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Feeding your baby when you return to work

Still breastfeeding your child? You can continue to do so after you return to work. We explain the rules in Australia that allow you to feed your child or express in the workplace.

Victoria returned to work when her first son was seven months old and she wanted to continue breastfeeding. Fortunately, her son was in a daycare centre next to her work, which allowed her to continue feeding during the day.

“I felt lucky that I could return to work and continue feeding him in line with his previous routine after lunch,” Victoria says. “I would leave a meeting when I received a call from daycare and literally pop out for 20 minutes. My team were really understanding.”

This is a unique scenario and a very rare example of being able to continue feeding whilst returning to work. However, there are options available for every mother, should you need or want to return to work early and continue feeding your baby.

Your entitlement at work

According to the Fair Work Ombudsman, breastfeeding is a protected ground of discrimination in Australia. Making an employee feel uncomfortable about breastfeeding, or not providing adequate facilities or breaks, may constitute discrimination. It may also be a breach of work health and safety laws.

Managing feeds from afar

These days, a best practice employer will have facilities available to support employees who choose to continue breastfeeding. This includes somewhere to pump and store breast milk. 

If your child is bottle fed, then this too is manageable. It is about whatever works for you and eliminating any pressure. There is no right or wrong here. 

Many women have told us that a great solution when returning to work early is to do a mix of:

  • Breastfeeding – for example, before and after work and at night.
  • Bottle feeding – for example, during the day when your baby is being cared for by others.

How to set up for a new routine 

If you want to return early and continue feeding, then the first step is to discuss your options with your employer. If you visit your workplace to introduce your baby to your workmates, this could be a good chance to chat to your manager or HR department. You might even want to speak to your employer about it before you go on parental leave. 

The next step is to make sure you can access an area where you can either breastfeed or express at work.

Decide what is right for you and your baby. Talk to other mothers in your workplace. Speak with your friends outside of work. Once you make your decision, be confident and don’t look back.

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