Breastfeeding and Work

All new parents need support when returning to work, whether or not they are breastfeeding. But the confusion over the rights of breastfeeding women who want to take lactation breaks challenges both mothers and employers.

In our work supporting mothers and families, we realise that returning to work after a period of leave can be a time of stress for all new parents. We believe that there are special risks associated with the return from maternity, paternity, and adoption leave which are common to all new parents and which can be overcome with support and flexibility. All new parents may experience stress and fatigue. Mothers are additionally at risk for postnatal depression and physical injuries consequent on birth impacting them.

Premature or abrupt weaning means risk to baby’s health but also a risk to the mother’s health. Without proper provision, women are at immediate risk of engorgement, blocked ducts, mastitis and abscesses. Protecting breastfeeding rights not only benefits the physical and emotional health of mums but also means employers are more likely to see improved recruitment and retention and better morale for employees. Breastfeeding mums who are supported are likely to return to the workplace earlier and take up the government’s offer of shared parental leave with their partners. When women are able to combine breastfeeding and work, this means less absence and improved outcomes which benefit everyone.

Many employers are supportive and flexible with employees returning from maternity, paternity, and adoption leave. With good HR practices, most employees already find their return to work a positive experience.   However, we would like to see all new parents able to access a risk assessment to reveal any elements of their working environment which might be problematic and to facilitate open discussions as to how to minimise these risks.

At the moment, breastfeeding and lactating mothers can use a range of existing legal rights to help them continue breastfeeding/lactating and working. This makes a very complicated situation for employers who have to navigate a raft of legislation. We think it would be simpler and fairer to introduce a straightforward right regarding lactation breaks for all mothers on their return to work.

The current UK legislation does not provide a specific statutory right to breastfeed at work. However, legislation on health and safety provides a legal basis for mothers who wish to take lactation breaks, and employers must not discriminate indirectly against mothers. In addition, there are leave entitlements and flexible working provisions which may be used to support breastfeeding. There are also international laws, such as ILO and Human Rights legislation, which protect both mothers’ and babies’ rights. Taken together, these existing rights make it difficult for an employer to refuse lactation breaks, but we would like to make it clear to all employers that they need to support employees who wish to take lactation breaks with an explicit right for employees to breastfeed and express breastmilk.

Breastfeeding is part of family life for working women across the UK. We call on government to recognise the value of breastfeeding. We specifically ask them to include the right to lactation breaks for working women, and risk assessments for all new parents, within their proposed legislation.


Maternity Action:



Health and Safety Executive:

Health and Safety Executive:


Baby-led Breastfeeding: How to make breastfeeding work – with your baby’s help

Book description:

Written by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett, this book provides mums with information on how to breastfeed by following the baby’s lead. The authors believe that by letting the baby set the pace the breastfeeding experience will be more relaxed for both mum and baby.

The book explains how a baby follows their instincts from the first feed. They provide information on positioning of baby to aid breastfeeding. They help mum how to recognise if breastfeeding is going well and how to avoid problems such as sore nipples or mastitis.

Breastfeeding Answers Made Simple

Book description:

This book explains what you need to know about both cutting-edge and classic breastfeeding research to help mothers in the most effective way.

The international studies described include those on birth practices and breastfeeding, skin-to-skin contact, laid-back breastfeeding, making milk, as well as on a wide range of unusual situations.Specific problem-solving strategies are also included.

This book has been written for all levels of expertise, from beginners to advanced practitioners, it is the ideal resource for all settings: hospitals, clinics, medical practices, breastfeeding counsellors and breastfeeding peer supporters.

Every chapter has been reviewed by world-class experts in the field, so it can be used with confidence.

Breastfeeding Answers Made Simple: A Pocket Guide for Helping Mothers

Book description:

This book has been written by Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, FILCA, co-author of LLL’s “The Breastfeeding Answer Book”.

This book contains the same information as the “Breastfeeding Answers Made simple” but to make it pocket size they have removed are the research citations and some of the lengthy explanations for the strategies to cope with the problems that mums may encounter.

This book has been written for all levels of expertise, from beginners to advanced practitioners. It is an ideal resource for hospitals, clinics, medical practices, public-health offices, breastfeeding peer counsellors, and mother-support groups. This up-to-date resource provides the information you need to empower mothers to meet their breastfeeding goals.

You can also follow Nancy on her blog at

Medications and Mothers’ Milk, 15th edition

Book description:

Written by Dr Thomas Hale, a clinical pharmacologist, it is the best selling drug reference on the use of medications in breastfeeding mothers. It provides the most current, complete, and easy-to-read information on using medications in breastfeeding mothers.

The book contains information on hundreds of new drugs, diseases, vaccines, and syndromes as well as numerous new tables and changes to hundreds of existing drugs. It also includes everything that is known about the transfer of various medications into human milk and the use of radiopharmaceuticals, chemotherapeutic agents, and vaccines in breastfeeding mothers.

The book contains data on more than 1,300 drugs, syndromes, vaccines, herbals, and many other substances. The appendices are full of information on radioactive drugs and tests, over-the-counter drugs, and much more.

A very good reference to have to hand when dealing with breastfeeding mothers.

The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby from Birth to Age Two

Book description:

In this guide, Dr. William and Martha Sears draw from their vast experience as both medical professionals and parents to provide authoritative and comprehensive information on every aspect of infant care.

The Baby Book presents a practical and contemporary approach to parenting that reflects the way we live today. It is a comprehensive guide to baby care, focusing on the essential needs of babies – eating, sleeping, development, health, and comfort – as it addresses the questions of greatest concern to parents today.

The Sears’ acknowledge that there is no one best way to parent a baby, and they offer the basic guidance and inspiration you need to develop the parenting style that best suits you and your child.

The Baby Book is a rich and invaluable resource that will help you get the most out of parenting – for your child, for yourself, and for your entire family. The topics covered include:
– bonding with your baby and soothing a fussy baby
– feeding your baby right
– getting your baby to sleep
– understanding your baby’s development
– treating common illnesses
– baby proofing your home
– toddler behaviour and dealing with tantrums
– toilet training
– working and parenting

The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers: The Most Comprehensive Problem-Solving Guide to Breastfeeding from the Foremost Expert in North America

Book description:

Although breastfeeding is the natural and healthy way to nourish your baby, it’s not always easy. Many new mothers are scared away from nursing because of difficulty getting started and lack of information about what to do when things don’t go as planned. In this fully revised and updated edition of The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers, two of today’s foremost lactation experts help new mothers overcome their fears, doubts, and practical concerns about one of the most special ways a mother can bond with her baby.

In this comprehensive guide, Dr. Jack Newman, a leading authority on infant care, and Teresa Pitman, a La Leche League leader for more than twenty years, give you the facts about breastfeeding and provide solutions for the common problems that arise. Filled with the same practical advice that made the first edition a must-have for nursing moms, the new edition features updates on:

• Achieving a good latch

• What to do if your baby refuses the breast

• Avoiding sore nipples

• Ensuring your baby gets enough milk

• Feeding a colicky baby

• Breastfeeding premature and special-needs babies

Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers

This book is described on the Amazon website as follows:

This second edition of Breastfeeding Made Simple is an essential guide to breastfeeding that every new and expectant mom should own-a comprehensive resource that takes the mystery out of basic breastfeeding dynamics. Understanding the seven natural laws of breastfeeding will help you avoid and overcome challenges such as low milk production, breast refusal, weaning difficulties, and every other obstacle that can keep you from enjoying breastfeeding your baby.

Breastfeeding Made Simple will help you to: Find comfortable, relaxing breastfeeding positions. Establish ample milk production and a satisfying breastfeeding rhythm with your baby. Overcome discomfort and mastitis. Use a breast pump to express and store milk. Easily transition to solid foods.

This book is on the recommended list for Mother Supporter Trainees.

Bestfeeding: How to Breastfeed Your Baby

This is often reviewed in the baby catalogues as one of the most helpful books written on breastfeeding, and they’re not wrong. If you don’t get or read any other book on breastfeeding, make sure you read this one. It is very easy to follow, there are excellent photos and illustrations, and the section on the “myths” is very enlightening. Altogether an excellent read.

It is recommended to both mothers and health professionals. It has been written by three very experienced, dedicated and internationally respected authors. For this reason it is one of the recommended books for trainee breastfeeding counsellors.

The book answers all questions a new mother may have and it is fully illustrated with a great number of photos and drawings that demonstrate the dos and don´ts of breastfeeding. I addition to the basics, you will find solutions to both common and more unusual breastfeeding difficulties, as well as remedies for babies with special needs.

Topics include: basics of breastfeeding a baby (with more than 100 photos), benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and baby, positions and attachment, medical concerns, causes and solutions to breastfeeding problems, information on feeding multiple babies and feeding adopted babies.

This book is on the recommended list for some modules of the Breastfeeding Counsellor Training.

My Child Won’t Eat!: How to enjoy mealtimes without worry

Parents everywhere worry when their baby or toddler doesn’t seem to eat as much as they think he should. Carlos González, a paediatrician and father, sets those fears to rest as he explores the reasons why a child refuses food, the pitfalls of growth charts, and the ways that growth and activity affect a child’s calorific needs. He discusses how eating problems start and how they can be avoided.

This book includes mothers’ stories of the anguish and torment they have gone through in trying to get their children to eat. Carlos González reassures parents that children know how much they need to eat and explains why a parent’s only involvement should be providing healthy food choices. Forcing a child to eat more than he needs can only lead to tears, tantrums and, eventually, even obesity.