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Balancing Life With Breastfeeding

Balancing life with breastfeeding may have its challenges, but having early access to skilled lactation care and resources will give you the needed support and guidance to maintain that balance while meeting your infant feeding goals.

Having a new baby and learning to breastfeed takes time, so it is important for new parents to take care of themselves. Try to listen to your body so that you can tell when stress is affecting your health.

Take these steps to help make breastfeeding go smoother:

  • Relax. Find a quiet, comfortable, relaxing place to nurse.
  • Rest well. Nap when your baby naps.
  • Surround yourself with supportive people. (It is okay to say no and protect yourself from those who are not supportive. While it might be difficult, reach out to those you trust and let them know what you need.)
  • Exercise. Physical activity improves your mood.
  • Get some sunshine. Take your baby out for a stroll when the weather is nice.
  • Take a shower every day.
  • Check in often with your lactation consultant for proactive support.

Other self-care tips

  • Eat well. Don’t skip meals. There is no need to eat extra while nursing, but eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner and have a snack when you are hungry. One-handed foods like hard-boiled eggs, cut-up veggies, or lunch meats are good choices that are easy to eat when a baby is in your arms. Enjoy healthy eating.
  • Remember to keep hydrated. Drink water or other beverages when you are thirsty.
  • Limit the amount of caffeine intake to 200-300 mg per day
  • Talk to your doctor about taking a mineral supplement or multivitamin while breastfeeding.

Of course, we recognize that it is not always easy to have time for this self-care. Everyone will tell you to nap when your baby naps. This can be hard for some parents to do, especially if they have a million things running through their minds worrying about everything that needs to be done. Try to let these things go, so you can truly get your rest. It is important. Don’t stress it if you can. If you need some moral support, you can always reach out to your lactation consultant for advice and guidance.

Breastfeeding in Public

Breastfeeding is easy to do anywhere or anytime. If you choose to breastfeed in public, here are some tips you can follow:

  • Wear clothes that allow easy access to your breasts, such as tops that pull up from the waist or button-down.
  • Use a special breastfeeding blanket around your shoulders if desired.
  • Breastfeed in a parent’s lounge or dressing room in stores.

Some parents may prefer to nurse discreetly. If you do not want your breasts to show in public, try using the cradle position or put a shawl or receiving blanket over your shoulder to cover your breast. Or, you might want to pump your milk and give it to your baby by the bottle when in public places. Your comfort is important.

Remember parents have the right to breastfeed anywhere they have the right to be. The federal government and all fifty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands have laws that specifically allow parents to breastfeed in any public or private location. Twenty-nine states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have laws related to breastfeeding in the workplace. (Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming).

You can see the laws in your state at the National Conference of State Legislatures website at www.ncsl.org/research/health/breastfeeding-state-laws.aspx.

To get tips and gain confidence about breastfeeding in public, feel free to contact us and make an appointment with one of our board-certified lactation consultants. You have the right to breastfeed wherever you may be.

Pumping and Storing Breast Milk

Pumping allows you to continue to feed your baby breast milk through a bottle if you are separated from baby, and it can also be a useful tool for other reasons, such as increasing a low milk supply or feeding a baby who is not able to nurse effectively at the breast. While some families may need to initiate pumping sooner for these reasons, typically it is recommended to wait until after the first few weeks of breastfeeding, when you and your baby are getting used to nursing and your milk supply is still being established.

Pumping Your Breast Milk

Before you start

  • Wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Make sure the area where you are expressing and your pump parts and bottles are clean.

If you need help getting your milk to flow, you can

  • Think about your baby. Bring a photo or piece of clothing that has your baby’s scent on it.
  • Apply a warm, moist compress to your breasts.
  • Massage your breasts gently in a circular motion.
  • Rub your nipples gently in a circular motion.
  • Imagine the milk flowing down.
  • Sit quietly and think of a relaxing setting.
  • Make sure you are in a secure place.
  • Make sure the room is not too cold.
  • Have a beverage and a snack before pumping.
  • Watch or read something about breastfeeding.

How To Express Milk

You can express your milk either with your hand or with a manual or electric breast pump.

Hand Expressing. You use your hand to massage and compress your breast to remove milk. Hand expression requires practice, skill, and coordination. It gets easier with practice and can be as fast as pumping. This might be a good option if you are seldom away from your baby or if you need an option that is always with you. Actually, all parents should learn how to hand express. Watch this video from Stanford to learn how.

Manual Pump. You use your hand and wrist to operate a hand-held device to pump the milk. It requires practice, skill, and coordination as well. It is useful for occasional pumping if you are away from your baby only once in a while.

Electric Breast Pump. This type of pump runs on a battery or plugs into an electrical outlet. It can be easier to use for some parents, and you can either pump one breast at a time or both breasts at the same time. Double pumping may collect more milk in less time, which is helpful if you are going back to work or school. You will need to clean the equipment with soap and water and let it air dry between uses to keep germs from getting into the milk. This type of pump can cost anywhere from $150 to more than $250.

You can rent a hospital-grade electric pump from a lactation consultant at a local hospital or from a breastfeeding organization. This type of pump works well for creating a milk supply when a new baby can’t feed at the breast, but usually isn’t necessary for a well-established milk supply. Parents who have struggled with other expression methods may find that these pumps work well for them.

Under the Affordable Care Act, your health insurance plan must cover the cost of a breast pump. You may be offered a rental or a new one for you to keep. Your plan may provide guidance on whether the covered pump is manual or electric, how long the coverage of a rented pump lasts, and when they’ll provide the pump.

Check out www.HealthCare.gov to learn more about your breastfeeding benefits and talk to your insurance company to learn their specific policies on breast pumps.

After Each Pumping Session

  • Label the date on the storage container, and put your child’s name on it as well, especially if you are taking your child to daycare.
  • Gently swirl (don’t shake) the container to mix the cream part of the breast milk that may rise to the top back into the rest of the milk.
  • Refrigerate or chill milk right after it is expressed. You can put it in the refrigerator, place it in a cooler or insulated cooler pack, or freeze it in small (2 to 4 ounce) batches for later feedings.

Tips for Freezing Breast Milk

  • Wait to tighten bottle caps or lids until the milk is completely frozen.
  • Don’t fill milk to the top of the container–leave an inch or so at the top–because the milk will expand when freezing.
  • Store milk in the back of the freezer where the temperature is most stable and not on a shelf in the freezer door.

Tips for Thawing and Warming Up Milk

  • Use the oldest stored milk first.
  • Thaw frozen milk in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Warm-up milk when ready to use. Place the container in a bowl of warm water and swirl the container around in the water, or use a bottle warmer.
  • Test the temperature before feeding your baby. Put a few drops on your wrist. It should be warm to the touch, not hot.
  • Don’t use scalding hot water to thaw the milk, as the milk could get too hot and burn your baby’s mouth.
  • Don’t warm up milk in a microwave, as it can create hot pockets of milk that will burn your baby.
  • Use thawed breastmilk within 24 hours. Do not refreeze thawed breastmilk.

Feeding Your Baby Expressed Breast Milk

When feeding your baby expressed breast milk, it may not look perfectly white in color, and this is okay. Stored breast milk can vary in color. It is also normal for the fatty part of the milk to separate and rise to the top of the container. Gently swirl the bottle or sealed bag and the fat should go back into the milk. If it doesn’t, the milk may be bad. You can always taste it to make sure. If it tastes spoiled, it is not good to feed it to your baby and needs to be thrown away.


When should you start pumping breast milk?

Many parents start to pump breast milk when they decide to return to work after family leave. Others may start when they need someone else to help feed the baby. Whatever the reason for starting, you should practice 1 or 2 weeks in advance to learn how to use your pump. You can pump right after your baby eats or between feedings. You may even pump one breast while you feed your baby from the other.

This advanced planning gives you time to build up a collection of breast milk and store it for your baby’s later feedings, and for your body to learn how to respond to the pump.

How long should you pump each time?

Pumping breast milk takes about the same time as it does to breastfeed, which is generally about 10 to 15 minutes. If you’re trying to boost your supply, pump for a few minutes after your milk stops flowing.

How much breast milk will you get when you pump?

At first, you may not get much milk, but this will change as you continue to pump regularly and your body gets used to the pump. The more you pump the more milk your breasts will make, but remember that your baby is more efficient at removing milk than the pump is, so the amount you are able to pump is usually less than what is being transferred by baby during a nursing session.

The best way to increase your milk supply is to breastfeed or pump more often, but be careful not to overdo it or you could end up with an oversupply.

How should you store your breast milk?

Breast milk can be stored in a clean glass or hard BPA-free plastic bottle with tight-fitting lids. Or you can use sterile, sealable, milk storage bags (don’t use disposable bottle liners or other plastic bags to store breast milk). If your baby eats 4 ounces in a feeding, put 4 ounces of breast milk in the storage container and put a date on the container so you know how long it will last. It’s also a good idea to freeze some milk in smaller 1-2 oz increments in case your baby occasionally needs a little more after a feeding. Storing it in small pre-measured amounts will help avoid any waste of breast milk.

How long can you store your breast milk?

Freshly expressed breast milk can be stored in the back of the refrigerator (39 degrees Fahrenheit or colder) for up to 4 days. It can be stored in the back of a freezer (0 degrees Fahrenheit or colder) for up to 6 months and it can be stored in the back of a deep freezer (-4 degrees Fahrenheit or colder) for up to 12 months.

If your breast milk is stored in a cooler with ice packs, it can last up to 24 hours. If it is at room temperature (less than 77 degrees Fahrenheit), it can last up to 4 hours. Throw out any leftover milk within 1 to 2 hours after the baby is finished feeding.

Do you need to sterilize a breast pump after every use?

All breast pump parts that come in contact with breast milk, such as bottles, valves, and breast shields, should be cleaned after each use with warm soapy water. Sterilization is not necessary to keep breast pump parts safe and sanitary, but many parents choose to use microwave sterilizers, a pot of boiling water, or the top rack of a dishwasher for an occasional deep-clean.

Can You Add Pumped Milk into the Same Storage Container All Day? (AKA the “Pitcher Method” of Milk Storage)

Yes! Recent changes to breastmilk storage guidelines say that it’s ok to add your most recently pumped fresh milk to a container of already refrigerated milk pumped on the same day without cooling it down first. Minimizing transfers between containers reduces the wastage of fat and calories, and combining your milk from different pumping sessions can reduce the nutritional variability in each bottle of milk.

Can you put breast milk back in the fridge after baby drinks from it?

If after feeding your baby, you have half or a quarter of it left, put it in the fridge and offer it again at the next feeding. Don’t keep it beyond that point, as used breast milk can become contaminated since bacteria from the baby’s mouth can get into the bottle while your baby sucks.

Return-to-Work After Family Leave

Planning ahead for your return to work after family leave can help ease the transition. With proper planning, you can continue to enjoy breastfeeding your baby long after your family leave is over. Here are some planning tips you can follow to ensure a smooth transition: During Family Leave

  • Practice expressing your milk by hand or with a breast pump, and store the pumped milk in the freezer before you start back to work so there will be plenty of stored milk that can be fed to your baby. Start this about a week or so before returning to work. Remember, you only need enough milk for the 1st day back at work, because after that you can feed your baby the milk you pumped while at work the previous day.
  • Help your baby adjust to taking breast milk from a bottle. Start giving your baby a bottle a few weeks before you return to work. Some breastfed babies won’t take a bottle if it is introduced after about 8 weeks of age, so you might need to start this process sooner depending on your timeline for returning to work.
  • Talk to your family and friends and let them know your desire to continue breastfeeding. Let them know that you may still need their support.
  • Consider returning to work (or school) in the middle of the week rather than on Monday. This will give you time to adjust to the routine and to be together with your baby after only a few days.
  • Know your rights.

Back at Work

  • Nurse your baby right before you leave for work.
  • Talk to your supervisor and let him/her know that you plan to take regular breaks and utilize lunch breaks to pump and/or breastfeed your baby if your childcare provider is close by.
  • Talk to your childcare provider and see if you can visit to breastfeed during lunch.
  • When you arrive to pick up your baby from childcare, take time to breastfeed before going home and returning to other family responsibilities. Nursing in your baby’s childcare environment can increase the antibodies to “daycare germs” in your milk. If not possible, nurse your baby as soon as you get home.
  • Find a private place to express milk. Work with your supervisor to find a private, secure place that has an electrical outlet for using an electric pump. The Affordable Care Act (the health care law) supports work-based efforts to assist nursing parents. Employers are required to provide reasonable break times in a private place (other than an unsanitary bathroom) for nursing parents to express milk while at work. (Employers with fewer than 50 employees are not required to comply if it would cause the company financial strains.)
  • Talk to your supervisor about the best place to store your expressed milk. If you work in a medical facility, do not store your breast milk in the same refrigerators where medical specimens are kept. Be sure to label the container with your name and the date you expressed milk.

While At Work

  • Try to pump as often as your baby usually feeds. This may be every 3 to 4 hours for 15 minutes each time.
  • Breastfeed when you are together to help keep up your milk supply.
  • If you notice a supply dip, pump right after your baby feeds to help your breasts make more milk.
  • Store your pumped breast milk in a refrigerator or cooler with ice as soon as possible.
  • Freeze the milk if you aren’t going to use it within 4 days.

Prenatal Planning for Breastfeeding from Nest Collaborative

If you are looking for help with balancing life while breastfeeding, our lactation consultants at Nest Collaborative can help. Our expert team provides lactation support for prenatal and postpartum parents, during any stage from beginning to end. Book an appointment today with one of our lactation consultants.


Center for Disease Control: Proper Storage and Preparation of Breast Milk