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Enabling Breastfeeding: Making a Difference for Working Parents

This week marks world breastfeeding week. Each year, this week is dedicated to bringing topics around breastfeeding to light. As I sit here and write this, I am pumping milk for my 8-month-old in preparation for a busy working month.

Breastfeeding sits close to my heart, both professionally and personally. Having worked with breastfeeding mothers for over 12 years and breastfeeding my three children, I will always promote and support it.


This year’s theme for world breastfeeding week is Enabling Breastfeeding: Making a Difference for Working Parents.


Before providing tips about returning to work while breastfeeding, I would like to start by acknowledging that breastfeeding is a job. A full-time job!

A breastfeeding parent is estimated to spend 1800 hours feeding or expressing milk for their baby in one year. An average breastfeed or pumping session can take 15 to 60 minutes, while most jobs start at 9 am and finish by 5 pm. For a breastfeeding parent, there is no clocking off. Nourishing a baby is a 24/7 job.



breastfeeding, breastfeeding mother, breastfeeding class


Many parents will choose to breastfeed, and many will begin the navigation of returning to work while breastfeeding. While so much has been done to support breastfeeding parents in the workplace over the years, more needs to occur.

Many workplaces are supportive. However, some do not provide breastfeeding parents with adequate facilities. For reference, a toilet is not an adequate facility!

Returning to work or workplace challenges remains a common reason for parents to stop breastfeeding earlier than the recommended period. The World Health Organization recommends that all babies be exclusively breastfed for six months. It is then further recommended to continue breastfeeding with a combination of solid foods for up to two years or as long as the mother wishes to continue.


If breastfeeding is part of your family’s plan, your workplace must support you to make it happen. Maintaining breastfeeding when working has its challenges. There is pressure to meet expectations at work and meet the requirements of pumping and storing your milk to support your breastfeeding journey.

Workplaces must encourage and support families with adequate breastfeeding facilities and parental leave; this includes providing parental leave, breastfeeding and pumping facilities such as private rooms, fridges, comfortable seating, and flexibility that allows breastfeeding and pumping of breastmilk with breaks, along with flexible working hours. In Australia, it is your legal right to breastfeed or express and store your breastmilk at work.




You may be thinking, great; my workplace offers all of this. Or my workplace has none of this available.

Breastfeeding and returning to work can be successful.

Below in the references you can find more information on your legal rights and what you can do to prepare for returning to work. Discussion should begin early on and ideally not at the time when you are heading back to work.





References:

Australian Breastfeeding Association - https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/community-workplaces

Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission - https://www.humanrights.vic.gov.au/for-individuals/pregnancy-and-breastfeeding/

Australian Government - Workplace Gender Equality Agency - https://www.wgea.gov.au/newsroom/heres-how-employers-can-support-australias-working-parents

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