Returning to work and breast pumping

Regina Kincaid shares her top tips when preparing to return to work and pumping when breastfeeding. Regina is a mum of four, a midwife, an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), and the founder of the Kindest Milk breastfeeding service (

It can be hard to think about going back to work after maternity leave. But returning to work doesn’t need to be the end of your breastfeeding journey. Preparing for the transition will make it easier for you and your baby.


How can I prepare to return to work when breastfeeding?

Here are some of Regina’s top tips:

  • If you plan to go back before 6 months postpartum. You may still need to introduce express breast milk in a bottle and teat. Babies older than 6 months may already drink happily from a beaker and breast milk won’t be their sole source of nutrition anymore.
  • If your baby has not had a bottle at all yet, it is ideal to schedule about 4 weeks for the transitioning process before they are required to take the bottle away from you.
  • About 2 weeks before you return to work, begin leaving your baby with their new caregiver for short periods and let them also practice giving a bottle.

Once your baby is happy to accept a bottle of expressed breast milk or formula, you do not usually have to worry that they won’t come back to the breast. In fact, breastfeeding your baby when coming home can be a special time for you to reconnect. Many mums and babies continue breastfeeding at night. We know from research, that older nurslings consume up to 20% of their 24-hour breast milk intake at night.


Any tips on pumping while at work?

If you are planning to express at work, talk to your employer about breastfeeding, expressing breaks, a suitable space for pumping, and the availability of a refrigerator.

  • In Ireland, by law, you are entitled to 60 minutes of time off, or a reduction in work hours in an 8-hour working day to breastfeed elsewhere. This is without loss of pay for up to 26 weeks after birth. Read more about breastfeeding at work in Ireland here.
  • The HSE also published a new policy in November 2020 for staff working in the public health service who are now entitled to time off for breastfeeding/expressing breaks up until the baby’s 2nd birthday. Read about this policy here.

If you are planning to express at work, you will likely pump enough to fill the baby’s bottles for the next day, but having some breast milk already stashed in the freezer will provide peace of mind.

  • A good time window to begin pumping for a freezer supply, is about 1-2 months before your start date at work.
  • According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies between 2-5 months can take anywhere from 120-180mls each feeding, roughly every 3-4 hours. 6 months old may take as much as 240mls per feeding but perhaps with longer feeding gaps.
  • It can be helpful to stash 3-4 days’ worth of milk before your start date.

A good time for pumping is after the first-morning feed, for about 10-15min with an electric double pump.

  • Start with just one pumping session per day as otherwise, you may stimulate your breasts too much which could leave you with an oversupply when back at work.

Over time you will learn what works best for you and your baby. Take one step at a time, be flexible, and know that it will get easier and be worth it! Pop in-store and chat with your Allcare pharmacist for advice and support if you are preparing to return to work while breastfeeding. Also check out the, The Kindest Milk Instagram, and YouTube for more tips!

Written by Regina Kincaid. Regina is a mum of four, midwife, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and founder of the Kindest Milk breastfeeding service (