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Breastfeeding and Returning to Your Workplace

Release Date: August 23, 2023

Breastfeeding has many health benefits for both babies and mothers. The decision to breastfeed is a very personal one and many women find it to be a comfortable, pleasant, and rewarding experience. However, it can pose challenges when mothers need to return to work from maternity leave. When you return to work after having a baby, one thing is for sure: all moms deserve support no matter how they decide to feed their babies. With a bit of advance planning, commitment, and the help of workplace support services, mothers can successfully make the transition back to work while continuing to breastfeed and/or express milk for their baby. Here are some tips for returning to work while breastfeeding.

  • Know the laws. Federal laws require employers to provide “reasonable break time” for nursing mothers with private, non-bathroom areas, shielded from view and free from intrusion of coworkers and the public to express breast milk during the workday. President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. signed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act into law last year. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission provided supplemental resources including “What You Should Know About the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act," and related resources until it issues its regulations on or before December 29. 
  • Communicate with your employer. Make sure your employer knows your rights and their responsibilities. Discuss the details of your planned return and transition back to work. Coordinate break times, nursing and/or pumping needs throughout the workday.
  • Coordinate with a caregiver. If needed, select a reliable caregiver prior to your return to work. Choose a caregiver who supports your commitment to breastfeeding. Provide a feeding schedule and instructions on the use and storage of your breast milk.
  • Establish a pumping and feeding routine. Mothers whose infants are younger than three months of age typically need to pump every two to three hours; women with babies three months or older typically only need to pump every three to four hours. In general, if you work full days and you breastfeed at least once before work, and as soon as you return home, you will probably only have to pump two to three times at work.
  • Stay healthy. Exercise, eat a well-balanced diet, and drink plenty of fluids. Take care of your emotional and mental health. Get plenty of rest and look for ways to reduce stress levels. Avoid alcohol and smoking.
  • Seek support. Always consult with your physician if you have questions about breastfeeding and before you start any new diet or exercise plan. Seek additional support from friends, family members, care groups, a lactation consultant, and/or a health care professional.

Your Employee Assistance Program is also here to support. They can provide guidance and assistance with many issues including prenatal planning, breastfeeding techniques, childcare and parenting, kits and more. For more information, contact your Component EAP.

For more information and resources visit the United States Department of Labor’s website and CDC’s Breastfeeding and Returning to Your Workplace webpage. For details on worksite lactation at your worksite, contact your Component’s nursing mothers program coordinator or e-mail worklife@hq.dhs.gov.

Last Updated: 08/23/2023
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