Home / Work & Childcare Articles / Breastfeeding when returning to work

Breastfeeding when returning to work

Breastfeeding when returning to work

Written by:

If you’ve got off to a great start with breastfeeding then you may be reluctant to give up when you return to work after maternity leave. The good news is that you don’t have to. It may take a little more planning that just latching your baby on when she’s hungry but it’s definitely doable.


Current guidelines in the UK state that babies should be exclusively breastfed until the age of around six months. After that breast milk should still be offered alongside solid food. The NHS doesn’t offer any guidelines on what age to stop breastfeeding. That decision is entirely up to you and your baby. You can carry on for as long as you’re both comfortable and happy to continue.

Think about it early

It’s a good idea to decide early how your child will be fed when you return to work. Consider both your ideal scenario and the options that will be most practical. If you decide to express milk or combine breastfeeding with formula then start introducing it a few weeks before your return date to give your baby a chance to get used to taking milk from a bottle or cup. If you choose to express milk and wish to do so at work then let your HR department know as soon as possible so that they have time to accommodate your request. You need to let your employer know in writing that you plan to continue breastfeeding.

Employers’ obligations

Companies have legal obligations to breastfeeding mothers. Under Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 employers are required to provide suitable rest facilities for pregnant or breastfeeding women. Your employer should also carry out a risk assessment on your return to work. At the moment there is no legal requirement for companies to provide a private space or safe fridge for mothers to express and store milk. However, the Health and Safety Executive recommends that they do and many employers will be happy to assist you where possible.

Breastfeeding when returning to work

Expressing and storing breast milk

Milk can be expressed using the hands but you may find you are able to express more using a breast pump. Experiment before you go back to work to see which works best for you. The pump and containers should be cleaned and sterilised before each use. Expressed milk can be stored in the fridge for up to five days. If you’re not going to use it in that time then it can be kept in the freezer for up to six months and defrosted for future feeds. Make sure you label the milk with dates so that your caregiver knows which feeds to use first.

Combined feeding

Some mothers choose to combine breast milk with formula feeds when they return to work. This generally means that your baby will be given formula while you’re at work and you’ll continue to breastfeed in the morning, evenings and through the night if your child still wakes for a feed. You’ll find that you start to produce less milk as your body gets used to the new feeding pattern. A gradual change will mean you’re less likely to suffer from engorged breasts or leakage and allow your baby time to get used to a new way of getting milk.

However you choose to provide milk for your baby when you go back to work, it is worthwhile asking your caregiver to keep a note of how much milk the baby has taken. This will keep your mind at ease and make you aware of any changes in her feeding patterns.










About Maria Brett

About Maria Brett

Maria is a freelance writer with over 10 years' experience producing content for a variety of publications and websites. When not working or looking after her two gorgeous sons, she can usually be found playing flugelhorn in a brass band, helping out at her local hospital radio station, shouting at the television while watching Formula 1, at the cinema or plonked on the couch with a cold glass of wine.

Website: Maria Brett

View all posts by