Breastfeeding and going back to work soon? by C Haupt

You know it is coming, the date is burnt into your calendar. With every day that passes the worry and stress that is linked to returning to work mounts. Who will look after you baby? Can I work with so little sleep? How do you continue to breastfeed when you are away from your baby?

More and more mothers are opting to continue to feed their baby’s breast milk. There are 3 main things you need to work on to make sure you have enough milk. They are

  1. Expression
  2. Storage and stash
  3. Feeding

There are two main ways to express breast milk, using hand expression or a pump. Some moms find that using their hands and massaging the milk out of the breast works very well. Other mother prefer to use a pump. There are 3 main types of pumps that you can use. See here for more info. Make sure that you are using the correct pump for your needs. For example a double electric breastpump will help you save time by pumping both your breasts at the same time.

What to look out for when using a breast pump:      cupping-breasts-while-double-pumping-500x500-150x150

  • Is it a closed system?
    • Closed system pump are the most hygienic pumps as they do not allow your breastmilk to move into the tubing or even the pump itself. This prevents the growth/ bacteria or mould inside you pump which is not safe for your baby.
  • How easy is it to clean?
    • Does the pump have lots of parts that need to be cleaned and sterilized? How difficult are the part to clean? If you are not able to clean you pump properly it may result in bacterial growth that can contaminate your milk
  • Do the flanges fit my breast comfortably?
    • If the flange is too tight it can damage your nipple while you are expressing
    • If the flange is too loose, the pump will not be able to form a proper suction and you will not be able to express properly.
  • Does it hurt me when I pump?
    • If you pump is hurting you it could be because the suction is set at a too high a level. Reduce the level until it is comfortable and only increase as you are comfortable
  • Are the valves damaged?
    • If the valves are damaged you need to change them as they will affect the pumps ability to form negative pressure and reduce the amount of milk you can pump.
  1. Storage and stash

The best time to start collecting you breast milk is about 2 weeks before you go back to work. This will give you enough time to collect milk for the first week or so when you go back to work. Remember that while you are breastfeeding directly from the breast you will not be able to express as much as when you are back at work. You do not need to have a full freezer stash ready for when you go back to work.

Tips for storing and collecting breastmilk:

  • Collection
    • Try to collect milk in the approximate amount that you will feed. This helps to reduced milk wastage.
    • Collect and store your milk in food grade containers. These can be plastic bags, bottles or food containers. Make sure they can be frozen and will not leak.
    • When collecting try to add milk of the same temperature to each other. For example don’t add warm fresh milk to fridge or frozen milk. Rather wait for the milk to cool down and then add.
  • Storage
    • Milk can be stored as per this table
Milk  storage/ handling Deep freeze          -180C Refrigerator/ freezer


Refrigerator 40C Insulated cooler with ice packs 150C Room temperature 250C
Fresh 6 months 3-4 months 3 days      (72 hours) 24 hours 4 hours
Frozen, thawed in fridge Do not refreeze Do not refreeze 24 hours Do not store 4 hours
Thawed, warmed , not fed Do not refreeze Do not refreeze 4 hours Do not store Until feeding ends
Warmed, fed Discard Discard Discard Discard Until feeding ends

How much to express breast milk to leave for your baby

Baby’s age Average milk volume per feed Average milk volume per day (24hrs)
Week 2 & 3 60-90ml 450-750ml
Month 1-6 60-150ml 750ml-1040ml
  1. Feeding
  • Teach the person that will be feeding your baby how to warm/defrost the milk so that it is safe for your baby
  • You can show them how to cup feed or to pace bottle feed.
  • If you baby is consuming large amount of milk you need to check on how your baby is being feed as it is easy to overfeed a baby with a bottle or cup.