Breastfeeding And Returning To Work

Breastfeeding provides numerous health benefits for mothers and babies, and is by far the best thing you can do to ensure your little one has a healthy start in life. 

The World Health Organisation recommends that babies are exclusively breastfed until six months of age, and that breast milk continues to be given until at least two years, in order to maximise these benefits.  Returning to work does not mean you have to stop breastfeeding and, if you are going back to work, you should make yourself aware of the regulations which are in place to help women continue to breastfeed.

Your Rights As A Breastfeeding Mum

By law, employers must provide breastfeeding women with a place to rest.  The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommends that employers provide a private room for expressing milk (NOT a toilet!), access to a fridge for storage and flexible working hours arranged around breastfeeding or expressing.  Although the HSE requirements are not law, employers could leave themselves open to litigation if they don’t facilitate breastfeeding because they have a duty of care to their employee and their baby.  

Your Options

The most common way to continue breastfeeding when you return to work is to express your milk either by using a pump or by hand.  This keeps your supply up and provides milk which can be fed to your baby while you’re working.  Another option is to arrange childcare which is close to your place of work and use your breaks to leave work and breastfeed as required.  

Practical Tips

If you’ve never expressed before get into practice before returning to work; once you have pumped a few times you will gain confidence and this usually helps you pump more.  Try to pump at the same times each day.  Take a picture or video of your little one with you as this helps your milk to let down more quickly.  Remember to take breast pads with you and a spare top just in case you leak at work.  

Helping Your Employer Help You

Firstly you should tell your employer, in writing, that you are breastfeeding and that you’ll need to express at work.  Ideally this should be done prior to your return so your employer can carry out a risk assessment and make any changes that are needed to ensure you have somewhere to express.  It would be useful if you could give your employer an idea of how often you will need to express and put forward your own suggestions of how you would like them to facilitate this.  Sorting things out before you return minimises stress because you know everything is arranged.

If You Meet With Resistance

It’s unlikely your employer will make things difficult, but if you do encounter difficulties, refer your employer to the HSE guidelines or helpline.  Some employers simply don’t know what breastfeeding mothers need, so showing them the guidelines should help them to understand.