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A parent to parent voluntary support charity

Returning to Work & Expressing/Pumping

Returning to Work and Breastfeeding

By Angela Cahill, Cuidiú BFC

Mothers often worry that when returning to work their breastfeeding relationship must come to an end. Many mothers return to work and continue to breastfeed for as long as both mother and child are happy. Depending on your circumstances, and the age of your baby on your return to employment, you might choose to either leave baby with your own milk or a breastmilk substitute. If solids are well established you may choose to leave baby with appropriate food and water while away and feed baby on your return. A typical example, a mother who works away from home from 9am - 5pm, Monday - Friday, may breastfeed morning and night only and may feed more frequently over the weekend. Come Monday morning and they are back to AM and PM feeds. By the time you return to employment your supply should be well established and fairly adaptable, and will adapt to your unique situation. Many mothers find that breastfeeding is a lovely way to reconnect after a long day away from each other.


How much milk should I leave?

This depends on the age of your baby and the time spent apart. For example, when apart for 8-12 hours per day a baby (0-6 months) will take on average 10 - 15oz (300-400ml). Average daily intake is 30oz or 900mls approx. To calculate the amount needed when apart divide 30oz by one third for 8hrs or by half for 12hrs. Because of the great variability in the amount of solids that babies take during the second six months of life, the amount of milk will vary too. An average feeding (human milk) for a baby from 4 weeks onwards is 3-4oz (90 - 120ml) Current research tells us that breastmilk intake is quite constant after the first month and does not appreciably increase with age or weight.

As most mothers in Ireland don’t return to the workplace before baby is 6mths old, and many opt for a couple of extra months unpaid leave, this can make returning to work an easier transition as baby’s milk intake may decrease as solids are introduced. However, bear in mind that breastmilk is still your baby’s main source of nutrition throughout the first year of life. You may choose to express enough for a couple of feeds while apart or you may choose to leave baby with solids and water.

What to feed baby with when apart

  • Open cup (safe from birth and is less likely to interfere with the establishment of breastfeeding)
  • Free-flow cup without a valve
  • Bottle (If you choose to use a bottle, see link for information on Paced Bottle Feeding)

Additional Information: What to Feed the Baby When the Mother is Working Outside the Home Jack Newman MD, FRCPC, IBCLC

Tips for expressing

  • Express in the morning 30 - 60 minutes after breastfeeding or at least one hour before breastfeeding.
  • Express from one breast while baby nurses on the other.
  • Hands on pumping - combine hand massage and pumping

Freshly expressed milk storage guidelines: (guidelines may vary slightly from source to source)

  • May be stored at room temperature for 4-6hrs (79dF - 25dC)
  • In an insulated cooling bag for up to 24hrs (60dF - 15dC)
  • At the back of a refrigerator for up to 8 days (ideally 3 days)
  • Fridge freezer for 3-4 mths (this guideline varies slightly from source to source)
  • Deep freeze (0dF - 19dC) for 6-12mths

Note: The longer human milk is stored the more nutrition value is lost, the milk does not sour.

Guidelines for using previously frozen human milk:

  • Best thawed under cool running warm water - high heat kills antibodies
  • Room temperature - 1 hr
  • Refrigerator - 24 hrs
  • Do not refreeze


Breastfeeding Made Simple (second edition) Mohrbachar & Kendall-Tackett

See also :


Maximizing Milk Production with Hands on Pumping

Bottlefeeding the Breastfed Baby

The laws that protect breastfeeding mothers when returning to the workplace

Under Section 9 of the Maternity Protection (Amendment) Act 2004 women in employment who are breastfeeding are entitled to take time off work each day to breastfeed. The provision applies to all women in employment who have given birth within the previous 6 months. Employers are not obliged to provide facilities in the workplace to facilitate breastfeeding if the provision of such facilities would give rise to considerable costs. At the choice of her employer, the woman may therefore opt to:

  • Breastfeed in the workplace or express breast milk, where facilities are provided in the workplace by the employer
  • Have their working hours reduced (without loss of pay) to facilitate breastfeeding where facilities are not made available.

Women who are in employment and are breastfeeding are entitled to take 1 hour (with pay) off work each day as a breastfeeding break. This time may be taken as;

  • One 60 minute break
  • Two 30 minute breaks
  • Three 20 minute breaks

Breaks may be longer and more frequent if agreed between the woman and her employer. Part-time workers are also entitled to breastfeeding breaks, calculated on a pro-rata basis.

The provision for women to breastfeed at work was brought into effect on the 18th October, 2004 through SI 654 of 2004 Maternity Protection (Protection of Mothers who are Breastfeeding) Regulations 2004.

The Health Promotion Unit have produced the following useful guide for employers, employees and coworkers entitled Combining Breastfeeding and Work (pdf).

Mothers must notify their employer (in writing) of their intention to breastfeed at work. You must confirm this information at least 4 weeks before the date you intend to return to employment from maternity leave. Employers can require the employee to supply the child’s birth certificate (or some other document confirming the child’s date of birth).


Citizens Information

Irish Congress of Trade Unions

Irish Civil Service: