Combining Work and Breastfeeding – Tips from Mums

Nicola writes to us:  “I would like some tips on trying to juggle breastfeeding, expressed bottle feeding and the odd formula feeding. I am going back to work soon fulltime and still want to b/f my son, it will mean the odd top up on formula, I don’t mind expressing but still hope for at least one booby feed a day.”

So we asked our Facebook page of mums to share their tips and we got a lot of encouraging replies.  You can do it!!


I returned to work at 3 months part time and did a little of everything. I found expressing difficult so we had emergency formula in case we didn’t get enough. More often than not though baby will ‘hold on’ and do more of their feeding in mornings/evenings and night. This is called reversed cycling and works very well – especially since time wise BF is the lowest effort of the three.

I recommend getting a double pump. I found you only need to get a couple of feeds ahead and then when you’re at work pump when baby would eat and that becomes tomorrow’s meals. I chatted to work and they were GREAT about providing a place and giving me extra time to pump.

my son is now 8months and has been getting a night bottle before bed for the last 6weeks as I’m no good at expressing and we had a wedding so he was staying with his nana for 6hours and because he was so hard to put onto formula (with having been fully breastfed) we had to get our next door neighbours to feed him for the 2weeks leading up to the wedding he will now take it but only if he is lying on a pillow and I’m not near him, but he is getting better and better with it!

I ended up expressing as much as I could when I was still fully feeding and froze it. Then mixed this with formula and gradually increased the amount of formula. I still b/f in the mornings for as long as I could and I did this by keeping my daughter on slow flow teats – this meant that she still had to work to get her milk and didn’t get lazy and still went quite easily back to the breast. Hope this helps and good luck.

I returned to work at 3 months at expressed full time for six months – very tough. Now, I don’t express at all but go down to daycare for the midday feed, and my son gets a bottle in the afternoons. My advice would be to work out what routine is going to work for you and stick to that – your boobs will adjust!! I did find that I wasn’t able to express as much during the day as I would be able to feed him, so he did reverse cycle to an extent with night feeds.

My husband would give an occasional bottle of formula with no ill effect, but we found once we started solids there was less need as bubs could have a small snack to distract and fill him up. As long as you are regularly pumping your supply shouldn’t be negatively affected and the most important feeds to retain are those evening cluster feeds and/or dream/night feeds.

Baby (and your body) will be happiest if there is a routine… so figure out when you would like to give booby, when you think you would like to express and when to give formula. I would say give booby first thing in the morning coz it gets your body making that milk… give both boobs if you can or feed from one and express from the other (either then or if you are in a rush to get to daycare/work etc maybe express at morning tea). Formula during the day at daycare or if you have a good supply of expressed milk stored up then definitely use that. A good way to keep the milk flowing would be to express again at lunchtime and afternoon tea. Then after work maybe give a booby or bottle of formula before bed. That’s just a suggestion… work out what will suit you best and stick to it so your body knows when to make milk and also so your baby knows what to expect.

I’ve been back at work since chicken was 3 months old only 1 day a week though, I feed him off me before I go to work and then while I’m working he has formula until I get home. It works out he has 2-3 bottles for the day, I suck at expressing so I don’t do it

I breastfeed in the morning,  express a few hours later, then bf when I get home I also have emergency formula just in case.  This works well for me I find if it’s a little difficult at the beginning to hand express for a minute or so first.  A warm flannel over the breast can help too good luck all the best

I went back to work when Sam was 3 months and for a start I would feed in morning, then he would have expressed milk while I was at work then was bf at night when I got home. I would express about 3ish at work and then I would get enough off me for two feeds. I now just formula feed now he is seven months old I have just gotten rid of night bf so engorgement for me at the moment

I have certainly heard that it can be done, continue to breastfeed your baby when you are home and on the days you are not working and your supply will adjust accordingly I think. Baby often ends up doing more of their feeding when you are home, and it will also be a lovely way for you two to bond when you get home after work.  For pumping, one tip I heard was pump at the same time every day and your supply will gradually increase. All the best

You will probably notice that if bubs isn’t already, then he will start waking up for a night feed. You can still get in two feeds during the day (one first thing in the morning and one before bed) and depending on what time you finish work …you might be able to squeeze one in before dinner.
Just remember that the more formula he is given the less milk from you he will need.

Babies on solids are generally very good at missing breastfeeds while Mum isn’t home and stocking up when she is.  Best wishes for your breastfeeding journey 🙂

My only advice is 1) get an electric pump. 2) I could never get baby to take a bottle from me, she knew where the boobs were but everyone else could feed her fine. 3) Start now and freeze it so if you have dry days you can still pull out supplies. 4) Try different formulas, babies tend to have preferences so best to get sachets and see if they like it before buying a whole can.

I have a friend who does BF when at home and pumps while at work during breaks, and this works well for her – she works full days 5 days a week and her hubby does the child care, cleaning & cooking. For me I did BF & pumping then BF/pumping & formula but eventually gave away the pumping as I found I had the worst of both worlds. A mixture of formula and boobs is easy; your supply will just fit into your routine.

I went back to work full time when my son was 4mths… he’s now just over one and has only been fed breastmilk (and of course solid food now). Not that I was against giving him formula it has just worked out that expressed worked well for me…. I have a small hand pump and found this much nicer than an electric one – it fitted in my handbag, plus I felt I had more control, felt a bit like a milking cow on the electric one. I got a couple of feeds ahead and then expressed at the times he would be drink and kept that milk for my husband to give him the next day. He would take the bottle from me no problem but we started him with it at about 6 weeks because I was told as they get older it’s harder to get used to. Hope it goes well 🙂

My baby boy is 7 & a half months old now, I started back at work when he was 6 months old. I’m lucky enough to only work part time though and just do 6 hours 3 days a week. When I’m with him I breastfeed. On the days I work I feed him and then when he goes to care he has formula. I express when I’m at work and freeze the breast milk which my husband gives to him in the evenings as I only finish work at 8pm. So he has a bit of everything. When we first started giving him a bottle he wouldn’t take it from me, but took it perfectly from my husband, other family members and his care givers, now that he’s had some practice he’ll take a bottle from me too. * An electric pump made expressing quicker and easier for me. My little man still wakes for a breast feed at night too. So we get a bit of cuddle time even on the days I work.

I would set a routine and stick to it. How old is bub and how many feeds is bub having a day? For example if 5 feeds a day and you’re working 9 – 3 I would breastfeed in the morning, two bottle feeds while you’re at work breastfeed again when you get home and then again before bed. It depends how keen you are to express but it can get very tiring especially once you’ve returned to work. I would be inclined to do the 3 breastfeeds a day and 2 bottle feeds a day while at work (or whatever works for you and bub depending on bub’s age and how many feeds a day etc) and stick to that. If you are consistent then your milk supply will always be correct rather than doing that one day and breastfeeding all day the next. This could lead to engorgement when you go back to bottle feeding whilst at work. Also bear in mind that expressing doesn’t stimulate milk production like actual feeding does. All in all it may just be trial and error until you find what works best for you and bub.

Best advice I can give is get a good pump it makes the world of difference. Massage & shake your boobs before pumping. I know it sound weird but it works!! Good luck!! Also BF does tend to “hold out” for the boob so be aware that you will get lots of cuddles in the morning/evening.

Absolutely possible, I gave both my kids a mixture of formula and EBM during the day when I returned to work, and they had a bf morning and night. I managed to feed my daughter till she was just over 2 years with just a morning feed in the end 🙂

This is from my friend, she works and her hubby looks after their daughter 🙂 She did this for ages, absolute champ!
1. Choose your bf’s as times the baby will def feed. I.e. Morning and night
2. Don’t discount nipple confusion, bottles are s…o much easier to drink from and easily become preferred. Consider using a smaller teat to make it harder once the baby is bigger
3. Express when your baby would usually feed and take the time to do it. Relax and look at pics of your baby
4. Persevere, its hard work but totally with it.

start expressing now to get a bit of a supply going then I would booby feed first thing in the morning and last thing at night (they are always my best snuggly times) express at work if there is a comfy rest room or somewhere you can go and feel private or night time after feeding.  I quite often find I can express a feed from one boob after bubs has fed off the other one (my let down works wonders at that time for expressing) then chuck a couple of powder sachets in the change bag for emergences only and hey presto working breast feeding super mum

I did morning and night breastfeeds and bubs had a combination of EBM and formula when I was at work. I can’t help with tricks to getting bubs to take bottles as mine has had one EBM feed at night since he was newborn so no issues there. It is costly but I recommend a double electric breast pump as you need speed if you are expressing at work. I found expressing and breastfeeding at set times (within reason ’cause bubs needs it when he or she needs it) helped with my supply…too random and my supply dropped. Whenever possible I also got bubs’ grandmother to bring him to work to breastfeed. Now the lawyer in me comes out and I cannot stress how important it is to talk to your employer as soon as possible re setting up facilities and breaks for you to express at work if that is what you want to do. The Employment Relations Act requires an employer to set up facilities (including a fridge and a lockable room if possible) for you but only if it is reasonable and practical for them to do so. Having a good discussion early will make it a lot easier for them and hence make them more willing to bend over backwards. There is also some good info on expressing/feeding at work on the Department of Labour’s website.

I have been back at work since my wee girl was 4.5 months. I work 3 days a week and we do all 3 – boob, express and formula. Like all the others have said it can work. My tips would be don’t leave it until the last minute to test the strategy. Keep a photo of baby in a container with your breast pump so that you can look at it while expressing. It stimulates the brain and helps letdown. Don’t assume that baby will take frozen breast milk. I started 3 months before I was due to go back to work and stocked up. A week before I went back to work we thought we would start using some…….bad move. Turns out my milk is one of the ones that goes off quickly and she would totally not go near it and I don’t blame her. You could smell the difference. Get yourself a microwave steriliser if you are still sterilising. Saves so much time when you are trying to get everything ready the night before. Good luck. It can be done and is really nice to be able to continue breastfeeding

Remember your employer is required to be flexible with your work time (within reason for both of you). If at all possible see if you can get to day care during the day for a feed as it’s so much nicer for you and your baby 🙂 I am VERY lucky as day care is across the road so with both of mine I have done trips during the day – realise this would not work for everyone but even a lunch time visit perhaps? Really wish you all the best, it’s a hard thing no matter what choices you make so hope the best happens! Once you have solids going, a feed at drop off, lunch time and pick up might even be enough