Breastfeeding in the Workplace - Te Puawaitanga ki Ōtautahi


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Your right to breastfeed in the workplace

Continuing to breastfeed while you are working will provide many benefits for you and your baby. There are amazing health benefits for both of you and the specific irreplaceable immune factors in breastmilk will help to keep your baby’s immune system strong.

Breastfeeding will also support the bond you have with your baby when you are not together and will provide comfort, connection and security.

Plan ahead

Make it easier to continue breastfeeding:

  • Consider when you might want to return to work
  • Consider what you might need to successfully combine breastfeeding and working
  • Talk with your family/whānau about how they can support you
  • Think about the different ways that woman have successfully combined breastfeeding and work
  • Can I …
    • Work from home?
    • Work part time or flexible hours?
    • Bring my baby to work with me?
    • Have someone bring baby to my workplace to breastfeed?
    • Have baby cared for close by so I can go and breastfeed?
    • Express breastmilk at work and safely store it?

“I knew that I personally preferred to have my child close to my place of work to make feeding that much more accessible for us”


Meet with your employer

Both in pregnancy and then again about a month before you are due to start back at work. Bring a support person if needed and our breastfeeding and working advocate is also available if necessary.

Inform your employer that you want to continue breastfeeding when you return to work and will need their support.

Topics to discuss:

  • Is our workplace breastfeeding friendly?
  • Have they joined the Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace Initiative?
  • Are my colleagues aware of the importance of breastfeeding?
  • Regular breaks needed to express breastmilk (e.g., 2 x 20 minute breaks)
  • Can a comfortable private space with a power source be created for expressing and/or feeding my baby? (Not a toilet, bathroom or closet)
  • Is there a fridge I can store breastmilk in?
  • Is there a sink I can clean my equipment in?
  • Can I bring my baby to work and/or work flexible hours while baby and I adjust to separation?

Gain support from your whānau

Combining breastfeeding/mothering and work can be a challenge that needs some careful thought and pre planning to ensure it is successful and enjoyable for everyone.

The support that whānau can give will help a mother to continue to breastfeed while working which has many benefits for everyone’s health and wellbeing.

Some of the ways that support can be given are:

  • Some time before mum starts work talk together as whānau to consider the options and work out how your whānau can make this work.
  • Recognise that there will be adjustment time for everybody when mum returns to work.
  • Think of ways that whānau and friends can help such as:
    • looking after baby while mum is at work
    • taking baby to mum at work to breastfeed
    • dropping and picking up baby from childcare
    • taking care of the household jobs such as cleaning, cooking and shopping so mum can spend time with baby

For more information about how to support a breastfeeding mum check out the section Family & whānau: Good things to know.

Allow for time to adjust

So you and your baby can get used to being separated when you return to work. While you and baby are adjusting try to spend as much time as possible with baby when you are not at work. With support from others this is a good time to respond freely to your and baby’s breastfeeding needs which will also help you both to adjust to the change.

“When I’m home with her on the weekend, we feed on-demand and she does feed much more often…” (Maggie, 2016)

Because breastfeeding is much more than food and nutrition baby may request more feeds than usual as he/she makes up for the missed breastfeeding times when you were at work.

This is termed ‘reverse cycling’ and is a normal part of the adjustment period. If a baby can be supported to feed more when you are together then he/she may not need as much expressed breastmilk from the caregiver when you are at work.

There may be other challenges that come up along the way as your and baby needs change.

If you feel that you need more information or simply want to talk through any issues please contact Kelly at the Canterbury Breastfeeding Advocacy Service.