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Making It Work

Working Without Pumping

From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 17 No. 3, May-June 2000, pp. 98-99

We provide articles from our publications from previous years for reference for our Leaders and members. Readers are cautioned to remember that research and medical information change over time.

"Making It Work" is a regular feature of the magazine NEW BEGINNINGS, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of NEW BEGINNINGS to help mothers who wish to combine breastfeeding and working. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's lifestyle. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.


I have heard other mothers talk about continuing to breastfeed while working but being able to do so without pumping at work. Is this really possible? How old would the baby need to be? What does the baby eat or drink while mother is away, and how does mother maintain her milk supply for evenings and weekends?


I have had some experience with working and breastfeeding, including some time with each baby during which I have done no pumping at work.

I worked full-time when my now three-and-a-half-year-old was a baby. I returned to work when she was two months old. I was fortunate that her father was her caregiver during my work hours. For the first six months, I would pump twice a day at work and my husband would bring Jenny to me to nurse during my lunch hour. By the time she was about eight months old, however, she began to refuse to drink the pumped milk from her bottle. She would just eat solid food and wait until she saw me at lunchtime or after work so she could nurse. After a couple weeks of the milk going to waste I just stopped pumping. We kept this up from the time she was about 8 and a half months until 13 months when I stopped working. I had no problems with milk supply during this time.

With my now ten-month-old son, I have returned to work part-time for two six-hour shifts per week. Once again, he is with his father. I nurse him once in the middle of my shift and I don't pump at work at all, but I do some pumping at home so that his father will always have some milk to give him if he gets hungry before I come home.

I have found I can go as long as five to six hours without nursing or pumping once my babies are eating enough solids to keep them from getting hungry while I'm gone. I prefer to come home and nurse my baby if I have to be gone longer than about four hours, though, just because he and I both still need to be with each other. I think it would be very difficult to go for an entire eight-hour workday without nursing or pumping and it would probably be impossible with a young baby who isn't eating any solids.

Laura Haar
Lincoln NE USA


I went back to work as a college professor after six weeks of maternity leave and continued to breastfeed exclusively without having to pump. The way I did it was to bring my son to work with me. He was very content to sleep on my lap while I worked at the computer or to play on the floor during meetings. When he became more active around five months old, my husband and I starting taking turns being at work while the other stayed home. When I was at the office, he would bring Spencer to visit me every few hours. We figured I would be using the same time to pump, so why not let Spencer do the pumping? An added benefit was that it gave my baby and me a chance to visit during those separations. As Spencer has started to eat more solids, it's easier for my husband to feed him while I'm gone, but he still sometimes swings by for a visit if Spencer seems to need it. I have friends who have worked out similar arrangements with a babysitter by having the babysitter bring their baby for visits or having the sitter watch the baby at work in a nearby room.

Kelly Mix
Bloomington IN USA


Reverse-cycle feeding is one method I've heard about that allows working mothers to continue to breastfeed exclusively without diminishing milk supply or pumping at work. After six to eight weeks of age, some babies go for longer periods of time without eating while they are asleep. Many mothers have been able to reverse their babies' feeding rhythms, nursing often at night so babies are less hungry during the day. By pumping once before work, you can still send a bottle with your baby. To make reverse-cycle feeding work, you may want to co-sleep with your baby so that everyone gets enough rest. You may also want to start pumping a few weeks before you return to work to build up a supply of frozen breast milk and to get you and your baby used to the reverse cycle. Gale Pryor's book Working Mother, Nursing Mother is a wonderful source of additional information on how to proceed with reverse-cycle feeding.

Cheryl Fitzgerald
Columbia VA USA


My son, Kennedy, is 21 months old now. We continue to enjoy our breastfeeding times. When he was three months old, I went back to teaching middle school full-time. I pumped two or three times daily that first year. Vacations, weekends, and summertime were great for reconnecting. As my return to school during the second year approached, Kennedy was eating at the table with us. Also, he had molars, and he was beginning to communicate likes and dislikes. I changed care providers to a day school that serves breakfast, a warm lunch, and an after-nap snack. Confident that his basic nutritional needs would be met, I decided not to pump. These days we continue to share a wonderful nursing relationship even though I work long hours.

Emily Wilkins
Durham NC USA


I attended my first La Leche League meeting looking for information about pumping. I thought going back to work would mean that I would have to pump. I was given so many suggestions. The experiences from other mothers and the information from the Leaders really opened my eyes to all the different options I had. I decided I could go visit my baby in the middle of the morning and my husband could bring the baby to me over lunch. This routine also followed my daughter's nursing pattern and it worked great. I took off as much time as I could and then never had to pump.

Robin Fowler
Franklin KY USA

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