Breastfeeding and when you have to be away from your child

Working mothers, variable schedules, a hospital stay, vacations, or just being away from your child for a period of time, in which you would usually breastfeed, can be a concern for mothers.

There are many options available. From shifting working hours, bringing your child with you (with a carer or partner to assist), working more flexible hours, or expressing milk while away. Each may have their own set of challenges.

Some things to understand about milk production 

  • Breast milk is made the fastest when our breasts are the emptiest.
  • Un-removed milk can decrease the amount we produce.
  • Do not wait till your breasts fill up to express, thinking you will get more milk. You may express a lot of milk for that session, however you are telling your body to slow down on milk production.
A few handy tips
  • Start by building steadily an expressed-milk supply a few weeks before your anticipated leave from your child. In this way, you won’t feel stressed or anxious about the expressed milk needed.
  • If you do not own a breast pump you can try hand expression, which is cost effective, highly portable and no electric output needed. Find out about the “Press, Compress, Release, Repeat” method of hand expression.
  • Pump or express immediately after your child nurses.
  • Pump or express after the first feed in the morning, when your milk supply tends to be at its greatest.
  • Don’t worry if you don’t get much milk at first, as you are pumping in addition to feeding. This will be the start of increasing your milk supply. You are telling your body to produce more milk. Remember your goal is to empty your breasts as often as possible.
  • Don’t fret over bad pumping sessions, it will vary, keep trying.
  • Breastfed babies tend to take between 60ml-120ml of milk at a good feeding session. Work out approximately how many feeding sessions your baby takes a day. If they are eating solids, but under a year old, they would still drink often, but may not need as much milk at a time.
  • Set up a pumping station at some place you frequently walk by or close to your bed for morning pumping. No need to set times or specific intervals like three-hourly. Cluster pumping is perfectly fine.
  • Just throw a cool, wet towel over the breast pump when you’re done and come back to it later. You can decant and clean or sterilise twice a day. Keep in the fridge.

 The general rule on storage

  • At the end of each day, fill your BPA-free storage containers or bags from between 60ml-120ml of milk, in order not to waste any liquid gold!
  • If your child does not finish all the milk in one feed, do not throw it away; it would still be good enough for the next feed. Don’t mix it with new unused milk.
  • Always label containers or bags with the date you expressed and the amount that is in the container.

 Storage Duration of Fresh Human Milk





Room temperature

19 °to 26 °C

4-8 hours


Containers should be covered and kept cool.



Insulated cooler bag

-15 ° to 4°C

24 hours


Keep ice packs around containers and refrain from opening bag too often.



4 ° C

3-8 days


Store at the back of the fridge.



Freezer compartment of refrigerator

-15 °C


2 weeks


Store milk away from the sides and toward the back of the freezer, where the temperature is constant.

Milk stored longer than these ranges are safe, but some of the fats in the milk break down over time.

Freezer compartment of refrigerator with separate doors

-18 °C

3-6 months


Deep freezer

-20 °C

6-12 months


 (As adapted from The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, 8th Ed)

 While you are away from your child

While you are at work, hospital (if and when you can), anywhere apart from your child for a period, express at the times they would normally feed. Do not wait till your breasts get hard and sore, which will make it difficult to express and can also decrease your milk supply.

 * Most medications, with the exception of a few, such as certain radioactive drugs and chemotherapy, are safe for breastfeeding. A good resource for information about a particular drug is Medication and Mothers’ Milk, by Dr Thomas Hale, updated regularly. Alternatively, check with your General Practitioner, Paediatrician or Lactation Consultant whether it is safe to breastfeed.

*Have some healthy lactation granola before each pump to help keep your energy levels up and hunger at bay.

* Remember that there is support out there; don’t be afraid to use it. Say yes! to help. And go easy on yourself. As a mother you are already doing the best you can for your child and that makes you pretty awesome!



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