Milk Routine for the Working Mom

I am a parent who seeks to do things in a way that makes the most practical sense.  I want to save myself time and effort because, as a working parent, I am often short on time and energy.  If that applies to you, or if you a breastfeeding mom looking for guidance on the easiest way to provide breastmilk for your child while you’re away, this post is for you.

Some women pump, pump, pump like crazy to get a freezer stash established before returning to work.  I did not do this.  I pumped a few times 1-2 weeks before going back: once to get enough milk to introduce Jack to a bottle, and then I pumped a few more times to get enough milk for one day at daycare.  Fresh milk has the most nutrients, nutrients that are lost during the freezing process, so I avoid freezing as much as possible.  Additionally, milk that is stored properly in the refrigerator will be good for up to eight days in the refrigerator, so even if I take a few days off (say, the weekend) I don’t need to freeze.  I pump milk each day I’m at work and send it along to daycare the next day.

For the first year of Jack’s life, I pumped using my Ameda Purely Yours three times per day, every 2.5 hours or so while separated from him, for 10 minutes (although for most women 15-20 minutes is the recommended pumping session length to mimic usual nursing sessions).  Pumping every 2-3 hours while away from your baby keeps supply up, as does ensuring that the breasts are emptied as much as possible by the pump.  I generally was able to pump 12 ounces per day, which is definitely on the high side.  [With the number of times and length of my pumping sessions, most moms would get 6-9 ounces per day.]  Using the handy-dandy milk calculator from Kellymom, I determined that I should send 10 ounces along with Jack to daycare, about one ounce for every hour he would be away from me plus a tad extra just in case he hit a growth spurt.  Most days he drank 6-7 ounces because I nursed him before dropping him off in the morning and as soon as I picked him up.  The timing worked out well.  And since he nursed throughout the night untile he was a year old, I was easily able to use the 1oz. per hour rule (since intake should be 19-30 ounces per day, so an average of 25 ounces).

Since breastmilk can stay at room temperature for 10 hours, I do not wash my pump parts after each pump session.  I store them in ziplock baggies that I wash every night along with the parts.  [Note: if you are prone to thrush, it is a good idea to sterilize parts between pumping sessions.]  I leave my valves assembled to the horns to save myself a little time, and I combine milk from the two collection bottles into one in order to reuse one for the next session whenever possible.  This cuts down on dishes to wash.

When I get home, I pour the milk I pumped that day into a jar (glass canning jars work well) that holds a little over 10 ounces of liquid.  I reuse one of three jars I own every day (avoiding waste that would be created if I used the milk storage bags), and use an insulated “bottle pod” that I bought from the bullseye store for transport to daycare.  The daycare provider can pour 2-3 ounces of milk from the large jar into Jack’s bottle to warm for each feeding, and warmed milk that he doesn’t finish can be offered at the next feeding (or discarded after 2 hours if not reused).  [I instruct the daycare provider to offer a bottle every 2-3 hours if Jack doesn’t cue for it sooner.]  We make use of every drop of milk that we can!

Any extra milk that gets frozen is pulled out on a weekend if I have an unplanned outing (although most often I just have Joe take from the milk stored on Friday and I will pump to make up the difference for the Monday stash while I am out) or other emergency.  I rarely use my frozen milk, and when we moved I threw out over 30 ounces of expired milk.  Generally you have to have 100 ounces to donate to a milk bank, and I was not organized enough to list the milk on a milkshare site in time.  If you wonder why you should be careful about using your freezer stash, go here.

Any questions?  Need clarification on anything or did I forget something?  I am happy to provide more info if you ask in the comments section.

6 thoughts on “Milk Routine for the Working Mom”

  1. I also found that just pumping one ounce a day and putting that back helped get me a back up supply – Alex never missed 1 ounce, and to get a bottle back up every 4 days… bliss.. (granted this is while I was primarily pumping, before he freakishly started nursing again.)

  2. Hopefully this won’t apply to very many people, because it’s a pain in the butt, but i have an excess of lipase in my milk. Lipase is an enzyme that breaks down the fats in milk and keeps them dissolved. Having too much is not bad for the baby in the slightest and doesn’t make a difference while nursing; however, the lipase is actually activated somehow by cold temperatures, so if it is too refrigerated for too long (in my case, more than 24 hours in the fridge, or after freezing, though every mama is different and some notice it almost immediately upon cooling), the milk starts tasting soapy and awful. Again, not bad for the baby, and if baby will drink it, that’s fine. However, it gets this horrid soapy metallic taste, and some babies don’t like it. (Quite right of them, it’s nasty. You KNOW if you have lipase issues upon tasting stored milk, easily.)

    How to fix it: I’m doing the pump frantically to build up a freezer stash because i’m not sure how regularly i’ll be able to pump when i go back to work at 4 months. After pumping, the milk gets scalded – heated until it is just not quiiiite boiling. I do it on the stove because we don’t have a microwave, but moms have also successfully used the Avent bottle warmer – i guess it heats to a specific temperature, and that’s enough for some. This degrades the lipase and the milk can then be refrigerated or frozen without going funky (not spoiled, not rancid, not even bad really, but funky). Sadly, scalding also degrades some other things (notably the antimicrobial properties of the milk, so it needs refrigeration afterwards) but it’s still breastmilk and still yummy. 🙂

  3. Hi, I have read your blog a few times, but this is my first time commenting. These are good tips. I pumped for my son for 10 months, from 4-14 months. He is 27 months old, and still nursing, but we weaned him off the bottle (he sort of weaned himself, lost interest in favor of more food) around 14 months when I stopped pumping.
    Anyway, my method was a bit different from yours, but highly effective so I thought Id put it out there.
    I too pumped 3 times a day. I am in academia and my job was very relaxed about pumping breaks so I didn’t restrict my time. I pumped until the milk stopped flowing, which usually took more like 15 minutes.
    I used a medela pump-in-style and had a little cooler bag in which I took 6 bottles home each day.
    My boy drank A LOT. He was 19lb at 4 months before ever drinking a bottle, so I know he just had a huge appetite. I tried to bring home 16-18 ounces a day, and I froze the milk immediately for fear of wasting it. I used the storage bags (gerber, lansinoh, whatever was cheap). They were expensive, so I combined the bottles to make 6 ounce bags, usually.
    At first I had a really hard time getting that much milk out. I took fenugreek and pumped every 2 hours for the first week of work to get my breasts used to it. At first I was getting 8-10 ounces/day, but with increased stimulation I was getting the full amount by the time he was 5-6 months old.
    Cleanup, as you mention, can be a pain. I used the medela steam bags which sterilize the parts in the microwave. They are good for 20 uses per bag which made them last about a week and a half. After each pumping session I would quickly rinse the parts off and put them in the bag with the requisite ounce or two of water and nuke it for 90 seconds. After that I would place the parts to dry on a towel near my desk. The hot parts would usually dry in minutes and be ready for use the next session. (when I first started pumping I would wash the parts each time. that took almost as long as pumping, so I found the steam cleaning bags to be a real time saver!)

    One thing that really made pumping a breeze for me was the hands free pumping bra. I would wear my nursing tops & bras to work and would get the pump assembled over my clothes and the hands-free bra was on the outside keeping everything attached. This made it possible for me to pump in the lounge of the womens’ room in my building, and while there was traffic and people saw what I was doing, I was not exposed and could actually chat to graduate students about breastfeeding etc.
    It also enabled me to bring an article or my laptop to work while I pumped which made it much easier and more efficient.
    In the last few months, I dropped one pumping session as my son took less at daycare, and then another session until I was done at ~14 months.
    I ended up with an extra 250 ounces which I was able to donate to a local milk bank (although it was a huge hassle! see my husband’s blog post at

    Anyway, your system sounds great and Im glad it worked for you. I know so many women who found pumping at work to be difficult and needed to supplement at daycare. Hopefully these tips can help another mom give her baby as much breastmilk as he/she needs while she is at work.


  4. Hey ladies – thanks for sharing!

    Eilat – that is amazing that you did the hands-free bra in the break room. For some reason I have no problems breastfeeding in public but I just don’t know if I could pump in public. Kudos to you!

    For those who don’t have access to a sink or time to wash parts, Medela makes wipes. Like I said, though, I didn’t bother washing between sessions since breastmilk can stay at room temperature for so long and has antimicrobial properties.

    Eilat, did you son sleep through the night early? I know that can make a different in milk intake during the day (since the child then has less hours to get all the calories in). My son sounds about as big as yours (he was 20 lbs. at 5 months) and he had totally average milk intake while at daycare.

  5. Gosh, my son barely sleeps through the night even now 🙁
    Though he has been night weaned since 20 months. He just loved his milk, I guess 😉

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.