How to Transition from Nursing to Pumping Breast Milk

By Rebecca Chancellor
Transitioning your baby from nursing to pumped breastmilk does not have to be difficult.
Transitioning your baby from nursing to pumped breastmilk does not have to be difficult.

Transitioning back to work after having a baby can be challenging, both physically and emotionally. Although continuing to breastfeed your new baby once you return to work can be difficult, the effort can also be extremely rewarding. Pumping at work can help you feel close to your baby while you are apart, and also allow you to maintain the nursing relationship when you are home. Most importantly, you can continue to provide your little one with breast milk even when you can’t be with her.

Transitioning Back to Work

A bottle can be introduced around four weeks of age.
A bottle can be introduced around four weeks of age.

Introduce your baby to the bottle when she is around three to four weeks old. Pediatricians warn that introducing the bottle earlier than this can result in “nipple confusion” and may make breastfeeding more difficult. (See Reference1.) Just one bottle every few days when you baby reaches three to four weeks of age will allow your little one to become accustomed to a bottle and will give you a break.

Start pumping around three to four weeks after the birth of your baby. The best time to pump is after the first morning feeding because typically plenty of milk will be left over even after your little one has had her fill. Do this regularly to get your body accustomed to pumping and also to build up a supply of breast milk to store in the freezer.

Transition your baby to more frequent bottle feedings in the week before you return to work. If she won’t take a bottle from you, enlist a friend or spouse to help out. (See Reference 2).

Pump at the same times that you were previously breastfeeding once you return to work. Prepare to spend about half of an hour setting up, pumping and cleaning up your pumping supplies. If scheduling your pumping times according to your previous breastfeeding schedule is not possible in your line of work, just try to pump at roughly three- to four-hour intervals. Any amount of breast milk you are providing is wonderful.

Remember to have all pumping supplies on hand. You will need all the pumping parts, storage bags for your milk, a way to clean your pumping supplies and a cooler for the milk if you do not have access to a refrigerator.

Looking at a picture of your baby when pumping can help you relax.
Looking at a picture of your baby when pumping can help you relax.

Try to find a quiet space to pump. Talk to your boss about this beforehand. Pumping while people are knocking on the bathroom door can be stressful. To help you relax, tape a picture of your baby on the wall in your pumping space. If you have more trouble pumping at work than you did at home, a video or tape recording of your baby can be helpful.

Things You Will Need

  • Breast pump
  • Baby bottles
  • Breast milk storage bags
  • Freezer or cooler
  • Picture of baby

Tip

If you have any difficulty with breastfeeding or with pumping after returning to work, contact your physician or a lactation consultant for further assistance.

About the Author

Rebecca Chancellor is a physician in North Carolina with experience in journalism since 1996. She has been published in several scientific journals including the "Journal of Clinical Oncology" and "Stroke." Chancellor has a Bachelor of Arts in biology from Swarthmore College and a Doctor of Medicine from the University of Maryland School of Medicine.