Breastfeeding and going back to work

Exclusive breastfeeding (giving your baby breast milk only) is recommended for the first six months of your baby’s life. If you plan to continue breastfeeding when you go back to work (or college), you will need to think about how your baby is going to be fed.

Making it work

There are several options to help you continue to breastfeed when you return to work.

You can:

  • arrange for childcare close to work so you can breastfeed during breaks, or before and after work
  • express breastmilk (removing your milk from the breast by hand or using a breast pump) so that someone else can feed your baby while you’re at work
  • ask your employer for flexible working hours that are arranged around your breastfeeding needs
  • use a mixture of breastfeeding and formula feeding to fit around your work hours

You can start planning before your baby is born. Before you go back to work, write to your employer to let them know you wish to continue breastfeeding.

A brief guide for your health and safety is available through the health and safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI) at this link;

A booklet for pregnant women and new mothers who are thinking about combining breastfeeding and working is available from the Public Health Agency;

Talk to other breastfeeding mothers

Find out at your local breastfeeding support group how other mothers continued to breastfeed when they returned to work.

Information for employers

It is for a mother to decide how long she wishes to breastfeed. Returning to work doesn’t mean that she has to stop. On returning to work, she should give her employer written notification that she is breastfeeding.

Employers are required to provide suitable facilities where pregnant and breastfeeding women can rest. They must also protect the health and safety of new and expectant mothers.

The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland recommends that it’s good practice for employers to provide a private, healthy and safe environment for breastfeeding mothers to express and store milk. It is not suitable to use toilets for this purpose.

It is also recommended that workplaces have a policy on supporting breastfeeding mothers. A sample policy is available from the Public Health Agency website.

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