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Today's Family Magazine

5 tips for breastfeeding moms when it’s time to return to work

By Ann Witt, MD, FABM, IBCLC

Approximately 60% of women working, or looking for work, have a child less than one year old.  With over 80% of the parents planning to breastfeed, many families are balancing continued breastfeeding while working.  Having worked with thousands of families at Breastfeeding Medicine of Northeast Ohio for whom continuing to breastfeed while returning to work is a top concern, we offer five steps to guide preparation and help with this transition:

1. Be mindful of your needs
Look at your anticipated daily routine. Acknowledge the transition and give yourself a cushion. If possible, consider part-time for your first week, or start mid-week to allow adjustment time.

2. Talk to your employer 
You have need for protected time to express milk in a clean, private space (that is not a bathroom), and space to clean pump parts and store your breast milk. Breastfeeding improves the health of mother and baby, which reduces sick time, lowers health insurance costs, and overall helps with employee retention, so it is in everyone’s best interest to support you. Plus according to Federal Labor Standards Act  (, many businesses legally are required to provide these accommodations. 

3. Talk with your child care provider
A breastfeeding supportive childcare provider facilitates feeding your infant on-site before or after work, provides space for you to express milk, knows about safe storage and handling of breastmilk, supports your decision to feed your child breast milk, and educates their staff on these policies. 

4. Plan for milk expression 
As a starting point, while working, plan to express milk as frequently as your baby feeds.  In a typical 8-hour day, anticipate pumping 3 times, and then adjust as needed to match your baby’s intake. To help with milk expression, try meditating, looking at a photo of your infant, or keeping your infant’s blanket nearby.  Adding in hand expression to your pumping session can help express more volume in shorter periods of time.  See for more details on preparing for milk expression, pumping tips, and breast milk storage guidelines. 

5. Take time for yourself 
As a parent, you are juggling care for yourself, as well as your family.  Combine this with responsibilities at work, and it is easy to forget about yourself.  Planning for self-care like protecting exercise, sleep, and quiet time, along with creating special time to connect with your child before and after work is important.  

If you are facing challenges, don’t hesitate to reach out for further guidance.  For free helpful videos, an online support group and helpful online educational materials visit 

About the author:   Ann M. Witt, MD, FABM, IBCLC, a Board-Certified Family Medicine physician and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, is the founder of Breastfeeding Medicine of Northeast Ohio.  Founded in 2008, it is the first practice in the area to combine medical and lactation support to help families achieve their breastfeeding goals. Dr. Witt is a nationally recognized expert in the field of breastfeeding. She has conducted research, written articles, taught hundreds of professionals, and is a winner of Top Doctors awards.