Inadequate facilities for working mums expressing milk

Around 33% of mums who are breastfeeding are forced to use a toilet to express milk when they return to their jobs, a new study has found

Thousands of mums who are breastfeeding encounter a shocking lack of support when returning to work, with 56% saying they’ve had to express milk in unsuitable places, including the staff room (18%), their car (14%) and at their desk (11%).

These difficulties resulted in 30% of mums stopping breastfeeding earlier than they would have liked.

As a result, 30% said they’ve suffered with problems while trying to express, including issues with their supply, infections and anxiety.

This is according to a survey of 2,000 mums by the law firm Slater and Gordon.

While many bosses appeared to be supportive, half of the mums who are breastfeeding and who returned to work said their employer didn’t know what to do, didn’t have any facilities or felt embarrassed by the conversation.

Feeling unable to approach the topic with their boss left many women experiencing negative consequences, such as embarrassing leaks (22%), exclusion from conversations (13%) and missing out on important meetings (11%).

Fran Bailey, one of our Breastfeeding Counsellors, said: ‘Lots of mums continue to breastfeed when they return to work or study. Depending on the age and nature of your baby, you can usually find ways to continue breastfeeding if you want to.’

‘If you want to express milk at work guidelines recommend that you have access to a private, clean and comfortable room with a lockable door – not a toilet – in which to express.’

‘However, there is no legal obligation for your employer to provide this space. It’s also recommended that you have use of a fridge to store your breast milk.’

It’s illegal for employers to treat women unfairly because they are breastfeeding

Fran continues: ‘Employers are legally required to provide a space for mums who are breastfeeding to lie down and rest if they need to. There is unfortunately no legal right, however, for your employer to provide breastfeeding breaks at work.’

‘Anyone who feels they are being discriminated against in the workplace should contact Maternity Action.’

Paula Chan, a specialist employment lawyer at Slater and Gordon, said: ‘This research is concerning – no mother should feel forced to express milk for her child in a toilet.’

‘People would be horrified at the thought of food being prepared in such unhygienic conditions so it’s unacceptable that we are in a situation where that is considered to be an option when preparing milk for a baby.’