Pregnancy and baby

Breastfeeding and going back to work

Should I keep breastfeeding or move to formula milk?

Media last reviewed: 20/03/2014

Next review due: 20/03/2016

Breastfeeding exclusively (giving your baby no other food or drink) is recommended for around the first six months. After this time, breastfeeding is recommended alongside solid food. Therefore, it's likely that you'll be breastfeeding when you return to work, training or education.

The following information may help you. There are several options. You can: 

  • Arrange for childcare close to work or college, so that you can breastfeed during breaks, or before and after work. The evening feed can be a wonderful way for you to relax with your baby after work or college.
  • Express breast milk (taking milk from the breast by hand or using a pump) so that someone else can feed your baby while you're at work.
  • Ask your employer or college for flexible working hours that are arranged around your breastfeeding needs.
  • Combine breastfeeding and bottle feeding to fit around your hours.

Think about it early. Before you go back to work, write to your employer/tutor to let them know you are breastfeeding. You may have an HR department that can help. It can make preparations, such as finding you a private room where you can breastfeed or express your milk.

Organising breastfeeding and work

  • Label and date expressed breast milk before putting it in the fridge or freezer, so that your childminder knows which one to use first.
  • Have a trial run with childcare before returning to work.
  • If you're using milk within five days of expressing it, it's better to store it in the fridge than in the freezer. This means milk expressed at work on Fridays can be taken home and stored in your fridge to be used on Mondays. Read more about storing breast milk.

Information for employers about breastfeeding mothers

Employers have certain legal obligations to breastfeeding mothers. Supporting breastfeeding has business benefits too. These include:

  • reduced absence due to child sickness (breastfed babies are generally healthier)
  • increased staff morale and loyalty, and a subsequently higher rate of return to work
  • lower recruitment and training costs
  • an extra incentive to offer potential employees

How can employers help breastfeeding mothers?

Employers can have a policy to support breastfeeding. This includes:

  • a break allowance for mothers to express milk
  • provision of a clean, warm and private room (not the toilet) for expressing
  • a secure, clean fridge to store expressed milk
  • flexible working hours for breastfeeding mothers

Let your employees know about your policy before they start their maternity leave.

What does the law say about breastfeeding mothers at work?

It's up to mothers to decide how long they want to breastfeed. Returning to work doesn't mean a mother has to stop. Before returning to work, she should give her employer written notification that she's breastfeeding. Her employer must then conduct a specific risk assessment.

Workplace regulations require employers to provide suitable facilities where pregnant and breastfeeding mothers can rest.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommends that it's good practice for employers to provide a private, healthy and safe environment for breastfeeding mothers to express and store milk. The toilets are not a suitable place to express breast milk.

More advice is available to new and expectant mothers on the HSE website or by phoning their helpline on 0300 003 1747. You can also email HSE.  

Talk to other breastfeeding mums

If you know any breastfeeding mothers who have already gone back to work, ask them for advice. You could also visit healthtalk.org to see mothers talking about going back to work and breastfeeding.

Expressing and returning to work

In this Best Beginnings video, we meet three mothers who express their milk for different reasons and who learnt how to do it in different ways. We also find out how mothers continue breastfeeding when they return to work.

Media last reviewed: 22/10/2014

Next review due: 22/10/2016

Page last reviewed: 25/04/2015

Next review due: 25/04/2017

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The 3 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

MandaP said on 15 May 2015

Bev hopefully you'll have the answer to your question already it is possible to restart breastfeeding. The best thing to is asked your midwife or health visitor to refer you the breastfeeding support team.

Some advice can be found here http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/combining-breast-and-bottle.aspx

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Bevlovely said on 01 March 2015

I was breast feeding and went onto formula at 1week n 2days old . My son is now 4 .weeks old and I'd like to breastfeed again. I've tried him an he latched on. I still have sum milk-the beginning-I'd like to do just do 2 feeds- morning and ngt- is this possible??bev.

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Bettyboop87 said on 26 September 2013

This page about breast feeding is wonderfull. I watched the videos with joys. I was very anxious about breast feeding and work but now I feel very positive and can't wait.. I'm due in 6weeks time.. Thanks to NHS advise I am feeling very confident.
Kindest regards

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