Back to Work After Baby? Tips to Establish a Breast Milk Pumping Routine

You've had your first few weeks and months with your little bundle of joy, and now it's time to head back to work. The reality of being a working breastfeeding parent is about to become your new normal, and there's a long list of questions around pumping breast milk at work – is there a private place I can pump? How often should I pump, and can I carve out enough time in the workday? Where can I store my breast milk? Will my milk supply suffer?

Returning to work after baby can feel stressful, but finding the answers to these questions in advance can help you plan ahead and ease some of your worries.

Talk to Your Employer Ahead of Time

The best way to answer all your work-pumping questions is to talk to your employer before you return. Talk with your manager or HR about making sure you have a private space to comfortably pump, and that you have sufficient breaks to do so. The average nursing mother will need to pump every 2-3 hours if their baby is under 6 months old, and every 3-4 hours if their baby is 6+ months old.1 That's up to four times in an 8-hour workday, so making sure you have proper accommodations is crucial, and for many employers, it's the law. In 2022 the Fair Labor Standards Act passed the PUMP Act, stating that employers covered by the FLSA must provide a breastfeeding employee with:

  • Reasonable break time to pump breast milk
  • A private space other than a bathroom that is shielded from view and is free from intrusions
  • Remote employees must also be allowed privacy from any "employer-provided or required video system, including computer camera, security camera, or web conferencing platform"

Breastfeeding employees are covered under this law for up to a year after their child's birth.2

You will also want to make sure you have a cool place to store your expressed milk throughout the day. Designating space in an office freezer or refrigerator is usually the easiest solution, but if that is not available or you're nervous about your stash being thrown away, you can bring your own insulated cooler to keep your liquid gold safe and nearby.

Get to Know Your Pump and Bottles

If you don't have one already, you'll need a breast pump! A double electric breast pump is the fastest and most efficient option, and there are traditional or hands-free, wearable versions you can choose from. And don't forget, your insurance should cover most or all of the cost of your breast pump!

Try regularly using your pump at home before you dive into using it at work. For a week or two before you go back to work, you can try replacing a nursing session with a pumping session to get started. Breast pumps have multiple settings to choose from, and by practicing you can learn which settings are most comfortable and efficient for you ahead of time. This way, you won't waste time figuring out all the settings and setup at work, and you'll know exactly what to do for your best results.

It's also best to introduce your baby to bottle feeding during the weeks ahead of going back to work, if you haven't already. Babies can be picky and unpredictable, so it may take some trial and error to figure out which bottle they accept. If you can have that sorted before leaving baby with a caregiver, it will save you and your babysitter a lot of grief.

Plan Your Pumping Routine

If you've already been breastfeeding for a few months, you probably have a good idea of you and baby's basic feeding schedule already. If so, you can continue to follow that timeline! Simply pump when you would normally breastfeed baby. If you want a little more guidance, Leana L. Thompson, RN, BSN, IBCLC provides this sample schedule for a working breastfeeding parent who's away from baby from 9 am – 5 pm:

  • 6 am - Breastfeed
  • 8 am - Breastfeed at "drop off" or when caregiver arrives
  • 10 am - Pump
  • 1 pm - Pump
  • 4 pm - Pump
  • 6 pm - Breastfeed
  • 7:30 pm - Breastfeed at bedtime
  • 10:30 pm - Pump/breastfeed during the night as needed

If you keep up a regular pumping schedule, your breast milk supply should stay consistent even though you aren't breastfeeding as often. If you find your milk supply is low, you can try pumping more often or power pumping to help pick things back up. Power pumping is when you pump several times in a short period to induce more milk production.3 It's also important to make sure you stay hydrated and eat nutritionally beneficial foods to help keep up a good supply, which can be tricky when you're working all day. Preparing your meals and snacks the night before while baby is sleeping will mean there's one less thing to worry about in the morning – and keeping tasty, healthy grab-and-go snacks in your bag or desk is helpful for a quick boost.

Ask an Expert

If you want a little extra help and reassurance, you can contact your doctor or a Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) for their expert advice. Having a professional support system to turn to can give you peace of mind, even if you don't need them all the time.

Work requires your focus enough without having to constantly track your pumping schedule. A lot of nursing mothers like to use apps that can help them track their feeding and pumping schedule, send alerts, and even have experts available for help right in the app.

Go with the Flow

In the same way breastfeeding came with new challenges, this big change might be difficult for you and baby at the beginning. Things don't always go according to plan, and we all have good and bad days. Some days you might be swamped at work and be forced to go off your regular schedule, some days you might produce less milk. This is okay and perfectly normal! If you're struggling to keep a regular schedule or your milk supply starts dropping, don't be too hard on yourself. Supplementing breast milk with formula or switching to formula feeding only is completely fine and healthy for your little one. As long as baby is fed, you're doing great!


  1. Texas WIC. "Pumping at Work." Accessed 13 February 2024.
  2. U.S. Department of Labor. "Fact Sheet #73: FLSA Protections for Employees to Pump Breast Milk at Work." Revised January 2023. Accessed 13 February 2024.
  3. Higuera, Valencia. "Can Power Pumping Increase Your Milk Supply?" Healthline. Last reviewed 18 November 2019. Accessed 14 February 2024.