outside help with household tasks

Whether you breastfeed for a few months or a few years, exclusively or partially, the health you are passing on to your baby can help you better balance work/life demands now and into the future. We like to say, “seek support early and often,” and the same goes for when you return to work. Contact us for a consultation to learn more about balancing this phase!

About the author: Allyson Wessells is a physical therapist and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) with Nurture Columbus, in Columbus, Ohio.  As a PT and IBCLC, she focuses on optimizing nourishment and growth for lifelong health. Other services include presentations emphasizing the importance of breastfeeding and infant neurodevelopment as foundations for preventative healthcare.

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