Your rights on breastfeeding or expressing at work

It’s the most magical time of your life, right up until it ends. Being at home, bonding with your baby is something that we all treasure and look forward too during the long nine months of pregnancy. But something that we also need to think about during that time, is the eventual chore of going back to work. Questions like crèche or childminder? Start cropping up everywhere you go. Not to mention the FEAR factor of doing everything right. When should I introduce solids? Should I have introduced solids a month ago? Will I be able to continue breastfeeding while I’m at work? Can I just sneak the child into work and pretend they don’t exist? Wailing? I don’t hear wailing…

The list goes on.

As stated under section 9 of the Maternity Protection (Amendment) Act 2004, if you are returning to work before the end of your six months of maternity leave, then your employer is lawfully obliged to provide you with time and space to either breastfeed or express milk during the working day. Hurrah! However, every workplace (and boss) is different, so approaching your boss about continuing to breastfeed your baby can be tough. Though not lawfully obliged to provide for breastfeeding moms if their child is more than six months old, we still think it’s a good bet to approach your boss with what you want. You always have options, such as 16 weeks of parental leave, working from home, or taking a decrease in hours. Below we discuss tips on how to approach breastfeeding in the workplace.

Give plenty of notice

About four weeks’ notice should be given to your boss or supervisor before your return to work. Include the information that you will be continuing to breastfeed your baby and that you will need some basic things provided.

Explain your basic needs

Your boss might not know what to expect. Explain to them what you need in order to continue breastfeeding. They could be imagining your baby squalling in the office, so reassure them of how simple this will be. You will need:

  • A private room to nurse or express milk.
  • A comfortable chair.
  • A table.
  • A plug socket.
  • Flexible breaks.
  • A refrigerator to store expressed milk during the day.
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Try to avoid a ‘discussion’

If they respond to you with questions or comments like ‘My daughter/niece/cousin was on formula and she’s the greatest/amazing overachiever ever’ and ‘Why can’t you nurse before you get in and when you get home?’ Just explain that breastfeeding is important to you and recommended by your doctor as the healthiest option for your baby and that if you don’t express as often as your baby feeds then it will limit your supply.

Be positive

Convince your boss that nursing or expressing will have no adverse effects on your work productivity, that in fact it could be the opposite. Breastfeeding provides women with a much needed connection with their baby after a long day apart. By continuing to do that you will be satisfied at the end of each day that you’re doing what is best for your child. You can also add that breastfeeding passes on immunity to your baby, so they will be healthier, resulting in less sick days and less healthcare costs!

It’s temporary

Breastfeeding is a temporary thing, soon your baby will be sitting at the dinner table with you and your partner and the need to nurse or express milk will be gone. Remind your boss it’s only for a short time. At least until baby number two comes along!

Be firm

Do not accept the bathroom as an acceptable place to nurse or express your milk. Explain that an unsanitary environment is not good for your baby’s food. Ask them (politely) if they would like to eat their lunch in the bathroom?

Be proactive

If they are unsure how covering your nursing break will work, then come up with a plan. Show it to them and ask for their feedback. If you have already done most of the work they will more than likely be happy to go along with it.

Starting to wean your baby? Check out our article on baby’s first foods!
maternity & infant