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Factsheet- Balancing Work and Breastfeeding: A Guide for Returning to Work

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Abbie Tomson

Midwife MSc, BSc, Yoga Teacher, Project Lead at All4Birth
@enevlorel @All4Birth


Returning to work after maternity leave is a significant milestone for many new mothers. However, for breastfeeding mothers, this transition can bring about unique challenges in maintaining their breastfeeding goals while juggling the demands of a career. In this post, we’ll explore practical tips and strategies for navigating the return to work while continuing to breastfeed, including advice on expressing at work, effective communication with employers, and accessing supportive resources to ensure a smooth transition.

  1. Planning:

  • Start planning for your return to work well in advance to alleviate stress and ensure a seamless transition. Consider the following:
  • Familiarise yourself with your workplace policies regarding breastfeeding and expressing breaks, consider talking to your line manager or colleagues if any have returned to work whilst continuing to breastfeed
  • Communicate with your employer or HR department about your intentions to continue breastfeeding upon your return to work.
  • Research into expressing, if you aren’t already doing so, in case you find being away from baby for long periods causes uncomfortable engorgement or wish to provide baby with breastmilk whilst you are at work
  1. Choosing the Right Breast Pump (if you want to express):

Invest in a high-quality breast pump that meets your needs and facilitates efficient milk expression. Consider portability, battery life, and ease of use when selecting a pump. Additionally, explore options for hands-free pumping accessories to maximise efficiency and if you want to express more discreetly.

  1. Creating a Routine:

  • Establishing a consistent pumping routine can help maintain milk supply and ensure successful breastfeeding while working. Here are some tips:
  • Schedule expressing sessions regularly throughout the workday, ideally mirroring your baby’s feeding schedule.
  • Designate a private, comfortable workplace space for expressing, equipped with a comfortable chair, electrical outlet, and privacy measures such as a lockable door or privacy screen. Some places of work have facilities available for breastfeeding mothers such as these. But we’re aware that sadly for most, these are luxuries.
  1. Communicating with Your Employer:

Open and transparent communication with your employer is crucial in advocating for your breastfeeding rights and creating a supportive work environment. Consider the following strategies:

In the UK, breastfeeding mothers have some legal protection under health and safety and sex discrimination laws.

Employers have legal obligations to provide:

  • Health and safety protection
  • Flexible working hours and protection from indirect sex discrimination
  • Rest facilities
  • Protection from harassment

You must tell your employer in writing that you are breastfeeding.

Your employer must consider the risk and take reasonable action to temporarily change your working conditions or hours of work, for example, working shorter shifts, giving regular shifts or avoiding night work or overnight stays.

Reasonable action to protect your health and safety while you are breastfeeding could include adequate rest breaks to ensure proper nutrition, access to water and washing facilities. Your employer should ensure that the environment is not too hot or too cold. Employers should also consider levels of fatigue, stress and changes in posture.

  1. Accessing Supportive Resources:

Seeking support from colleagues, lactation consultants, and breastfeeding support groups can provide valuable guidance and encouragement as you navigate breastfeeding challenges while working. Consider the following resources:

  • Join online forums or social media groups for working breastfeeding moms to connect with others facing similar challenges and share tips and advice.
  • Explore workplace lactation support programs or breastfeeding-friendly initiatives that provide resources, education, and support for breastfeeding employees.


Balancing a career with breastfeeding goals is undoubtedly a challenging endeavour, but it is entirely achievable with proper planning, communication, and support. By proactively addressing your breastfeeding needs, advocating for workplace accommodations, and accessing supportive resources, you can successfully navigate the transition back to work while maintaining a fulfilling breastfeeding relationship with your baby. Remember, you are not alone in this journey, and a wealth of support is available to help you thrive professionally and as a breastfeeding mother.

Links to other resources


Brain Health from Birth: Nurturing Brain Development During Pregnancy and the First Year by Rebecca Fett

Breastfeeding and the Fourth Trimester by Lucy Webber

film-audioFilm Audio and Apps

Baby Buddy app, created by the Best Beginnings Charity


GOV.UK Maternity Rights

Maternity Action

Health and Safety Executive | Protecting Pregnant Workers and New Mothers

NHS | Breastfeeding and Going Back to Work



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