Northern Beaches Mums Group
Northern Beaches Mums Group

Tips to help breastfeeding mums return to work

In order to meet World Health Organization recommendations (of breastfeeding exclusively for the first 6 months and then continue combining with appropriate solid food until at least 2 years of age), many women need to combine breastfeeding with work or study.

Sustaining a breastfeeding relationship requires time, commitment and planning on behalf of the mother, as well as a supportive workplace or study environment. Research shows that recommencement of paid employment has been identified as having a significant impact on breastfeeding cessation for Australian women with unsupportive management and inadequate breastfeeding facilities in the workplace the biggest risk factor for breastfeeding discontinuation

Many mothers successfully combine work and breastfeeding with no issues but here are some handy tips to consider to make it easier.

Choose how you are going to continue your breastfeeding relationship and maintain your supply. Options include:

  • Having your baby bought to you for feeds
  • Taking breaks to go feed your baby off site
  • Expressing for missed feeds whilst at work and baby is fed express breast milk (EB<), donor milk and/or formula whilst you are away
  • For children over 1: feeding at the breast before and after work and they have solids and water while you?re absent.
  • How will the baby be fed your expressed milk, eg. cup, syringe, SNS, bottle etc.
  • Increase your knowledge about breastfeeding and expressed breast milk
  • The amount of milk you produce is directly proportional to the amount the infant/hand/pump removes. Frequent removal of breastmilk is essential for adequate supply levels and to avoid issues such as engorgement and mastitis. Know the law and your rights in regards to breastfeeding at work.
  • Be aware of safe storage of breast milk so none of it goes to waste! Print out an info graphic to stick up in your workspace or at home if needed.

Know your rights and responsibilities.

  • Company policies/procedures differ from each workplace or may not even exist! Breastfeeding and/or expressing at work are usually discussed with the employer on an individual basis and the onus is on the individual employee to negotiate with their employer around their breastfeeding needs. A good place to start enquiring is with the HR team or other breastfeeding/expressing workmates.
  • In Australian Federal Law breastfeeding is a right, not a privilege. Under the federal?Sex Discrimination Act 1984?it is illegal in Australia to discriminate against a person either directly or indirectly on the grounds of breastfeeding. All states also have additional legislation that protects your right to combine breastfeeding and paid work.
  • There is no legislation in Australia to give mothers paid breastfeeding breaks; it is up to the individual employee to negotiate these breaks (paid or unpaid) with their employer.
  • There is also no legislation to cover a baby or child being at a workplace with a parent. It is difficult to have a standard law on this, as it is often dependent on the type of employment, work environment and OH&S issues.

Discuss your needs, expectations and questions with your employer early (even prior to taking maternity leave!!)

  • How many days will you be working? How long will the workday be? Would a flexible approach such as a gradual return, part-time hours or working from home be suitable? Is there a possibility of flexible working hours?
  • Are they an accredited breastfeeding friendly workplace? Do they have an enterprise agreement in relation to lactation breaks or a breastfeeding policy?
  • Will lactation breaks be in addition to regular breaks already offered? You will need adequate time to pump or feed but also eat and go to the toilet!! Using a double pump can yield the largest amount in the quickest time for most women, so might be a good investment if you are only getting a combined break.
  • What facilities can/will they provide? You will need a private lockable room (and no not a toilet!) with a comfortable chair and somewhere to plug in/store your pump if you?re using one.
  • Where can you wash your pump parts? You do not have to sterilise your pump parts after each use, but they should be rinsed well in cold water to remove any breast milk and then stored in a clean, closed container. Clean them really well in hot soapy water at least once every 24 hours while it is in frequent use.
  • Is there an onsite child minding facility? If you?re having your child brought in to you to feed, how will this work? If you are leaving work to feed your child nearby, how much travel time will you need?
  • Where will you store your EBM at work? Is there a communal fridge? Sometimes putting your expressed bottles and in a cold bag is best so that they won?t be seen/discarded/moved/used by others.

Think practically!

  • How will you transport your milk home? A cooler bag and ice bricks is usually the best option and then straight into fridge or freezer at home.
  • Do you need to buy or hire a breast pump? What other equipment do you need eg. bottles, freezer bags? A hands free pumping bra can be good if you need to eat your lunch at the same time.
  • Have you got work clothes that are easy to breastfeed/express at work in? Does your uniform allow for easy access?
  • If you?re going to express, familiarise yourself with pumping prior to returning to work. This can reduce stress and help build a stash in the freezer.
  • Speak to your baby?s caregiver about handling, storing, preparing and feeding expressed breast milk whilst you are not present.
  • Calculate the amount of expressed breast milk your baby will require while you are gone. A baby usually consumes approximately 800ml of milk in 24 hours. This amount is very individual and can be less if baby is on solids. Have your milk stored in small amounts so as not to waste any.
  • If you are unable to express enough breast milk to satisfy your baby, your will need to use donor milk or formula until 1 year of age.
  • Be prepared for baby to make up for breastfeeds when you?re home, overnight and on weekends.

Returning to work can be stressful for both you and your baby but by being prepared and following these helpful hints, you are giving yourself the best chance of being able to continue your breastfeeding relationship.


Bel from Fourth Trimester Parenting is an International Board Certified?Lactation?Consultant (IBCLC),?Midwife and?Registered?Child and Family Health Nurse on the Northern Beaches. Bel?s vast knowledge of breastfeeding issues can help you address any breastfeeding concerns you might have and create a breastfeeding plan that works for both you and your baby, whatever stage you are at.