breastfeeding at work

Breastfeeding at work

You know you’ve got to go back to work and you know you want to keep breastfeeding your baby, but how are you going to make breastfeeding at work, well, work?

We all know that the longer you breastfeed, the greater the health protection is for your baby and you. You have already given your baby the most wonderful gift by choosing to breastfeed. Now you may be wondering what to do when you return to work. Below are some answers to common concerns.

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. If you are planning to continue breastfeeding when you go back to work you should start giving your baby an occasional feed of expressed breast milk from about six weeks old. This will allow you to get the hang of expressing and help your baby to get used to taking breast milk from someone other than yourself.

Supply and demand

Depending on the age of your baby when you return to work, you and your baby’s needs will vary. For example, a seven-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. Practise expressing your milk by hand and pump until you decide which one suits you best and you are confident about doing it. You may choose not to express at work and just breastfeed while you are at home. Your milk supply may go down as it adapts to the change in demand. You can ask the childminder to give your baby formula or expressed breast milk while you are at work.

Breastfeeding and employment

Under Section 9 of the Maternity Protection (Amendment) Act 2004 certain women in employment who are breastfeeding are entitled to take time off work each day in order to breastfeed. The provision applies to all women in employment who have given birth within the previous six months. Employers are not obliged to provide facilities in the workplace to facilitate breastfeeding if the provision of such facilities would give rise to considerable costs. At the choice of her employer, the woman may therefore opt to:

  • Breastfeed in the workplace or express breast milk, where facilities are provided in the workplace by the employer.
  • Have their working hours reduced (without loss of pay) to facilitate breastfeeding where facilities are not made available.

Go to www. for more information on the above.


If you find breastfeeding difficult, there are many people who can help and reassure you:

1. At the hospital or at home.

Your midwife will have had much experience with breastfeeding mothers and will be able to help you get started. Some are “lactation consultants” and have specific training in breastfeeding support. In addition, most hospitals run a weekly drop-in breastfeeding clinic.

2. At the local health centre.

Breastfeeding support groups are run by the public health nurse. Meetings take place weekly, where you and other mothers can meet the nurse to discuss any problems you might have and to seek her advice.

3. Breastfeeding counsellors.

Cuidiu – The Irish Childbirth Trust has a list of trained breastfeeding counsellors who will answer any queries you might have. They are available all over the country. Contact Cuidiu for the name of your nearest counsellor. In addition, the La Leche League is a voluntary group, which provides information and support to women who want to breastfeed their babies. Their services include telephone counselling and monthly group meetings.

Methods of expressing your milk

There are three main methods of expressing breastmilk.

  • By hand
  • By using a hand pump
  • By using an electric pump

Whichever method you choose, the milk may take a minute or two to flow after you start expressing. If expressing from one breast at a time, Express from one breast until the flow slows or stops. Change to the second breast and when the milk stops flowing from that breast return to the first breast and start again. Repeat this several times until you can no longer get any milk from either breast.

breastfeeding at work

To express by pump

A variety of different pumps are available to buy or rent and suit different situations or women. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use and more information.

Hand pumps

There are a number of different designs, all of which work in slightly different ways. Some are operated by hand and some by battery. They all have a funnel that fits over the nipple and areola. Different pumps suit different women – it is therefore best, if at all possible, to try out a pump before buying.

Electric pumps

These are fast and easy because they work automatically. They are particularly good if you need to express for a long period. It is possible to express both breasts at the same time using some electric pumps that have a dual pumping set. This is quicker than other methods and may help you to produce more milk.

Top tips

  • 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.

For more information, the HSE ‘Breastfeeding and Work – guide for parents and employers’ can be downloaded at

More like this:

7 things you need to know about expressing breastmilk
Breastfeeding tips: leaky boobs and oversupply
Breastfeeding in Ireland


Q. I’m would like to start an exercise programme that will benefit my emotional health as much as my physical health, but I don’t know which type of class would be best. Should I consider choosing from yoga, pilates, tai chi, or could you recommend a class, please?

A It’s great that you have decided to get into exercise. The benefits to you are going to be great. You’ll sleep better, have more energy, better skin, reduced stressed, not to mention all the amazing physical benefits of your clothes fitting better, and looking healthy, trim and toned! My advice to you would be to try them all. Even if some don’t offer pay-as-you-go sessions, if you get in touch directly with the instructor, they will almost always let you try it out first to see if it’s for you. All of the above things that you mentioned are great for mental health, so it really will be a personal preference as to which you go for. On top of the classes you mention, all forms of exercise will give you great mental rewards so consider the not so obvious interval training sessions, bootcamp, and circuits too, as you will also feel on top of the world after a class like that.


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Ask Allison

Q My sister-in-law and I both work three-day weeks and we help each
other out with child minding on our working days, which up until recently has worked out really well. Between us, our kids are aged between five and nine years – the problem is that it’s now become quite apparent that we have very different parenting styles. I prefer my two daughters (seven and nine) to have a structured day. For example, in my house, we have allocated times for television and iPads, etc. My sister-in-law, however, lets the kids run loose after school – homework is ignored and my kids end up wired after eating sugary treats all afternoon. I am considering looking at after-school childcare for the kids, but I’m worried that this is going to cause a family argument. Is there a diplomatic way that I can ask my sister-in-law to introduce some discipline into her child-minding days? It certainly doesn’t do her two kids any harm when I am minding them in my own house!

In a word, no, there is no diplomatic way to do this as it may very likely seem like your saying that your parenting style is better than
hers. As L’Óreal says, ‘now here comes the science bit.’ Dr. Kaylene
Henderson, a child psychiatrist, wrote a very interesting blog about ‘the
science behind the Mummy Wars’. She explains that before she had
children of her own she hadn’t been aware of how parents have a
very specific sense of the right parenting style. She also found that parents could be very definite in defending their chosen parenting style. Dr. Henderson, who describes herself as a curious, scientific, open-minded person, was surprised at how defensive parents could be and, at times, of their judgemental attitude towards each other. She explained the neurology of the Mummy Wars; okay, I’ll need you to bear with me for a second. Warning; I’m about to use some neuro-techie language.

Why do we judge each other?
As we have all had different experiences, this means that we all have very different memories stored in our brains. Most of our memories are ‘explicit’ memories – these are ones that we can recall easily such as important dates that mean something to us; important birthdays, special events or stories of and about our lives.
There is another type of memory called ‘implicit’ memory that plays a
key role in our parenting. This type of memory is the stuff that you do on autopilot. Psychologists call these heuristics or rules of thumb –
such as tying your shoelace, or driving your car (once you have learnt
to do both first!). Otherwise we’d really waste a huge amount of time
pondering over tasks that we have readily available to us. This seems to be where the science bit of our parenting style kicks in. This implicit memory goes all the way back to when you were an infant being parented by your parents. This is when you started the process of storing up how they did it into your memories.
Unless you make a conscious choice and effort to parent differently, what you saw and unconsciously learnt will be your automatic go-to parenting style.

We learn habits
This can really kick into gear when we feel our parenting style is
being mirrored or highlighted by disapproval from another parent. I know the cold sweat you feel when your child decides to make their outstanding bad behaviour performance at, of course, the most public and worst time. The implicit autopilot of how your parents dealt with these outbursts will flow unconsciously from you if you haven’t worked super hard to be aware and consciously change the old habits.
What’s happening for the on-looking parent is that they see you doing something they are used to doing, but you are doing it all wrong. Simply, because that is not how they know how to do it.

Find a way that works
You both have different parenting styles – who is to say which type is correct? You just need to know what works best for your family and that’s the bottom line. The irksome feelings won’t go away. You can talk to your sister-in-law, but I’m adding a caveat that it would be hard not to hurt her feelings. What we’re possibly looking at is that you prefer a more structured form of parenting, whereas your sister-in-law has a more permissive style. I’m not sure the two styles can mix, the mixture is a bit like oil and water.
If a collaborative shared form of parenting style can be agreed upon, then that is great, but our learnt hardwiring may prove difficult to change despite the intent to do so.
Perhaps, your own instinct of changing childcare might work best for you. In terms of making childcare work; the fit is ultimately the most
important aspect as you want a cohesive congruent feeling of the other caregiver to just ‘getting it’, like in any good partnership. Best of luck
with this and I wish you both well.