Breastfeeding: Make Plans During Pregnancy and Maternity Leave


Breast milk is the best food for your baby’s first year of life. It’s rich in nutrients, it’s free, and it helps both mother and baby bond emotionally. Click here to learn more about the benefits of breastfeeding

Planning ahead for your return to work can help ease the transition. Learn as much as you can ahead of time and talk with your employer about your options. This can help you continue to enjoy breastfeeding your baby long after your maternity leave is over. At any time, you can call the Tennessee Breastfeeding Hotline toll-free with questions at 1-855-4BF-MOMS (1-855-423-6667) and speak to certified lactation counselors. This service is available in any language.

During Pregnancy

Join a breastfeeding support group to talk with other mothers about breastfeeding while working.

Talk with your supervisor about your plans to breastfeed. Discuss different types of schedules, such as starting back part-time at first or taking split shifts.

Find out if your company provides a lactation support program for employees. If not, ask about private areas where you can comfortably and safely express milk. The Affordable Care Act (health care reform) supports work-based efforts to assist nursing mothers.

Ask the lactation program director, your super­visor, wellness program director, employee hu­man resources office, or other coworkers if they know of other women at your company who have breastfed after returning
to work.

Consider purchasing nursing bras and/or clothes for after the baby is born.

Choose a quality breast pump:

Purchase bottles and make sure to follow recommendations for nipple size variation based on child’s age.

After the Baby Is Born

Develop a breast­feeding routine that works for you and your baby.

Ease discomfort while breastfeeding:

Ask for help from a lactation consultant, your doctor, or WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor, if you need it. The statewide Tennessee Breastfeeding Hotline is now available 24 hours a day, seven days a
week. The toll-free number is 1-855-4BF-MOMS (1-855-423-6667). The hotline is staffed by International Board Certified Lactation Consultants and Certified Lactation Counselors.

During Your Maternity Leave

Take as many weeks off as you can. At least six weeks of leave can help you recover from childbirth and settle into a good breastfeeding routine. Twelve weeks is even better.

Practice expressing your milk by hand or with a quality breast pump.

Freeze 2 to 4 ounces at a time to save for your baby after you return to work.

Help your baby adjust to taking breast milk from a bottle (or cup for infants 3 to 4 months old) shortly before you return to work. Babies are used to nursing with mom, so they usually drink from a bottle or cup when it’s given by somebody else.

See if there is a childcare option close to work, so that you can visit and breastfeed your baby, if possible. Ask if the facility will use your pumped breast milk.

Talk with your family and your childcare pro­vider about your desire to breastfeed. Let them know that you will need their support.

Back at Work

Keep talking with your supervisor about your schedule and what is or isn’t working for you. Keep in mind that returning to work gradually gives you more time to adjust.

If your childcare is close by, find out if you can visit to breastfeed over lunch.

When you arrive to pick up your baby from child­care, take time to breastfeed first. This will give you both time to reconnect before traveling home and returning to other family responsibilities.

If you are having a hard time getting support, talk to your human resources department or to your employer directly. It’s your right to breastfeed while working. You can also ask for tips from a lactation consultant, WIC, or the Tennessee Breastfeeding Hotline 1-855-4BF-MOMS (1-855-423-6667).

Purchase a hands-free bra (or make your own).

Get a Quality Breast Pump

A good-quality electric breast pump may be your best strategy for efficiently removing milk dur­ing the workday. Contact a lactation consultant or your local hospital, the Tennessee Breastfeeding Hotline (1-855-4BF-MOMS or 1-855-423-6667), WIC program, or public health department to learn where to buy or rent a good pump. Electric pumps that allow you to express milk from both breasts at the same time reduce pumping time. If you are a mother in the WIC program, you may be eligible for a free manual breast pump.

Find a Private Place to Express Milk

Work with your supervisor to find a private place to express your milk. The Affordable Care Act (health care
reform) supports work-based efforts to assist nursing mothers.

The law in Tennessee states:

50-1-305. Breast milk expressing by employees -- Break time and

(a) As used in this section, "employer" means a person or entity that employs one (1) or more employees and includes the state and its political subdivisions.
(b) An employer shall provide reasonable unpaid break time each day to an employee who needs to express breast milk for that employee's infant child. The break time shall, if possible, run concurrently with any break time already provided to the employee. An employer shall not be required to provide break
time under this section if to do so would unduly disrupt the operations of the employer.
(c) The employer shall make reasonable efforts to provide a room or other location in close proximity to the work area, other than a toilet stall, where the employee can express breast milk in privacy. The employer shall be held harmless if reasonable efforts have been made to comply with this subsection (c).

If your company does not provide a private lactation room, find another private area you can use. You may be able to use:

  • An office with a door
  • A conference room
  • A small room or storage area

The room should be private and secure from intruders when in use. The room should also have an electrical outlet if you are using an electric breast pump. Explain to your supervisor that it is best not to express milk in a restroom. Restrooms are unsanitary, and there are usually no electrical outlets. It can also be difficult to manage a pump in a toilet stall.

Pumping Tips

It may take time to adjust to pumping breast milk in a work environment. For easier pumping, try these tips
for getting your milk to let-down from the milk ducts:

  • Relax as much as you can
  • Massage your breasts
  • Gently rub your nipples
  • Visualize the milk flowing down
  • Think about your baby – bring a photo of your baby, or a blanket or item of clothing that smells
    like your baby

When to Express Milk

At work, you will need to express and store milk during the times you would normally feed your baby. (In
the first few months of life, babies need to breastfeed 8 to 12 times in 24 hours.) This turns out to be about 2 to 3 times during a typical 8-hour work period. Expressing milk can take about 10 to 15 minutes. Sometimes it may take longer. This will help you make enough milk for your childcare pro­vider to feed your baby while you are at work. The number of times you need to express milk at work should be equal to the number of feedings your baby will need while you are away. As the baby gets older, the number of feeding times may go down. Many women take their regular breaks and lunch breaks to pump. Some women come to work early or stay late to make up the time needed to express milk.

Storing Your Milk

Breast milk is food, so it is safe to keep it in an em­ployee refrigerator or a cooler with ice packs. Talk to your supervisor about the best place to store your milk. If you work in a medical department, do not store milk in the same refrigerators where medical specimens are kept. Be sure to label the milk container with your name and the date you expressed the milk. In addition, make sure to follow recommendations
about cleaning and sanitizing bottles and pumps that you use for milk.

For more information about storing your milk, go to

Substantial excerpts from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Woman’s Health, Your Guide to Breastfeeding: