For Mothers

Returning to work and separating from a new baby is tough enough without worrying about whether your baby is getting the best possible nutrition. In addition to offering a number of resources on child care and parenting, the MIT Work-Life Center has put together the following information to support you in your decision to continue breastfeeding.

On this page:

Tips on Returning to Work

  • Talk with your supervisor to request and arrange appropriate private break times for expressing milk, and to identify a private space for pumping, at least two weeks before you return to work following maternity leave. See Tips for Supervisor/Employee Discussions. 
  • Consider starting back to work at the end of the week, so you can ease into your new schedule.
  • Make arrangements to buy or rent an electric pump and learn to use it.
  • Eat a healthy diet, get plenty of rest, and stay hydrated. Taking good care of yourself will help you keep up your milk supply for your baby.

Tips on Pumping

Before returning to work:

  • Start pumping at home a few weeks in advance. This will build your milk supply and help you become familiar with the pumping equipment.
  • Freeze several bottles of milk so you have a backup supply on hand.
  • Introduce baby to the bottle, when baby is ready. Consult your pediatrician or health practitioner about assessing baby's readiness to both bottle and breastfeed.
  • Have someone else feed your baby regularly. Your child will need time to adjust to being fed by someone else before the new work routine begins.
  • If you will be using one of MIT's lactation rooms, contact the room coordinator and reserve time to pump (if required). You may want to visit the room before your first day back in order to familiarize yourself with its amenities. If the room includes a communal pump, find out what type of attachments you need to purchase.

Supplies to bring to work:

  • Breast pump. A good electric, double-sided pump will allow you to pump both breasts at once, so you can pump your milk in about 10 to 15 minutes. More information on choosing a breast pump. If you are using a communal pump, be sure to bring your own tubing, flanges, and containers. Several MIT lactation rooms have hospital grade pumps. Please see description of rooms for more information.
  • Bottles. Be sure to date milk containers and refrigerate milk. Milk should be transported in a cooler with ice packs.
  • Extra breast pads.
  • Photo of your baby. Looking at a photo of your baby can help you let down your milk. You may also want to bring soothing music with you to help you relax; some mothers find it helpful to record their baby’s sounds (gurgles, crying) to play on an MP3 player.
  • Cleaning supplies. All breast pump parts should be cleaned and dried after use.

At work:

  • Pump and save your milk each day. You will typically need to spend about 20 minutes pumping every three hours you are away from your baby.
  • Label and refrigerate pumped milk.

Tips on Storing and Reheating Milk

(from US Food and Drug Administration)

  • Store milk in single-serving sizes of 2 to 4 ounces.
  • Seal the container with a solid lid and label each container with the date the milk was pumped.
  • Breast milk that will be frozen should have at least one inch between the milk and the container lid. Frozen milk expands as it freezes.
  • Store milk in the main refrigerator or freezer compartment, away from the door, to avoid changes in temperature that may compromise the milk.
  • Use milk that has been in the refrigerator or freezer the longest first.
  • Thaw frozen milk in the refrigerator or under cool, running water.
  • Heat the milk under warm, running water and gently swirl the container to mix the milk.
  • If warm water is not available, heat a pan of water on the stove. Once the water is warm, not boiling, remove the pan from the stove and place the milk container in the pan. Never warm the milk container directly on the stove.
  • Never microwave breast milk because microwaves can cause dangerous hot spots that could burn you or a baby.
  • Always test the temperature of the milk on the inside of your wrist before feeding it to a baby. The milk should feel warm, not hot.
  • After thawing, milk should be stored in the refrigerator for no more than 24 hours.
  • Never refreeze thawed milk. Throw away previously frozen milk that is not used within 24 hours.