Breastfeeding & Work: Let’s make it work!

Me whakamahi tātou I ēnei kaupapa.

Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace Initiative

Many women are returning to work after the birth of their baby and wish to continue to breastfeed. Combining work and breastfeeding is made possible with a good plan and support from your workplace and family/whanau.

[Supporting working women to breastfeed is] a win-win situation that builds loyal employees, gives babies the best source of nourishment available and benefits society as a whole. (Flavia Bustreo WHO)

The Canterbury Breastfeeding Advocacy Service facilitates the Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace Initiative. This service provides support to businesses to plan how they can support both new and returning employees with breastfeeding and how they can become recognised as a breastfeeding friendly workplace. The service also provides support to women who are wishing to continue breastfeeding and working. The Canterbury Breastfeeding Advocacy Service has a number of resources for businesses and women providing information and support for breastfeeding and work.

Benefits for Business/ workplace

There are many benefits for businesses who support their employees to continue to breastfeed while working. Some of these are listed below:

  • SAVE money and time by retaining skilled and experienced staff

  • SAVE money by reducing the need to recruit replacement staff

  • SAVE money by breastfeeding employees using fewer sick days on account of improved child health

  • INCREASE productivity with well supported, happy staff

  • GAIN breastfeeding friendly workplace status and promotion by:

    • being listed as a Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace on the Breastfeeding Canterbury App
    • being listed as a Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace on our website and other publications
    • being eligible to apply for relevant business awards
  • PROMOTE company image as a good employer

  • MEET legislative requirements to support breastfeeding women

For Women and family/whanau

Continuing to breastfeed while you are working will provide many benefits for you and your baby. There are amazing health benefits for both of you and the specific irreplaceable immune factors in breastmilk will help to keep your baby’s immune system strong.

Breastfeeding will also support the bond you have with your baby when you are not together and will provide comfort, connection and security.

“Breastfeeding really helps with fighting all those nasty buggies they pick-up from daycare” (Maggie, 2016)

Plan ahead

Make it easier to continue breastfeeding:

  • Consider when you might want to return to work
  • Consider what you might need to successfully combine breastfeeding and working
  • Talk with your family/whanau about how they can support you
  • Think about the different ways that woman have successfully combined breastfeeding and work
  • Can I…?
    • Work from home?
    • Work part time or flexible hours?
    • Bring my baby to work with me?
    • Have someone bring baby to my workplace to breastfeed?
    • Have baby cared for close by so I can go and breastfeed?
    • Express breastmilk at work and safely store it?

Meet with your employer

“I knew that I personally preferred to have my child close to my place of work to make feeding that much more accessible for us” (Maggie, 2016)

Both in pregnancy and then again about a month before you are due to start back at work. Bring a support person if needed and our breastfeeding and working advocate is also available if necessary.

Inform your employer that you want to continue breastfeeding when you return to work and will need their support.

Topics to discuss:

  • Is our workplace breastfeeding friendly?
  • Have they joined the Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace Initiative?
  • Are my colleagues aware of the importance of breastfeeding?
  • Regular breaks needed to express breastmilk (e.g. 2 x 20 minute breaks)
  • Can a comfortable private space with a power source be created for expressing and/or feeding my baby? (Not a toilet, bathroom or closet)
  • Is there a fridge I can store breastmilk in?
  • Is there a sink I can clean my equipment in?
  • Can I bring my baby to work and/or work flexible hours while baby and I adjust to separation?

Gain support from your family/whanau and friends.

Combining breastfeeding/mothering and work can be a challenge that needs some careful thought and pre planning to ensure it is successful and enjoyable for everyone.

The support that family/whanau can give will help a mother to continue to breastfeed while working which has many benefits for everyone’s health and wellbeing.

Some of the ways that support can be given are:

  • Some time before mum starts work talk together as a family/whanau to consider the options and work out how your family/whanau can make this work.
  • Recognise that there will be adjustment time for everybody when mum returns to work.
  • Think of ways that family/whanau and friends can help such as:
    • looking after baby while mum is at work
    • taking baby to mum at work to breastfeed
    • dropping and picking up baby from childcare
    • taking care of the household jobs such as cleaning, cooking and shopping so mum can spend time with baby

For more information about how to support a breastfeeding mum check out the section Family & whānau: Good things to know.

Allow for time to adjust

So you and your baby can get used to being separated when you return to work. While you and baby are adjusting try to spend as much time as possible with baby when you are not at work. With support from others this is a good time to respond freely to your and baby’s breastfeeding needs which will also help you both to adjust to the change.

“When I’m home with her on the weekend, we feed on-demand and she does feed much more often…” (Maggie, 2016)

Because breastfeeding is much more than food and nutrition baby may request more feeds than usual as he/she makes up for the missed breastfeeding times when you were at work.

This is termed ‘reverse cycling’ and is a normal part of the adjustment period. If a baby can be supported to feed more when you are together then he/she may not need as much expressed breastmilk from the caregiver when you are at work.

There may be other challenges that come up along the way as your and baby needs change.

If you feel that you need more information or simply want to talk through any issues please make contact with Rachel at the Canterbury Breastfeeding Advocacy Service.

New Zealand Legislation that supports breastfeeding and working

Employers’ Guidelines for the prevention of pregnancy discrimination.

Human Rights Commission


Your rights as a breastfeeding mother.

Human Rights Commission


Breastfeeding in the workplace: A guide for Employers

Department of Labour


Code of Employment Practice on Infant Feeding

Department of Labour

Striking a Balance: A guide for working parents

Department of Labour


Breaks and Infant Feeding

Employment Relations Amendment Act 2008


Women’s Stories of combining breastfeeding and working

Breastfeeding Friendly Workplaces

La Leche League

Breastfeeding Friendly Workplaces

Te Puawaitanga ki Ōtautahi Trust is the first Canterbury organisation to receive the breastfeeding friendly workplace initiative (BFWI) award


Te Puawaitanga has a breastfeeding policy that protects, promotes and supports breastfeeding, and also a lactation and infant feeding breaks policy. Te Puawaitanga is a kaupapa Māori provider of a range of health, education and social services that promote the health education, culture, history and wellbeing of Māori women and their whānau. The aim is to reduce barriers which may affect whānau ability to access health care or services which may aid their well-being, and this includes reducing or eliminating barriers to breastfeeding.

Website – http://whanauoraservices.co.nz/

Photo – Aroha Reriti-Crofts (Ngāi Tahu)CBE, JP, Taua and board member, Alison Bourn, General Manager, and Health Promoter and BFWI Facilitator Rachel McLachlan.


The New Zealand Breastfeeding Alliance becomes a Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace

Carol Bartle, Health Promoter, Canterbury Breastfeeding Advocacy Service, presents a Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace certificate to Julie Stufkens, Executive Officer, New Zealand Breastfeeding Alliance (NZBA).  NZBA works to promote, protect and support breastfeeding in New Zealand by managing the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) and the Baby Friendly Community Initiative (BFCI). (Photo – Dianne Powley, Learning & Development Facilitator, Carol Bartle, Julie Stufkens and Carmen Timu-Parata, BFHI Coordinator & Māori Advisor.BFWI_NZBA_SEPTEMBER2016

Webpage – https://www.babyfriendly.org.nz/

The Early Start Project becomes a Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace

Carol Bartle, Health Promoter, Canterbury Breastfeeding Advocacy Service, presents a Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace certificate to Hildegard Grant and Jan Egan, General Managers of the Early Start Project on 8th September 2016. Early Start is a research based, fully evaluated, long term and intensive home visiting service, aimed at supporting Christchurch families experiencing multiple challenges and caring for children under 5 years of age. Early Start runs two breastfeeding support groups for young parents – Te Māhuri groups in Woolston and Barrington.

Early Start webpage – http://www.earlystart.co.nz/

For more information about Te Māhuri groups check out the support services on the CanBreastFeed website.BFWI_ES_SEPTEMBER_2016

Midwifery and Maternity Provider Organisation (MMPO)

The Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace Initiative was delighted to award the breastfeeding friendly workplace certificate to MMPO in February 2017.

Established by the New Zealand College of Midwives in 1997 MMPO offers LMC Midwives efficient, friendly practice management and claiming services. MMPO support the sustainability of midwifery practices and maternity services throughout New Zealand by providing a responsive practice management service, and offering personalised one-on-one assistance to midwife members. This enables midwives to meet their service, professional and financial commitments. MMPO also undertake a variety of projects for the profession, health service providers, the Ministry of Health, research organisations and communities that utilise the rich collection of data we manage around the provision of maternity services in New Zealand by midwives

Website – https://www.mmpo.org.nz/