Returning to Work or School

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Should I Pump When I Am at Work or School?

Expressing breast milk when you are away from your baby helps:

  • Give you more milk for your baby
  • Keep your milk supply up
  • Make your breasts feel more comfortable
  • Prevent breast infections
  • Keep your breasts from leaking

At first, express every 3 hours when away from baby. A key is to always pump at least the same number of times your baby feeds while you are apart.

Preparing to Return to Work or School

You can work or go to school and keep breastfeeding!

  • Use as much maternity leave as you can to bond with your baby and build your milk supply. If possible go back to work slowly, part time if possible to start. If part-time is not an option, make your first day back at work or school a Thursday rather than starting out with a full week.
  • Work with your employer on when & where you can pump milk at work. Or check with school staff to find out where you can pump.
  • Breastfeed often for a good milk supply. (Offering any amount of formula may cause your body to make less milk.)
  • When your baby is about one month old, begin offering a bottle of breastmilk. Keep offering the bottle every once in a while so he or she learns how to drink from it.
  • Your baby may accept the bottle better from someone else and it may take several nipples to find the right one.
  • Tell your your employer about the Breastfeeding-Friendly Business Initiative. Check out to learn more and access great resources in the “Download Materials” section. The SD Employer Breastfeeding Accommodation Form is a great tool to help you and your employer communicate about your plans to breastfeed after returning to work.

2-4 Weeks Ahead of Time

  • Before you plan to return to work or school allow yourself enough time to practice and learn how to pump. You may only get small amounts in the beginning.
  • Some women find it easy to nurse their baby on one breast while expressing on the other.
  • Try to follow the same schedule that you will use when you return to work or school. You can build up a frozen supply of breast milk this way.
  • Nurse and express in different places, such as the homes of relatives and friends. It will then be easier to nurse at daycare, work, or school.
  • Develop your plan for combining work/school and breastfeeding. Don’t worry if it takes baby a few times away from mom to pick up on bottle use. Baby might take less bottles when away from mom and breastfeed more when with her.

A Few Days Ahead of Time

  • Practice your breastfeeding routine!
  • Take your baby (and breast milk) to daycare. 
  • Nurse before you leave your baby and as soon as possible when you pick your baby up or arrive home.
  • Ask your daycare not to feed your baby right before you pick her up. 
  • Don’t be surprised if your baby wants to nurse often when you are together. Provide extra breast feedings at night and on your days off.

Breastfeeding Law

It is important to talk to your employer before returning to work about your breastfeeding goals. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers are required to provide break time and space for nursing mothers for one year after the child’s birth.

  • Employers are required to provide “reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk.”
  • The employer must provide covered employees with space that is:
    • A place other than a bathroom
    • Shielded from view
    • Free from intrusion

In South Dakota the law states, “A mother may breastfeed her child in any location, public or private, where the mother and child are otherwise authorized to be present as long as the mother is in compliance with all other state and municipal laws. However, no municipality may outright ban breastfeeding in public places.”

Visit with your WIC Clinic if you have questions about breastfeeding and returning to work. You can also visit or for more information about the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Tips to Introducing A Bottle

  • Begin no earlier than 3-5 weeks after birth. Sucking from an artificial nipple is easier than nursing from a breast. Baby may not want to work hard to breastfeed once he/she has had a bottle.
  • Offer only breast milk! Breast is best for flavor and nutrition. It is likely that your baby will prefer to sip what tastes like your milk even if the container is different.
  • Do not start playing the numbers game once you start offering a bottle. Breasts don’t have ounces and now is not the time to start worrying about how much your baby is getting. The real test is the number of wet and dirty diapers and your baby’s weight.
  • Don’t wait until your baby is crying. Choose a time when he/ she is hungry but not starving and is in a good mood.
  • Be patient with the process of introducing the bottle. It often takes some time before baby will accept the bottle. Keep trying.
  • Try slightly warming the bottle nipple and expressing a little milk onto the baby’s lip or tongue.
  • Ask another caregiver (dad, grandma, friend, etc.) to try giving the bottle. This is often more effective.
  • Stop after 10 minutes if you are not successful and the baby is frustrated.

Breastfed babies do not eat the same as formula fed babies! They eat smaller amounts more frequently.

Breastfeeding & Daycare

What should I tell my baby’s caregiver about breastfeeding?

First, keep breastfeeding in mind when choosing a childcare provider.

  • Onsite or close-by childcare providers may provide the option of nursing your child during the workday.
  • Choose a childcare provider that understands how to store, prepare, and feed breastmilk.
  • Ask your WIC office for any resources you can share with your childcare provider about how to safely store and handle breastmilk.
  • Childcare providers with successful breastfeeding experience can be a tremendous help.

Next, discuss your wishes for breastfeeding.

  • Request that your baby not be fed right before pickup. This allows you to breastfeed & bond after work.
  • Find a comfortable, private space to nurse on-site, if possible and desired.

This post was last updated on July 21st, 2020 at 11:06 AM

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