Breastfeeding and returning to work

Lots of mums return to work or study after having a baby, and many of them continue breastfeeding. To make the process easy, it’s worth planning ahead and speaking to your employer about your options. 

Do remember to eat regular meals and drink plenty of water, as it does get busy being a working mum and you’ll be out of your normal eating routine.  However, nutritious food and plenty of water are important to help maintain your milk supply.

Before returning, chat to your employer

This should be your first step. You want to continue breastfeeding for as long as possible, so flexibility from your employer is important in the solutions you discuss.  

The good thing is, there are now laws in place in New Zealand that mean you can have unpaid breaks to breast feed your baby or express breast milk while you’re at work – and your employer must provide the facilities and supporting environment to do so.

Some options that could suit you both

Keep in mind; it can take a while for your breastfeeding to be established, typically 6 – 8 weeks. So take all the time you need to ensure you’ve built up a good milk supply and you’re confident in your breastfeeding. When you’re ready to start work again, some options you may wish to discuss with your employer are:

  • Whether it’s possible to begin by working from home, shorter days, part-time, or by job sharing
  • If it’s possible for your baby to be cared for at a day-care near your workplace, so you can take regular breaks to breast feed them
  • Have your baby brought into your workplace by their caregiver (family member or nanny)
  • You may have a workplace or job where it’s possible to take your baby into work with you
  • Express milk at your workplace so that your baby’s caregiver can the feed them

Useful tips on expressing in the workplace

If you’re choosing to express at your workplace, make sure your breastfeeding is already established.  Before returning, it’s best to get used to expressing 2 – 3 weeks prior.

It’s also a good idea to try to breastfeed as much as you can when you’re not working, and to always have a supply of expressed milk in the freezer.  So take all the help and support that is offered to you by your partner or family members to help make this possible.

Here are the things you’ll need to express at work:

  • A clean, quiet, warm and private space with a comfortable chair
  • Running water and soap to wash your hands and expressing equipment
  • A fridge to store the milk (or space to keep a chilly-bin with ice packs)
  • A power point if you’re using an electric breast pump
  • Space to store all of your equipment

For more information, you can read our article on safely storing expressed breast milk, or jump on to the Breastfeeding Friendly Workplaces website – it’s filled with useful information about your legal right to breastfeed at work, advice on how to speak to your employee about the different options, and resources on how to manage the process.


Ministry of Health - Breastfeeding and returning to work -  Accessed 11th January 2016.

Ministry of Health - Breastfeeding and working 2012.