If you’re looking to go back to work, how you are going to maintain breastfeeding can be a real concern. There’s lots of support and laws that can help support you to continue breastfeeding after your maternity leave.
Breastfeeding exclusively (giving your baby no other food or drink) is recommended for around the first 6 months. After this time, breastfeeding is recommended alongside solid food.
Therefore, it’s likely that you’ll be breastfeeding when you return to work, training or education.
There are several options. You can:
- arrange for childcare close to work or college so that you can breastfeed during breaks, or before and after work – the evening feed can be a wonderful way for you to relax with your baby
- express breast milk (taking milk from the breast by hand or using a pump) so that someone else can feed your baby while you’re at work
- ask your employer or college for flexible working hours arranged around your breastfeeding needs
- combine breastfeeding and bottle feeding to fit around your hours
Think about it early. Before you go back to work or college, tell your employer or tutor you’re breastfeeding.
You may have an HR department that can help. It can make preparations, such as finding you a private room where you can breastfeed or express your milk.
What the law says about breastfeeding mothers at work
It’s up to mothers to decide how long they want to breastfeed. Returning to work doesn’t mean a mother has to stop. Before returning to work, she should give her employer written notification that she’s breastfeeding. Her employer must then conduct a specific risk assessment.
Workplace regulations require employers to provide suitable facilities where pregnant and breastfeeding mothers can rest.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommends that it’s good practice for employers to provide a private, healthy and safe environment for breastfeeding mothers to express and store milk. The toilets are not a suitable place to express breast milk.
Let your employer know in writing that you’ll still be breastfeeding when you return. They’re required to provide somewhere for you to rest during the day, including somewhere for you to lie down.
For more information on the legal side of breastfeeding while you’re at work, including examples of best practice, the ACAS guide on returning to work after having a baby is a really useful resource.