If I can't pump during my full-time work hours, what should I do?

If work or life circumstances prevent you from pumping at work, and you’ll be away from your baby long enough for your breasts to feel uncomfortably full (which can happen if this stretch of time is longer than your baby’s longest sleep period), you can still breastfeed during the hours you and your baby are together.

To help you to stay comfortable and prevent infection after you return to work, one option is what’s called a “partial weaning”. A partial weaning allows you to slow your milk production gradually without pain or breast fullness. But rather than weaning completely, you only wean at some feedings. This brings down your milk production enough so you can be comfortable for longer stretches without breastfeeding or pumping and still produce enough milk for your baby while you’re at home.

To do a partial weaning, start about a week or so before returning to work. Observe your usual breastfeeding times and then choose a feeding time during your normal work hours and use another method to feed your baby. Avoid the first morning feeding, when your breasts are likely to be at their fullest. If your baby is younger than a year, talk with your baby’s healthcare provider about what to feed at the missed breast feedings. If your baby is older than a year, cow’s milk or solid foods can be used.

Continue to give the recommended substitute at this same feeding every day. Each time you drop one breastfeeding, give your body at least 2-3 days before dropping another. If at any time your breasts feel overly full, express just enough milk to feel comfortable. This means pumping just to comfort and no longer. When your breasts feel fine without breastfeeding or pumping for the length of time you will need to go between feedings or pumpings at work, you are ready. You can keep breastfeeding at this level for as long as you wish.


Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, FILCA, Lactation Consultant, Ameda Breastfeeding Products
Coauthor of Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers