Parenting, Breastfeeding, and the Workplace

As an expectant mother, you are awaiting the day that you bring your little one home. If you are working mother, there is the matter of maternity leave, and not to mention thereafter returning to work and decisions leading up to it. Many mothers who are keen on breastfeeding may not be able to do so because of pressure from the workplace and not having access or means of fulfilling her desire to offer the best to her child.

It is recommended that your child is exclusively breastfed for the first year of their life, or at least six months. However, with mothers returning to paid work at the six month mark, this can cause a pressure and stress, which thereafter can cause low milk supply (especially when the lactating mother is unable to feed her child in the hours at work). Expressing breast milk at the workplace is advised instead, to make the transition easier; however, not every place of work is breastfeeding friendly or has resources currently in place to offer that flexibility to you (such as setting up a Lactation Room to express and store expressed breast milk). That is why you must make inquiries based on various factors whether you would wish to breastfeed at the office, express breast milk at the office, request for flexible working arrangements, and also workplace support.

Know What You Want

Many breastfeeding mothers have various questions that they must ask themselves before requesting and initiating negotiations with their employees in terms of specific needs. This includes the likes of the following;

  • Facilities required – You should be aware of what facilities you will require to either breastfeed at work or express breast milk at work. This may include a private room that is not a restroom, comfortable seating choices, storage for the breast pump (hospital grade breast pumps such as the Medela Symphony is favoured due to its fast double pumping kit), and a refrigerator to store expressed breast milk.
  • Be aware or familiarise yourself with breastfeeding/breast milk expression schedules – this will allow you to negotiate breaks whereby your child may be brought to your workplace or you will leave your place of work to breastfeed your child, or suitable times to express. You should also know how often you may need to do this throughout a day.
  • Flexible working arrangements – Setting up flexible working arrangements, part-time, or work from home arrangements are often ideal for mothers who want to be able to provide their child with the best possible start in life.
  • Your point of contact – figuring out who would be the best person to speak to with regards to your requests is important, often this would be your manager, the HR manager or an equal opportunity officer.
Hospital Lactation Room



Breastfeeding and the Law

One of the things that breastfeeding employees must know that they have a right to request their employer’s to support their decision to breastfeed or express. According to the Virtual Medical Centre “Women have a right to breastfeed at work (although each woman must individually negotiate her entitlements) and employers must grant breastfeeding and lactation breaks to working women if such breaks are reasonable according to the nature of the woman’s work. It is important that women wishing to breastfeed at work are aware of this right, so that they are well positioned to negotiate breastfeeding entitlements with their employees.” The Australian Breastfeeding Association also echoes on these rights were amended into the Federal Sex Discrimination Act 1984 in 2011 to protect the rights of breastfeeding women. As an expectant mother, you are advised to start discussing and negotiating terms of your maternity leave, working arrangements and return to work, and your request to support breastfeeding/breast milk expression at the workplace at least a few months before your due date.

For more information and insight, please visit the article “Work and Parenting” for helpful insight into the laws and means of initiating a dialogue with your employer to negotiate working arrangements for you.

Image Credit: Public Interactive, Medela

Author Info

Ross Wallace