Planning for the practicalities of expressing in your workplace
Combining breastfeeding and work can be done in a number of ways. Whether you will express and/ or breastfeed your baby during your workday or even spend some days working from home will depend on your work situation and childcare arrangements.
As you prepare to return to work, you will most likely be wondering what your needs will be in your workplace. If you will be expressing at work, you will need the following:
A place to express
- a private room which you can lock so you won't be disturbed while you're expressing. It's important for you to feel as comfortable and relaxed as possible so that your milk will flow easily.
You may be lucky enough for your workplace to have a dedicated room for expressing or breastfeeding. However, most mothers have to negotiate with their manager to use a shared space, for example a First Aid room, prayer room, unused office space or meeting room area.
Look for nearby baby care rooms if you travel around a lot for work. ABA awarded Baby Care Rooms provide a comfortable, clean and welcoming place to express.
- a comfortable chair: This may not be easy to find in many workplaces. If space allows, you could ask if you could bring in a more comfortable chair for the duration of your expressing.
- a refrigerator where you can store expressed breastmilk and your milk collection kit (if you will be reusing it during the day). The fridge may not be in the same room but most workplaces provide employees with a fridge. You may like to keep your milk and equipment in its own bag in the fridge.
- a cooler box with ice blocks or a portable car fridge are good options if you need to express 'on the road'.
- somewhere to store your electric or manual breast pump.
Time to express
When you are negotiating time for expressing at work, bear in mind what this will actually involve. You will need time to:
- walk to the expressing room
- set up your pump
- express your milk
- transfer the milk into a storage container eg a milk collection bag and label it
- clean your equipment and pack up your pump
- walk back to your work space, put your milk in the fridge and any equipment away.
An effective breast pump
Many mums buy a breast pump during pregnancy because it's suggested as a 'must have' piece of equipment for breastfeeding mums. You may or may not have a pump already. You may or may not have experience at expressing.
It's important if you're going to express at work that your pump is adequate for the job, particularly if you're going to be expressing several times a day and for a length of time. A good quality electric breast pump, particularly hospital grade pump, is going to be most effective for you.
If you are purchasing a pump, look around at what's available to you and make sure it's for long-term and frequent use. Read more about choosing a breast pump.
If you don't already own a pump, you may prefer to hire one for a few months to see how you go with expressing and whether it will be worth the financial cost of purchase. ABA hires pumps and if you're a member, you get 50% off.
Negotiating with your employer
If you are the first employee at your workplace to return to work while still breastfeeding, this may be new to your employer. While they may want to support you on your return, they may not know how and your situation may present a challenge for them.
Discussing your needs with your manager may require you to come up with some practical options. Read more about how to approach your employer and information you can give them.
Other practical considerations for expressing at work
- Taking your milk home: Unless the weather is very cool, you will need to keep your expressed breastmilk chilled during transport home if that is going to take time. You will need a good quality cooler bag with ice bricks for carrying your milk home.
- Your work wear: You will need to choose clothes that allow you to express. If you wear a uniform that is a dress rather than top and bottom, you may need to discuss options with your employer. If your breasts are still prone to leaking, you may like to choose patterned clothing to disguise this, or take a change of clothes.
© Australian Breastfeeding Association March 2023
More resources for you
Evidence-led info and practical tips from our Breastfeeding Information Series
Breastfeeding: women and work
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