Breastfeeding and Returning to Work

Posted On: July 31, 2023

Written by Tegan Little for World Breastfeeding Week 2023

There’s nothing quite like telling a friend about your wonderful work-life breastfeeding journey and not hearing the same about theirs.

I recently heard about a woman hiding in her car to pump during a scheduled work break whilst another hid in a workplace bathroom stall.  In this moment I felt fortunate that my journey was not like this but also outraged that these women/carergivers – and probably many others – were facing such difficulties.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends to continue breastfeeding a child, if both mother/carer and child are willing, up to two (2) years old. While many women and caregivers return to work around 6-8 months, it is important to recognise that there are various ways to support continued breastfeeding in the workplace.

World Breast Feeding week serves as a timely reminder for employers to review their breastfeeding policy, and make sure all staff are aware that there is one in place.

Although everyone’s feeding journey is unique, here are some key needs employers can make sure are in the policy:

  • Flexibility to breastfeed or express during work hours. Often babies needs are not on a strict schedule so flexibility is essential.
  • Provide a comfortable private space to breastfeed or pump milk. Somewhere quiet and private, away from interruptions.
  • Offer safe and accessible facilities to store breastmilk.
  • Support and understanding. Returning to work after maternity leave can often be a challenging step for a parent to take, so making it as easy as possible for them to integrate back into work-life can be a major factor in supporting a mother’s or caregiver’s breastfeeding abilities. This can include asking them what they need, offering words of encouragement and support, or advising them of their rights and which designated facilities / spaces they have access to in order to breastfeed comfortably.  

If you are returning to work and aren’t aware of your workplaces breastfeeding policy, or are feeling anxious about bringing it up – Breastfeeding Australia have got you covered.

The Breastfeeding Australia website outlines your rights and even provide guidelines on how you could approach your employer. Check it all out here: https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/resources/going-back-work

It’s 2023.  It is time to normalise breastfeeding, pumping, and everything that goes with keeping a CHILD FED in the workplace.

Photo: Stock Imagery | Pexel.