Hesperian Health Guides

When the mother works outside the home

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HealthWiki > A Book for Midwives > Chapter 16: Breastfeeding > When the mother works outside the home

a woman speaking to a man while she sits with a baby on her back at a sewing machine.
I will meet my quota, don't worry.

When a mother works away from home, it can be hard for her to give her baby only breast milk during the first 6 months. If possible, the mother can bring her baby with her to work, or someone can bring the baby when it is time for her to feed.

In some places, people are trying to get laws passed that allow women workers to take breaks to breastfeed their babies or to remove breast milk by hand.

Removing milk from the breasts

Another way for the mother to give breast milk when she is away is to remove the milk from her breasts. Then someone else can feed the baby for her. She may also want to remove milk by hand if her breasts are too full, or if she cannot breastfeed for some reason but wants to keep making milk.

a woman using a jar on a table to catch milk from her breast.
You can remove milk 2 or 3 times each day...
...then send or
store the milk so
someone else
can feed your
a woman handing a jar of milk to a boy at the door of her workplace

A woman may be able to get a breast pump to help her remove milk more easily. Some clinics and medical centers loan or rent out electric pumps. They may also sell simple hand pumps at low cost. Some women can easily remove milk by hand.

How to remove milk by hand

  1. Wash a jar and lid with soap and clean water and leave them in the sun to dry. If possible, pour some boiling water into the jar and then pour it out just before using it. This will kill germs in the jar, and keep the milk safe.
  2. Wash your hands well.
  3. MW Ch16 Page 285-1.png
    a hand holding a woman's breast and pressing toward the chest.
  4. Put your fingers and thumb at the edge of the dark part of the breast (areola), and press in towards the chest.
  5. Gently press the fingers together and roll them towards the nipple. Do not pinch or pull the nipple. Removing milk should not hurt.
  6. 2 fingers and a thumb holding a nipple as milk flows into a jar.
  7. Move your fingers all the way around the areola so the milk can come out of the whole breast. Do this with each breast until it is empty. At first, not much milk will come out, but with practice, more will come. The mother can usually remove more milk if she is in a quiet, calm place and feels relaxed. Thinking about her baby while she removes her milk may help the milk flow for her.

Saving milk

Breast milk should be saved in clean, boiled containers. Keep it covered in a cool place, away from sunlight.

MW Ch16 Page 285-4.png

Breast milk can sit in a room for about 8 hours before it spoils — as long as the room is not very hot. It can be stored even longer if it is kept cold. Try wrapping the jar in wet cloths. Milk stored in a refrigerator can last for 2 or 3 days. It can also be kept in a
very cold freezer for up to 2 weeks, but once it thaws it should not be frozen again.

To warm up milk that has been stored, put the container of milk in a bowl
of warm water. Do not microwave breast milk.

WARNING!   Milk that cannot be kept cold will spoil and should be thrown out. If milk smells sour or strange, throw it out. Spoiled breast milk can make a baby very sick.

Feeding milk that has been removed

MW Ch16 Page 286-1.png

When feeding milk or formula to a young baby, use a very clean cup or spoon. Even newborn babies can drink from cups. Do not pour the milk into the baby's mouth or she will choke. An older baby can drink from a cup or a feeding bottle and rubber nipple.

Whatever a baby drinks from must be very clean. Unclean bottles and rubber nipples in particular often carry germs that cause serious infections in babies. Boil the cup, bottle, and nipple before using them. If this is not possible, wash them with clean water and soap and let them dry in bright sunlight.

Sharing breast milk

Breastfeeding another woman's baby is a common practice. Many mothers do this for friends or family members when a mother needs to be away from her baby at feeding time. Sharing breast milk is free, easy, and can make ties between families stronger. But if a woman has HIV, it is possible she can pass her infection to the baby through her breast milk. This can happen even if she seems healthy or does not know she has HIV. It is best if women are tested for HIV before sharing breast milk.

This page was updated:11 Sep 2019