My partner is looking to return to work soon after giving birth. We both work, so we'll need to find someplace that looks after baby whilst we are out all day. The question we have is how does the feeding work? Do we supply bottles of breast milk to the daycare or do they usually insist upon giving formula? Should my partner continue expressing throughout the day at the office or can she just do that before/after work? It is my understanding that expressing should be happening every few hours, but perhaps this is not correct.

Thanks for any advice.

EDIT: We are in the UK

EDIT: Thanks everyone.

  • How soon are you talking, here? < 6 weeks in, or more than that?
    – Joe
    Commented Jun 11, 2015 at 16:31
  • I think 6-8 weeks Commented Jun 12, 2015 at 8:08
  • Ok, 6-8 is a standard timeframe. (Answers might be different if you meant something like 1-2 weeks.)
    – Joe
    Commented Jun 12, 2015 at 14:17

3 Answers 3


It is very likely that daycare will allow you to bring refrigerated or frozen breast milk and that your partner will be able to pump at work, but it takes dedication and logistics.

I will share my experience, as it worked for us and was improved over months of trial/error.

I went back to work when my baby was 3 months old.

  1. Each day, (after nursing my baby at home first thing in the morning) I brought ~250-300 mL of refrigerated or frozen breastmilk with me in 100 - 150 mL plastic disposable milk storage bags (specially designed for this purpose) labeled with her name, date, and quantity for the daycare which they put directly into their fridge. I also brought 2 empty clean bottles. We explained to the daycare how to properly thaw frozen milk, with a bowl of warm tap water, you dunk the ziploc into the water to melt it. Our daycare didn't mind giving breastmilk to our daughter - they were surprised that I managed to pump as long as I did - but they were up on the latest research that breastmilk is healthy for babies.

  2. I brought my pump parts with me to work in a cloth bag, after having cleaned them in the dishwasher the night before. I pumped 3x per work day, mid-morning, lunch, mid-afternoon. I was able to do some work while I pumped, but my employer also gave me 1 hr breastfeeding break per day paid.

  3. After pumping, I'd put the fresh milk in the ziploc and put the pump parts and the milk into the fridge at work (yes! you can refrigerate pump parts and then use them again at the next pumping session without washing them, I didn't learn this until many months of unnecessary washing had gone by!)

  4. I left my pump (the motor, cords, tubing) and extra ziplocs and market for labeling in the pumping room at work, and brought the refrigerated cloth bag with milk from the day and pump parts back home.

  5. Any extra milk above the 250 - 300 mL would get frozen at home. Each Friday I'd freeze the milk I'd brought home that day, and on Mondays I'd bring the oldest frozen bag of milk to the daycare with me to rotate the freezer stock. I put layers of parchment paper in between the bags in the freezer to keep them from sticking to each other.

Breastfeeding and working is very tiring - your body secretes hormones while exclusively breastfeeding that make you relaxed and sleepy. It also makes it difficult to regain your footing at work, since you spend all your free time pumping and have little time for coffee breaks and normal lunches - it's harder to reconnect with your colleagues and friends. Business travel is also much more challenging...pumping at highway rest areas is not fun.

In the end, I managed to exclusively breastfeed for 7 months, and then I reduced my pumping to 1x/day at work, and soon after, not pumping at all. By then, my milk levels were well established, so we could still nurse in the mornings and evenings, and on weekends. With the transition to solids, my baby needed less milk during the day anyway. We brought a bottle of formula with her to daycare until she was 1 year old, and now she just takes solids at daycare.

  • 1
    An additional bonus to refrigerating the pump is having a delightfully cool pump!
    – Acire
    Commented Jun 12, 2015 at 20:57

You will probably be able to provide your own milk.

Talk to daycare facilities you're considering and find out their policy. Some include formula and diapers as part of their services, some do not. Ours required parents to bring in the baby's food (whether breastmilk or formula) and stored it in the fridge with the bottle clearly labeled. Even in cases where the daycare provides formula, there should be a possibility for exceptions (some children are breastfed, some children have allergies to certain formulas, etc.) and you can "shop around" to ensure you find childcare that meets your family's feeding standards.

Your partner should be pumping milk while at the office.

Trying to go eight hours straight without relieving engorged breasts gets (very) painful and will likely cause significant leakage.

To keep up a supply that is enough to feed the baby, pumping needs to more or less mimic the regular feeding schedule: every couple of hours. This provides enough milk for the baby to eat at daycare the next day and encourages milk production. (This will change over time, and once breastmilk is not the only food that the baby's eating, production and pumping needs will decrease -- but not for months.)

In the UK, "workplace regulations require employers to provide suitable facilities where pregnant and breastfeeding mothers can rest." Both time and a place for pumping milk should be available. My experience (in the US) was that time was easier than place, but a conversation in advance with her employer should help facilitate having everything ready for her return to work.

Some good further reading:


I knew a mother who, on returning to work (her baby was 4 months old), found that her baby was not interested in milk of any kind at day care. She was fine eating solids and drinking water, but she wanted her mama for her milk. Surprisingly, this worked out well for them. The baby nursed frequently in the evening and at night. The mother seemed to sleep enough.

Your partner is going back to work much earlier, so I think the main concern is the possibility of nipple confusion from being given a bottle. This is a real danger; although of course it doesn't happen to every baby that is given a bottle at day care.

About the expressing at work. Whether she chooses hand expression or electric pumping, it's a matter of practicing, so that the let down works as well as it does with baby. It will be helpful for her to start practicing this at home where she feels as relaxed as possible.

In principle, a woman can pump at her desk.

Practicing pumping in public is the key. As long as she is matter-of-fact and cool about it, others will be too.

A couple of ways around giving a bottle:

1. Use a paper or slightly flexible plastic cup, and bending it to make a spout. You can dribble the milk into baby's mouth slowing using the spout.

2. Use the Medela SNS or Lactaid supplementer. These supplementers are often used for feeding preemies and adopted babies, with the narrow, flexible tube and the nipple going into baby's mouth. The milk only flows through the tube when active sucking occurs, because of the tiny diameter of the tube. You can also feed the baby with the tube and your little finger instead of a nipple. Same principle -- baby still has to work, sucking, with the same strength as at the breast, and will therefore not go on strike at the breast.

If the two of you are interested in this option, you can do a lot to make it work, by learning how to do one feeding per 24 hours with this approach. Once you are comfortable doing it, it will be easier for you to teach the day care provider how to do it.

As you approach the back-to-work target date, you could add another daytime feeding, with your partner doing more daytime pumping or expressing. With all transitions in breastfeeding, the more step by step you can go, the better.

You might consider visiting the daycare once during the day to do one of these feedings.

  • More substantial discussion of nipple confusion (and ways to avoid it) would improve this answer. Much of it seems very tangential for a six week old baby.
    – Acire
    Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 15:52

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