Milk Facts

 Feeding babies as they grow and return to work


As your baby grows, their behaviors change too. Babies can be fussy or distracted at the breast, or may feed by breast or bottle more or less frequently. If your baby is growing well, these changes can be normal.


Changes in feeding patterns as babies grow


  • Babies need to feed (whether formula or breastmilk) very frequently in the first few weeks. There are two important reasons for this:  1) their stomachs are small, but they need to grow quickly and 2) very frequent breastfeeding (even “cluster feeding” every hour sometimes) helps stimulate your body to establish a full milk production within the first weeks.
  • In the first month babies generally should not go longer than 3-4 hours without eating even at night. At your baby’s 1 month appointment, ask your baby’s doctor if is safe to let them sleep longer.
  • Formula fed babies often stretch out their feeds to every 4 hours as they grow.
  • Breastfed babies usually continue to breastfeed every 2-3 hours even as they get older than 1 month. Try to avoid comparing your baby to formula or bottle-fed babies, as their eating patterns are different.
  • At 2-3 months old babies are interacting more with the people and things they see around them and may get distracted while eating. This is ok and normal and does not mean they dislike the breast!


How long to give breastmilk

However long you want! Receiving breastmilk has health benefits well past 6 months. Even toddlers and preschoolers benefit. The average age of weaning in prehistoric societies was 4 years old. We may not be living in caves anymore, but children’s developmental and nutrition needs haven’t changed much. Every parent and child can find what will work best for them in terms of how long to breastfeed. Stop when it feels right to you. And if you want to keep going, go for it!


Return to work/school and pumping

- In the first few weeks, it can be helpful to not worry too much about your return to work or school plan. However, if you plan to give your baby milk in a bottle it can be helpful to pump or hand express occasionally starting at around 3 weeks postpartum so that baby can practice. A good time to do this is right after your first daytime breastfeed when you tend to have higher milk volumes. Giving your baby around 1 oz of expressed milk in a bottle a few times a week will let the baby learn to use a bottle without disrupting your breastfeeding relationship.


- When you begin pumping to save milk for returning to work will depend on your preferences! Pumping after that first daytime feed is a great way to save some milk in the freezer for when you are back to work or school, and you can start this process any time from one to four weeks before you plan to leave your baby with a caretaker.


- Having enough milk in the fridge or freezer for one to four days is enough and will help to prevent an over production of milk known as “hyperlactation.” This condition can cause people to feel overly full and can at times make it difficult for baby to latch and to feel gassy and uncomfortable. It can also put you at a higher risk for plugged milk ducts which can lead to a breast infection called mastitis.


- Find a pump routine at work or school that makes sense. If you can get to work 15 min early and pump in the car/pump room then you can go longer before your first pump break.


- Some people need to remove milk more frequently while others can go longer, but to maintain full production while away for most people it helps to aim for pumping close to every 3 hours for about 15 minutes. Find the routine that works for you and listen to your body. If you feel very full to the point of discomfort it is important to pump in order to prevent plugged ducts and infection, and to keep up your milk production.


- Looking at a picture of your baby while you pump, listening to music you like or doing other things to relax yourself helps the milk flow while pumping


-Baby may take slightly less milk while you are away. Let your baby’s caretaker know that it is common for babies to eat a little less when mom isn’t around, but that baby will make up for it and eat more when mom is home. 


- If you have trouble at your workplace or school getting the time or space to pump, please let your healthcare provider know, they may be able to help you learn your rights, and even give you a letter if needed.


Storing milk:

- Give breastmilk before giving formula. Don't mix as the breastmilk leftover can be given next feed but formula must be thrown away

- Milk from separate pumps can be combined once brought down to temperature

- Milk can be left at room temperature until you need to feed it to baby for 4 hours. If it will be longer, refrigerate or store in a high-quality cooler bag with ice packs

- Milk can be stored in the refrigerator for 6 days and in the freezer for 6 months