Returning to work after having your baby can be a stressful and daunting process. Even if you feel ready, and you’re keen to stimulate your brain again, it’s normal to worry about how your breastfed baby is going to cope in your absence. 

Going back to work doesn’t mean your breastfeeding relationship has to end, but it is important to feel prepared if you wish to continue.

Here are some things to consider for you and your baby’s well being:

If your baby is less than one year of age, you should prepare to pump at least once during your workday. It is important to discuss your specific needs with your employer. Check out the Australian Breastfeeding Association for resources on your rights and how to address these in your workplace [1]. 

Breastfeeding in the workplace

  1. If your baby is older than one year of age, depending on how often you are working, you may only need to express a small amount of milk at work, if your breasts feel uncomfortable. Some women find that they no longer need to express at work, and this does not affect their overall milk supply. If you find that your breasts do not become uncomfortable, and you do not need to express while you are at work, simply allow baby to breastfeed when you are reunited. 
  2. If your baby is still primarily on milk feeds and requires these through the day while you are separated, you will need to ensure that she will take milk in another way while you are gone. Try getting your partner or a familiar face for the baby to offer some alternative feeds in the lead up to you returning to work. Babies often behave differently for their carers so try not to get too stressed if she won’t take a bottle with you. If milk feeds in a bottle are completely refused by a baby under the age of 6 months, then carers can try to offer milk in a regular cup (baby should be held upright and allowed to sip/lap the milk). Patience and persistence are often needed at this age. For a baby over the age of 6 months, baby may prefer to take water or solid food in mother’s absence and this is okay. 
  3. Your baby may use breastfeeding as a way to reconnect with you after a long day apart. Allow him to have access to you and to breastfeed when you pick him up from care, or when you get home.
  4. Continue to offer feeds when you are together, especially for comfort when baby is tired, stressed or in pain. Not only will this keep up your milk supply, but it will also allow baby to continue to connect with you through breastfeeding. Night feeds will likely continue and your baby may use this time to catch up on missed feeds during your absence.
  5. If you are already co-sleeping, continuing with this may be the best way for you to get enough rest overnight so that you are able to function at work in the morning. Changing baby’s sleep environment at this time may be more disruptive and stressful. Wait a few months, until baby is settled into the new routine of you going to work before making any other big changes.

Check in about Safer Sleep

Breastfeeding not only offers a wonderful way for baby to reconnect with you after being apart all day, it also continues to support baby’s immune system [2]. This can be particularly helpful if your little one is starting in a daycare environment where they will be exposed to various viruses. By continuing to breastfeed after returning to work, you not only continue to offer your baby many physical benefits but emotional benefits too.

Contributed by: Georgina Dowden, IBCLC, Registered Nurse, Registered Midwife, Little Sparklers Director

Image credit: Sarah Conlan Lifestyle Photographer



[2] Field CJ. The immunological components of human milk and their effect on immune development in infants. J Nutr. 2005 Jan;135(1):1-4. doi: 10.1093/jn/135.1.1. PMID: 15623823