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Breastfeeding and returning to work

Before you go back to work, let your employer know that you’re planning to continue to breastfeed. Most employers will be happy to make sure you are supported to continue breastfeeding when you return and for as long as you want to.

Can I breastfeed at work?

Mums have some legal protection when it comes to breastfeeding at work. Your employer has to consider any flexible working request you make. They also have to make sure you’re provided with the private space and extra breaks you need to express milk. They also have to ensure you aren’t discriminated against for breastfeeding and to provide any other health and safety protection that’s required. 

There are laws in place to protect breastfeeding working mums and many employers have special policies to make breastfeeding and expressing in the workplace as easy and as comfortable as possible. Hear this mum's story as she prepares to return to work as a breastfeeding mum.

How can I make it work?

Everyone’s lives and schedules are different, so it is up to you how you plan to go forward. If you work from 9am to 5pm you may choose to feed your baby once in the morning and before they go to sleep. But if you want to feed your baby more or have different working hours than that, there are things you can do to make it work for you.

Your employer is legally required to consider any flexible working request. If you need to take a longer lunch break, or finish earlier on some days they need to look at your request fairly. You could also request this as a temporary change while your baby gets used to a new pattern or used to feeding less. You may be able to have someone bring your baby to the workplace to breastfeed them at break times.

Expressing your milk is another way you can continue to breastfeed if you are away from your baby. You can choose to express at work and then your baby can have that milk the following day. We have a guide to expressing that will help you decide if this is for you or you can use an electric pump. Just like cows milk, breast milk must be stored safely; you can follow the tips here to make sure none of your breast milk goes to waste.

You can also try feeding a combination of formula and breastmilk. Your baby could be fed formula while you are at work and breastmilk when you’re at home. If your breasts feel very full you can express until comfortable to avoid mastitis but your breasts soon adjust to feeding less and they’ll start to become less uncomfortable as the amount of milk you produce goes down. 

Further support

Your health visitor or family nurse can advise you on options for returning to work and continuing to breastfeed, and put you in touch with local breastfeeding support groups. 

Breastfeeding voluntary organisations have trained supporters who are mothers who have breastfed. They offer information and support by telephone: National Breastfeeding Helpline 0300 100 0212, La Leche League 0345 120 2918 and National Childbirth Trust 0300 330 0700.

Continuing to breastfeed when you return to work, this guide includes information on your legal rights and how to negotiate with your employer.

This article was created as part of 

Last updated: 8 Sep, 2020