Work, Pump, Sleep, Repeat: Tips for Continuing Breastfeeding after Returning to Work

Published on: July 25, 2017

Going back to work at the end of maternity leave need not mean you stop breastfeeding your baby. A little planning and organization can help you and baby ease through the transition. 

By Emma McNerlin


Returning to work after having a baby can be a daunting prospect, even for the most career-minded among us. Motherhood gives us a different perspective on life and it can sometimes feel that we are neither succeeding at work nor at home. We feel guilty for not being home while also feeling guilty for enjoying an identity beyond mummy and feeding machine.

Many working mums in Bangkok are required to return to work within 90 days of their baby being born, and having only just recently gotten to grips with feeding on demand and establishing their milk supply, the rules are all changed and you are back to square one!

It’s only normal that going back to work will be an adjustment period for both for you and baby, and your boobs for that matter. Try not to feel overwhelmed.

Here are some tips for surviving the transition. 

1. Introduce the bottle very gradually before your return-to-work date

If baby will be fed by bottle when you return to work, it’s wise to introduce it very gradually several weeks before the date.

Many women report that babies reject the bottle when it is introduced later as they don’t tolerate the teat in their mouth and can become very distressed.

Introducing the bottle towards the end of the feed and not when they are very hungry can also help this transition.

If you’d like to avoid bottles, babies over 6 months could have milk in a sippy cup or breastmilk popsicles, which also helps to ease teething pain and ensures they are getting the milk they need.

Holding baby out in front of you when feeding, rather than cradling at the breast will mean they won’t root at the breast when you are giving a bottle, or better still let daddy or nanny give the bottle.

2. Break any sleep association with the breast. 

If your baby will only ever nap on the boob, you may come home from work to a cranky, overtired baby and a thoroughly exhausted nanny.

In the weeks leading up to your return to work, make sure you have sourced reliable competent childcare you completely trust. Invest the time in helping to teach baby to self-settle without the breast.

Doing this gradually over time will be less stressful for all involved and will help your nanny to be more confident to settle baby without you there.

Remember that babies are not machines, just like us they have good days and bad days, so don’t beat yourself up if it’s a struggle at first. Baby and you just need time to adopt to a new normal. 

3. Pump more often to keep up your supply

Remember breastfeeding works on supply and demand, so the body makes more milk when the breasts are emptied and the nipples are stimulated. Up until now, the baby has maintained this delicate symbiosis by feeding on demand.

Obviously, it’s not practical to pump as often as the baby would feed at home but to maintain a good supply and avoid engorgement you may need to pump more often in the early days and weeks on returning to work. This will settle down as your body adapts to the changing routine. 

4. Invest in a good quality pump and a hands-free pumping bra

You will come to love and hate your breast pump in equal measure, especially if you are forced to slope off to express in the restroom for 20 minutes twice or three times per day!

Invest in a good quality pump and a hands-free pumping bra, so if needed you can pump and still send that important email, or browse Facebook in your lunch hour (some might say equally important).

Being in a comfortable environment with a picture or video of baby on your phone and perhaps something that smells of him/her will help with your let down to ensure the breasts are well emptied. 

5. Ensure your employer provides you with suitable facilities to safely store your breastmilk and transport it safely

You will need suitable facilities to safely store your breastmilk and transport it safely in suitable containers keeping it at a safe temperature (see the breast milk storage guidelines below).

Take into consideration the high temperatures in Bangkok when storing pumped milk, refrigerating it as soon as possible after pumping, preferably in a dedicated fridge. Always check frozen or refrigerated milk by smelling or tasting before giving to baby.

Breast Milk Storage Guidelines


6. When home, spend as much time as possible with baby at breast

Remember, baby is more efficient than any breast pump, so when you are home, spend as much time as possible with baby at the breast.

In the early days and weeks this may also involve increased night feeding.

On weekends, returning to feeding on demand will help to increase weekday yields.

7. Incorporate galactogogues into your diet

If you are concerned that your milk supply is decreasing, consider incorporating galactagogues (foods that enhance lactation) into your diet, such as oatmeal, fennel, fenugreek and brewers yeast.

One of the best-kept lactation secrets in Bangkok is the Antique Café lactation cookies, available to order for collection any weekday morning.

Breastfeeding advice is available from a wonderful team of doulas and midwives in Bangkok, with whom you can consult on your specific challenges. BAMBI Bumps and Babies team and Breastfeeding Café are also great resources for evidence-based advice.

As a last resort, medication is also available to help increase milk supply. You should contact a lactation specialist at your hospital to explore whether medication is right for you. 

8. If possible, consider a gradual return to work or flexible working hours 

Consider arranging a gradual return to work, reduced working day or a flexible working arrangement with your employer.

Alternatively, if it’s practical, invite your nanny to bring baby to visit you at lunchtime to help ease the transition and reduce anxiety. 

9. Go back to work midweek

The first few days you return to work are likely to be the toughest as you figure out your pumping schedule, separation from baby, and even being presentable and out of the house in time in the morning!

Small adjustments like starting back midweek can make the process less daunting. Having a shorter workweek to start means that you will soon welcome the weekend to reflect on what has gone well and where adjustments can be made. 

10. Cherish this time and be kind to yourself

Remember breastfeeding is so much more than a source of nourishment for most babies and toddlers. They nurse to reconnect with you after a long day apart, to feel comforted and in contact with you.

Cherish this time as much as you can. Dinner and chores and other tasks can wait. Baby will not always need you in this way.

Be kind to yourself. Your breastfeeding journey is personal to you. You should be supported and facilitated to continue for as long as you and baby want to. 


Photo credit: European Parliament, via Flickr. Not all mothers are able to take their babies to work like Italian MEP Licia Ronzulli with her daughter Vittoria, one month old.

About the Author

Originally from Ireland, Emma is a UK-trained midwife who worked in the maternity unit at a busy NHS hospital just outside London. Emma moved to Bangkok with her husband in 2014; they have an 11-year-old son, Toby. Volunteering with BAMBI Bumps and Babies since August 2015, Emma regularly conducts sessions on pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and Infant First Aid. In her spare time, she enjoys baking and Muay Thai, and is an active member of her son’s parent group at school.

The views expressed in the articles in this magazine are not necessarily those of BAMBI committee members and we assume no responsibility for them or their effects.

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