Workplace breastfeeding: A working lunch

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If you’ve just had a baby and it’s time for you to get back to the grind, then you may have some questions about how and when it is appropriate to breastfeed bubs at the office (or construction site, or wherever you work). Breastfeeding is important for your baby’s health, but it’s difficult for some mothers, especially working mothers (who are a vital segment of the Australian workforce), to breastfeed.

There are laws that protect the rights of new mothers to breastfeed in the workplace. It’s in the best interests of everyone, so make sure you know what laws uphold your rights in the workplace – and take advantage of them.

Mother’s milk

Breastmilk is like no other food. It provides all of a baby’s nutritional requirements and can’t be reproduced artificially. Basically, a woman’s breasts are an exclusive (and healthy) infant food factory! Your breastmilk is actually living tissue. It even changes in composition as your baby grows older, so that it continues to provide for the baby’s exact nutritional needs (until six months of age). Pretty amazing stuff, hey?

Breastfeeding is also good for mums, and can speed up recovery from childbirth. Breastfeeding is also the only way to make sure you continue to produce milk – unless you breastfeed or express milk, lactation (the process through which breastmilk is produced) will cease. On the other hand, the more you breastfeed, the more milk you produce. It’s a very sweet deal.

For more information, see Breastfeeding.

Your boobs and the law

Because of the health benefits of breastmilk, women are encouraged to breastfeed their babies exclusively (that means giving them only breastmilk and no other food) for the first six months of life. Internationally, women have fundamental rights to breastfeed recognised by the World Health Organization. In Australia, those rights are legally recognised too. After all, we need those little brains to grow at their best.

Under our laws, employers are obliged to consider any requests to provide ‘family-friendly working arrangements’. Employers also have an obligation to be flexible for new parents, so don’t be afraid to communicate with your boss if you decide you would like to both work and breastfeed. Fight for your right to feed!

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Unfortunately, however, there is no blanket law stating women must be able to take ‘boobie breaks’, so you will have to negotiate that individually with your boss. Just remember, you’re an important asset to your workplace, so don’t be afraid to communicate openly about this topic.

For more information, see Work and Parenting: Laws.

If you can’t feed, prepare lunch on the run

There are other ways to nourish your hungry li’l person if breastfeeding at your workplace is not an option, like expressing breastmilk, either by pump or by hand. This way you can be assured your baby is getting all the nutrients they require while you maintain your work schedule.

For more information, see Expressing Breastmilk.

Bringing home a baby – and the bacon

If you’re back at work (or planning to go back), that shouldn’t stop you from opening up your own personal milk bar for baby. When talking to your employer, it’s best to be prepared and know exactly what you want. This way, it will be easier to communicate and negotiate. For instance, you may need:

  • A private room (the ladies’ loo is not hygienic!);
  • Storage space for a breast pump (if you express milk to take home for your baby);
  • A refrigerator to store expressed breastmilk;
  • Specific break times, to meet your baby or express your breastmilk for later use; or
  • Perhaps you would like to talk to your employer about working part-time until you’ve finished breastfeeding.

Australia supports women in the workplace and everyone loves a new mum, so don’t be afraid to be clear about what kind of breastfeeding ‘program’ will help you return to work. Good things might come to those who wait, but better things could come to those who just ask nicely.

After all, your baby deserves to have their milk and drink it too.

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More information

Workplace breastfeeding For more information, see Breastfeeding and the Workplace.
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Date Created: November 30, 2011 Date Modified: July 3, 2018