ProMoM Inc. - Promoting the awareness and acceptance of breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding and returning
to work


BreastpumpThere are several options open to mothers who wish to continue breastfeeding while working at a job that requires separation between mother and baby for several hours a day. First, and best for both mother and baby, is for the baby's day care provider to be located close enough to the mother's workplace for her to breastfeed the baby directly during regularly scheduled breaks. More and more firms are providing on-site or nearby day care, and are finding that the benefits for employee morale and retention make the investment worthwhile.

Second, a mother can use her break times to express her milk and bring it to the day-care provider for feeding the following day. If a mother chooses this option, she will need either to learn hand-expression technique or to rent or buy a good quality double pump. She will also need a few minutes of privacy two to three times a day. If refrigeration is not available at the workplace, storage in a cooler with "blue ice" is sufficient to preserve the milk until it can be refrigerated in the evening.

Third, a mother can breastfeed her baby when they are together and use formula when they are separated. Most mothers who try this find that their breasts quickly adjust to the daily separation, and that they have a sufficient supply for the evenings and weekends if the baby is allowed frequent access to their breasts when they are together.

Some employers may need to educated about the benefits of breastfeeding. Medela, a company that makes high-quality breast pumps, has an educational packet setting forth the cost savings to employers if their employees breastfeed their babies.  Visit the web site of the pump manufacturer, Medela, or call them at 1-800-TELL YOU for more information.  The Nursing Mothers' Association of Australia has put together a wonderful set of materials at this site on educating employers about the benefits to them of their employees breastfeeding their babies. There is also a lot of helpful information information there about how to pump and store milk.

Many women are pleased and surprised to find their employers very accommodating in providing a place and time to pump or feed a baby.  Often, the only reason there is no explicit policy permitting pumping or breastfeeding during work breaks is because no-one has yet asked. And don't forget that in some states (Florida and Texas are in the lead on this), state law encourages employers to accommodate the needs of their employees who are breastfeeding.

Here is a sample letter, written to the human resources manager at a large work site, which worked: the employee's need for a private and clean place to pump was accommodated. (*There is also another sample letter available at ProMoM.)

Dear [Human Resources Manager],

This is a letter to express what I feel is an important issue and to propose what I think is a viable solution. Given the number of women who work here of child-bearing age and the lack of available space in the building, privacy for nursing mothers presents a problem.

Currently, there is no facility in the building appropriate for women who need to pump breast milk. Prior to the critical space problems, women used empty offices and put out "do not disturb" signs. Currently, the only alternatives for those of us without private offices are the bathrooms or locker rooms. These facilities are not adequate or appropriate for this purpose for the following reasons:

  • Unsanitary conditions (this is food for a newborn).
  • Lack of privacy (pumping is a very personal and sometimes difficult process; quiet and privacy are absolutely necessary).
  • Feasibility (you need somewhere to set up a pump, something to hold collection bottles, a surface on which to package the milk, and a place to sit).
I propose that the company set aside one office with several private areas partitioned off to be used by nursing mothers. This will provide not only the obvious benefits to the new mother and the new baby, but some distinct benefits to the company:
  • A breast-fed baby is a healthier baby. Healthier babies mean fewer medical expenses, which is a tremendous financial incentive for a self-insured company. In addition, a healthier baby means less stay-at-home days for mom.
  • An employee with fewer concerns for the welfare of her child is more able to fully focus on her job.
  • An employee with a convenient, sanitary, and private location for pumping will have more options in scheduling her day (for example, not having to take long lunches to drive home).
To set up a basic facility, the following things would be needed:
  • A small room with a lock on the door and several keys to issue to those using the room.
  • Partitions or curtains to make 2 or 3 privacy areas.
  • A chair and table for each privacy area.

In addition, it would be helpful to have a small sink and refrigerator in the room, as well as an electrical outlet in each privacy area.

I hope that you will consider my proposal and see what a valuable contribution this small change can make in the quality of life for a significant number of our employees. I estimate that there are probably 3 nursing women in the building at almost all times. Another company in this area has set up an excellent facility for nursing mothers and is leading a trend in corporate America. [Additional examples here.] I would like to see our company stay on the cutting edge of providing a healthy work environment and excellent benefits for employees. I believe this would be a step in that direction.

Please let me know if you have any questions or if this proposal is more appropriately directed to our site management or facilities department. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely, [employee's name here]

I hope that I have given you some ideas about how to go about breastfeeding after returning to work. If you have any other questions, contact La Leche League International, the Nursing Mothers Council, the National Childbirth Trust (U.K) or the Nursing Mothers Association of Australia . All of these organizations have additional information about such issues as hand expressing human milk, obtaining and using breast pumps, storing and using expressed breastmilk, and other questions pertaining to working and breastfeeding. If come up with a particularly creative solution that you would like to share, please send an e-mail to me at


Formerly part of The Breastfeeding Advocacy Page
Breastfeeding and returning to work