Feeding on the job: How to return to work and continue breastfeeding

Midwife, Bel Moore, sheds light on the topic of breastfeeding and returning to work.

A recent study showed that approximately 118,000 women return to the workforce before their child is 6 months of age.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) advocates that exclusively breastfeeding children for at least 6 months will give them the most optimal start to life.

Going back to work and breastfeeding

Many mothers successfully combine work and breastfeeding but below are some handy tips to make it easier.

Tips on combining work and breastfeeding

1.Decide what works best for YOU!

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

  • Having your baby brought to you for feeds
  • Taking breaks to go feed your baby off site
  • Expressing for missed feeds whilst at work and baby is fed expressed breast milk (EBM), donor milk and/or formula whilst you’re away
  • For older children – Feeding at the breast before and after work and they have solids and water while you’re gone.

2.Increase your knowledge of how supply works

Source: Istock.

It is very important you increase your knowledge of how supply works.

The amount of milk you produce is directly proportional to the extent at which the infant/hand/pump removes the milk. Frequent removal of the milk is associated with adequate supply levels. Determine how many feeds you will be missing whilst at work to help work out what options may work best for you.

2.Know your rights…and the law

Knowing the laws and your rights in regards to breastfeeding at work is key. For instance:

  • Breastfeeding and/or expressing at work is 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.
  • 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 protect 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.

3.Discuss your needs and expectations

Source: Istock.

Be sure to discuss your needs, expectations and questions with your employer early (even prior to taking maternity leave). For example:

  • 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’re only getting a combined brea.
  • 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 it should be rinsed well in cold water to remove the milk and then stored in a clean, closed container. Clean it 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.

4.Know about safe storage

Increase your knowledge about expressing and safe storage of breast milk- so none of it goes to waste. Check out this article for more information on safe storage of breast milk: TOP TIPS: How To Safely Express And Store Your Breast Milk.

5.Think practically

breast milk bag
Source: Istock.

It’s important to 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 e.g 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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. Gradually introducing a bottle/cup of donor milk or formula prior to starting work will give yourself and baby time to adapt.
  • Be prepared for baby to make up for feeds 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.

Breastfeeding? Our smoothies can help with supply.

The Healthy Mummy smoothies are FABULOUS at providing women with the essential nutrients they need. They are created to be healthy meal replacements. They are the perfect companion for any healthy eating plan.

Healthy Mummy Smoothies


Our smoothies include ingredients such as fenugreek – all things which are excellent for breastmilk supply.

We get a lot of feedback from breastfeeding mothers who say that the Healthy Mummy Smoothies boosted their milk supply (as well as providing much needed energy for tired mums).

Depending on your weight loss goals and calorie intake, you should be eating around 1,500 – 1,800 calories each day on our plans. Many other weight-loss shake plans recommend around 800 calories per day, which is just not enough calories for a breastfeeding mother to take in each day.

Learn more about our smoothies here.

written by:

The Healthy Mummy

We have an amazing team of 10 writers at the Healthy Mummy that are all dedicated to getting you the best stories, information and content.