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You may choose to continue breastfeeding while working outside the home for many reasons – the best food for your baby, antibodies to protect your baby, great way to reconnect when you return from work, and continuing the special relationship of breastfeeding during your days at home.

Planning ahead

Making the workplace friendly

In South Africa

Beginning expressing and storing milk

Introducing a bottle to a breastfed baby

First days back at work


  • Consider all options for returning to work, including taking the longest maternity leave possible if it is available to you.

    • Can you work at part of the time from home?

    • It is possible to job share with another employee?

    • Is it possible to go part-time? Some mothers find that when they factor in the costs of child care, they can reduce their work hours or delay returning to work for a year or more.

    • Can you come back gradually? Some mothers start back just two or three days a week and gradually work up to a full work week.

  • Consider flexibility at work.

    • Can you leave if your baby needs you during the workday?

    • Can your baby be brought to you?

  • Choosing a daycare provider – see Working and Breastfeeding – Choosing a Day Care Provider.


  • Become familiar with your work’s facilities for expressing and storing milk before the baby comes.

    • Can you express in your own office?

    • Is there a private area with a door that can be locked?

      • How do you access the room?

      • Is there a sign-up sheet if sharing the space with other employees?

    • Is there refrigeration available? If not, you will need to bring your own insulated cooler for milk storage. See our post on Storing Human Milk.

    • Check with your manager and Human Relations Department for your company’s policies on milk expression breaks.


Under South African law, breastfeeding mothers are protected under the Basic Conditions of Employment Act. The Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) applies to all employers and workers. It regulates maternity leave, working hours, employment contracts, deductions, pay slips, and termination in South Africa. [1]

Under the BCEA, a “Code of Good Practice on the Protection of Employees during Pregnancy and after the Birth of a Child” COGP) [2] provides guidelines and legal requirements for employers and employees regarding protecting women’s health from potential work environment hazards during pregnancy, after the birth of a child, and while breastfeeding. The code not only addresses hazardous working conditions; it also contains breastfeeding or expressing break requirements. Under the COGP, point 5.13 states:

Arrangements should be made for employees who are breast-feeding to have breaks of 30 minutes twice per day for breastfeeding or expressing milk each working day for the first six months of the child’s life.

If you outside of South Africa and not protected by your local laws consider the following:

  • While you are still pregnant, or on your maternity leave, make an appointment to meet with your supervisor to review your plans for expressing and work and bring your baby with you! Your cute little one will be a great negotiating tool!

  • If your workplace is not able to accommodate you:

    • Consider expressing in your car, using a vehicle adapter or battery option.

    • If in the food industry, see if you can bring a screen to express behind.

    • Wear a nursing cover for more discreet expressing if there is no private room.



First of all, enjoy your baby!  Take the first several weeks to enjoy the wonder of your baby and the joy of breastfeeding. Don’t worry about using a pump unless you become uncomfortably engorged and need to express some milk for comfort.

See Engorgement and also Hand Expressing


Many mothers have found that getting their milk supply well established and their baby very experienced with breastfeeding can make the transition easier when you begin introducing bottles. You may want to wait until you see a pattern in your baby’s feedings and waking/sleeping episodes. You may notice that you feel fuller after some feedings than others. Picking one or two of those feedings to express after – for the “leftovers” – will help you gradually collect milk for that first bottle. You can talk with your pediatrician for guidelines on how much they think your baby might take per feeding based on weight and frequency of feedings. See our posts on Pumping and Storing milk.


Here is one approach to beginning pumping and introducing bottles that has worked well for many mothers as they prepared to return to work:

  • Once breastfeeding is well established – usually after about four weeks – begin expressing after one feeding a day where your breasts still feel a little full. Remember you are expressing “leftovers” and should only expect a small amount.

  • Freeze that first batch of expressed milk immediately. You can add other batches to it after they have been cooled in the freezer.

  • Your pediatrician may have given you a total number of ounces your baby may feed in a day or a range from the smallest probable amount to the largest, based on your baby’s weight.

    • If dealing with a total volume over a 24-hour period, divide that by the typical number of times your baby feeds for a target volume for the first bottle.

    • If dealing with a range, store volumes of the lower amount.

    • Store some extra small volumes in case baby is hungrier than expected.

    • When you have enough stored to equal the expected volume and a bit more, you can begin to plan a time to introduce a bottle.

    • EXAMPLE for offering the first bottle:

      • Your pediatrician suggests that your baby probably takes about 24 ounces a day.

      • You know that he feeds between eight and 12 times a day.

      • That means he could take anywhere from 2 to 3 ounces.

      • You express until you have a 2-ounce bottle and then have several 1/2 ounce bottles to equal at least three ounces or more saved.

      • Choose a day that your primary support person will be available and a feeding time where baby tends to be more pleasant and patient for his feeding.

      • Baby may accept a bottle more easily from someone other than you. He knows milk comes from you and may not understand why he’s not going there instead of to this foreign object.

      • Thaw out the 2-ounce bottle in the refrigerator overnight.

      • When baby begins to stir, place the bottle from the refrigerator in a bowl of warm water (bath temperature) or a bottle warmer while the person offering the bottle goes to get baby from his bed, changed and ready for the feeding.

      • Often it helps to run the bottle nipple under warm water, if it was also in the refrigerator, to make it more acceptable to the baby.

      • Baby should be held in an upright, almost sitting, position that is similar to the position usually used by the support person.

      • The warmed bottle should be held at an angle tilted just enough to fill the nipple to allow baby to keep control of when and how fast the milk comes.

      • Tickle the baby’s mouth to encourage an open mouth then bring baby up onto the bottle nipple, aiming the nipple toward the palate.

      • Some have found that it can help to have an article of clothing you have worn, like a nightgown or t-shirt, to place on their arm, shoulder, or chest where the baby can smell your scent.

      • It is usually best if you are close but not present in the room during this first “experiment” with bottle feeding. Your baby is very wise and will wait for you to come feed her if she knows you are nearby.


Once the feeding is completed, you will express to create a bottle equal to what the baby consumed. Remember that the baby is always better than a pump! If you do not express as much as the baby took, it is more likely a pump issue than an issue of not enough milk. Just express after another breastfeeding and add that amount to what you expressed to get the amount baby took.

You will continue this pattern until you have enough milk stored in your freezer to get you through a normal work day plus a few extra for any hectic day at work where you may not have been able to express as often. Plan to fully breastfeed for all feedings when not separated from your baby.


It is an adjustment from being a full-time employee to being a full-time mother. It is also an adjustment when you return to work or school because now you have two full-time jobs that need to be blended somehow.

Emotional adjustments

  • You will miss your baby – of course you will! Your baby will miss you, too. Neither of you were designed physiologically or emotionally for long separations from each other. Accepting this fact doesn’t make it easier but it may help you understand some of the emotions you will be feeling.

  • Plan a gradual leave taking in the morning – allow time for a relaxed breastfeeding and cuddle before you leave.

  • Bring your baby’s picture or a video on your phone to work to look at while you’re expressing.

  • Check in with the care giver as frequently during the day as you need.

  • Stop in during your lunch break, if possible, for you both to reconnect.



  • Two-piece outfits with loose fitting tops are very helpful for convenient expressing.

  • Consider a hands-free bra to allow you to express and also have a video chat with the caregiver, eat lunch, work at the computer or do some other task that might keep you late at work.

  • Wear a printed top in case your pumping is delayed. Any leakage is less obvious.


Expressing at work

  • See if you can have a “practice run” at your workplace before you start work.

  • Try to express as many times as your baby will feed while you are separated. It may be difficult to match the feeding times, but matching the frequency will help keep up your supply.

  • Develop a plan for when and where you will express, if you can.

  • If your work is erratic, take an expressing break whenever you see a 10 – 15 minute window, even you just expressed an hour or two ago.

  • Try to de-stress while expressing – look at a picture/video of baby, listen to calming music, bring a piece of your baby’s clothing to hold/smell/look at.

  • Figure out how you will clean your pump accessories – sink in office kitchen, bathroom sink, etc. Many mothers will bring a plastic basin to use as their “sink” to wash their pieces in instead of a sink used by others for multiple purposes. See Cleaning and Sanitising Pump Accessories.

  • Figure out where you will store your pump and accessories between expressing to allow them to dry well – perhaps you have shelf behind your desk or a large drawer in your desk where they can drip dry in the plastic basin.


Back at Home

  • Have a relaxed reconnection when you arrive back to the baby. Talk to the caregiver to hear how the day went. Nurse before leaving a facility if your baby is willing.

  • Expect that your baby may feed more often in the evening or at night to make up for the time away. Babies miss the full package – you – even when they have their mom’s milk for feedings. Don’t plan anything else for the evening except for reconnecting with your baby and the rest of your family.

  • You may find wearing your baby and keeping her close to you in the evenings and on weekends is a great way to get the things done that need done without being apart from your baby.

  • Minimise separations during off work hours. Errands may take a little longer but can be done more easily with baby than in a rush between feedings. “Date nights” at home can be just as special.


LLL offers local support: see if you have a local group by searching here.
Many groups run meetings in the evening, or on a weekend, so those who work can attend. Some groups also run online meetings that may be easier to fit in.

Cleaning and Sanitising Pumping Accessories
Hand Expressing
Introducing a Bottle to a Breastfed Baby
Feeding Breastmilk From a Bottle
Working and Breastfeeding – Choosing a Child Care Provider

LLL USA Article, Working and Breastfeeding: My Experience With Hand Expression 



1. The Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) of South Africa -

2. Under the BCEA, the “Code of Good Practice on the Protection of Employees during Pregnancy and after the Birth of a Child” COGP) -

3. South African Labour Law: Breastfeeding FAQ - 

*Parts of the contents of this page was generously supplied by La Leche League International and La Leche League GB

Work: First Days
Work: Intro Bottles
Work: Beginning Express
Work: South Africa
Work: Friendly
Work: Planning
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