Breastfeeding as a working mom


Breastfeeding as a working mom

by: Brandy Hawley, Japan Birth Resource Network | .
Birth Ed. Center of Okinawa | .
published: March 01, 2016

Breastfeeding is a wonderful thing. The benefits of breastfeeding for mom and baby are numerous and include excellent nutrition for baby, and lower incidences of breast and reproductive cancers for mom. Breastfeeding can be challenging, and for working moms, even more so when they need to express breastmilk, or pump. With some preparation and handy tips however, even working moms can ensure they continue their nursing journey for as long as mom and baby both want to.

First, equipment. Breastmilk can be expressed manually or with an electric pump. Having done both, I can vouch for the double electric pump which has saved me a lot of effort and time. Start with your insurance provider to see if they cover the cost of a pump or supplies. Make sure you have everything else you will need like parts for the pump, bottles, and a tote-able bag with a cooler pack, and if using an electric pump, a pumping bra is also highly recommended to allow you to be hands-free. Nipple cream is great too as a lubricant and to help with any discomfort. Pack your stuff the night before so you are less likely to forget something when rushing to get ready in the morning. A picture of baby or something that smells or reminds you of your loved one can help with milk letdowns.

Talk to your employer about your need for regular breaks to pump. Federal employers should be accommodating but be sure to check any other applicable rules to ensure your rights as a breastfeeding mom.

Your body will always respond better to baby, so don’t be discouraged if at first you don’t get a lot from the pump. It may take some practice to get your body used to pumping. I usually try pumping at least 1-2 times during the day a week or two before I return to work. This will also help you to make any needed adjustments such as making sure your pumping flanges are the correct size.

When pumping try to relax! Breast compressions can help maximize output, but try not to watch the bottles since stressing about not expressing enough milk also hurt output. Also, staying hydrated throughout the day is important.

If using a double electric pump, 15 minutes should be adequate to express what you need. You won’t have to wash your pump supplies in between sessions. Some moms store in a plastic bag and place in the refrigerator. I usually just rinse mine out between sessions and do a hot wash with soap in the evenings.  

Between two girls I’ve been nursing for over 3 years now, and if I have a secret it is this: nurse on demand when together. Producing breastmilk is all about supply and demand. The more you bring baby to breast, the more your body is stimulated to produce milk. Remember that how much you express is never a good indicator of milk supply. I also give the pump a break on my days off and just enjoy nursing my baby.

Finally, seek help or support if you have doubts or feel discouraged. Groups like La Leche League and the Birth Education Center’s “Weigh In Wednesdays” are fantastic sources of information and support. Returning to work doesn’t have to mean the end of breastfeeding.

Connect with local Okinawa moms on Facebook in “Pregnancy & Birth Talk Okinawa”

Japan Birth Resource Network provides evidence based information and mother friendly support throughout Okinawa and Japan. To learn more visit:

Birth Education Center of Okinawa’s Schedule:

  • Wednesday, March 2 - Birth Education Center 1 year anniversary celebration
  • Thursday, March 10 - What to Expect Postpartum
  • Saturday, March 19 - Birth & Baby Fair and Meet & Greet with JBRN Birth Doulas
  • Ongoing: Lactation consultations, prenatal yoga, complimentary therapy for labor, infant massage, and childbirth classes.