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Breastfeeding and Work

Breastfeeding and Work

March 04 2013

It is important that mothers are supported to continue to breastfeed when they go back to work. The WHO, Department of Health and HSE recommend that children are exclusively breastfed for 6 months.

It is important that mothers are supported to continue to breastfeed when they go back to work. The WHO, Department of Health and HSE recommend that children are exclusively breastfed for 6 months.  After that they should continue to breastfeed in combination with the right foods to two years of age and beyond.

There has been lots of research carried out into the health benefits of breastfeeding for your baby and you. The longer you breastfeed, the greater these benefits are.

Maternity leave is currently 26 weeks. Many Irish women return to work from the time their baby is 26 weeks. Some mothers take unpaid leave but will return to paid employment before their baby is 2 years old.

You can find lots of useful information and advice about breastfeeding at the site also has listings for the breastfeeding support services in your area

How can I continue to breastfeed?

It helps to plan ahead before you return to work. You will be making arrangements for childcare. Think about the childcare option that suits you, your working hours and your plans to continue to breastfeed. See the section below for things to consider when making childcare arrangements.

Depending on the age of your baby when you return to work you and your baby’s needs will vary. For example a 7 month old baby may still be feeding at regular intervals during the day. A baby who is near to his first birthday may just be feeding in the morning and evening. Feeding patterns will vary from one baby to the next, but older babies will tend to feed less often.

You will also need to consider your needs in relation to your milk supply and how to combine pumping / expressing and work. It is a good idea to start to express milk several weeks before you go back to work. This will help you to have a good milk supply and also ensure that you have a supply of expressed milk ready for your childminder. Taking lactation breaks to express milk will help you to continue to have a good milk supply and have milk for your childminder to give to your baby the next day.

Consider also what arrangement suits you and your baby best and discuss with your manager as soon as possible. For example you may want your baby to be brought to you for breastfeeding breaks. You may wish to have lactation breaks or flexible working arrangements so that you can express milk.

For more information, the HSE ‘Breastfeeding and Work -guide for parents and employers’ can be downloaded or ordered here (opens in new window)

How can my workplace support me to continue to breastfeed?

Supporting employees to continue to breastfeeding is beneficial for employers because it:

  • Reduces absenteeism - Parental absenteeism increases as infant illness rates     increase, and breastfed infants have less illness. Reduced absenteeism     leads to increased productivity in the workplace, particularly so where     absenteeism can interrupt team workflow.
  • Increases     productivity and staff commitment - Employees are likely to show increased commitment to their     job, as well as increased productivity. This is because less time will be     spent worrying about a sick infant at home and they feel valued as a     mother by the employer.
  • Leads to lower staff     turnover - Women who are     supported to continue breastfeeding are more likely to return to work     after maternity leave, saving the employer the costs of recruiting and     training a new employee – costs which can be substantial.
  • Creates a positive     corporate image . It can also lead to high     morale within the workforce.
  • Breastfeeding     protects the health of women and their children – Women who don’t breastfeed have a higher risk of developing     breast and ovarian cancers, osteoporosis, arthritis, heart disease and     diabetes and postnatal depression. Children who are not breastfed have a     higher risk of many short term and long term illnesses including chest,    ear and gastro-intestinal infections, asthma, diabetes and some childhood     cancers. Breastfeeding can help to protect the health of your workforce     now and in the future.

Many workplaces have workplaces policies which support employees to continue to breastfeed.  These include family friendly policies, flexible workplace arrangements and lactation breaks. Rooms are also provided which affords privacy to the breastfeeding employee to express her milk.


You’ve probably been thinking about childcare for some time.  If you are planning to continue breastfeeding when you go back to work you will need to consider this when choosing childcare. Regardless of how much you plan for it, going back to work and leaving your baby can be stressful. Try to make arrangements that suit you and the balance you want to have between your work and family life.

Whether you choose a crèche or a childminder, finding one to suit you can take some time. Talk to your public health nurse or other mothers in your support group for information about facilities in your area.  Word of mouth is often the best way to find what you’re looking for.

Things to Consider:

  • If you are     lucky enough to have a crèche at work, book your baby in as soon as     possible. This can make it possible to breastfeed your baby during breaks.
  • Make sure     that any type of childcare provider you choose meets professional     standards and is registered with the Health Service Executive (HSE)
  • Tell your     childminder that you are breastfeeding and that you intend continuing when     you return to work.
  • Try to     find childcare close to your work or on your route to work.
  • Tell your     childminder you may want to breastfeed when you drop off your baby in the     morning and when you collect him in the evening.
  • Make sure     your childminder knows how to safely store and use expressed breastmilk
  • Before     your maternity leave ends leave your baby with the childminder for short     periods to help them get to know one another.
  • Before     your maternity leave ends do a few ‘test runs’ in the morning to see how     long it takes you to get yourself and the baby ready and get him to the     childminder and yourself to work. This will make your first day back a lot     less stressful.

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