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Breastfeeding and Working in the UK

Welcome to the September Carnival of Breastfeeding. This month's theme is breastfeeding and working. We've had a huge response to this one so it's obviously something that strikes a cord with a lot of breastfeeding mothers. You'll find links to all the other bloggers' posts at the bottom of this one so make sure to pay a visit and leave some comments if you'd like to have your say!

I decided I'd have a look at what it's like to be a working breastfeeding mum in the UK. In my own experience, as I've mentioned many times in the past, when I returned to teaching after my first daughter's birth, I was fortunate in that she was seven months old and was taking solid feeds regularly. I tended to breastfeed her before I went to work and as soon as I returned home in the evenings. In between times she drank either expressed milk, water or occasionally a formula feed. In those days I didn't realise or even consider expressing at work, but I don't actually think it would have been as easy to do so as it appears to be these days. I don't ever recall being aware of any private rooms in schools I worked in where a mother could have expressed her milk and actually I have a feeling that I would have had to nip out to my car!

Thankfully, I was only away from my baby from 8.30am until about 4.00pm so the arrangements I had worked fine for us and as a result I continued to breastfeed her until she was 15 or 16 months old.

However, in recent years, UK law has begun to take note of the importance of keeping their breastfeeding employees happy. Since I became self-employed after my second baby was born I've never had the chance to personally find out if in practice breastfeeding in the UK workplace is commonplace or if the law is adhered to as required, but below is what UK law says in regard to breastfeeding and working in the UK.

Breastfeeding and Working in The UK

Many mums are unaware that UK law protects working breastfeeding women.

The law states that breastfeeding women must not be put at any risk. However, in the event that this is not possible then employers must either:

· change a woman’s work hours or
· offer alternative work at the same wage or
·suspend her on paid leave for the duration of her breastfeeding

The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advises employers to provide a private, healthy and safe environment in which to express and store milk although it is important to realise that this is not a legal requirement.

Breastfeeding women in the UK are also offered some protection from sex discrimination laws.

Breastfeeding mothers are allowed breastfeeding breaks. If necessary, they can return home if they live only a short distance away from work in order to feed their baby. Alternatively, they can express milk privately (ie away from prying/curious eyes!) and store it for later use. Before taking any breastfeeding breaks however, it is important that you agree these with your employer. Breaks should take around 20 minutes and you will require between one and four breaks in an average working day. The number of breaks will obviously depend very much on the age of the baby and the number of feeds he or she requires in a typical day. Younger babies will more than likely require more frequent feeds than older babies since their tummies are very tiny and will empty quickly.

Facilities Required

By law, mothers who are breastfeeding will require and should be provided with access to a private, clean, warm room (not the toilets). The room must have a clean work surface on which to place sterilising equipment and a breast pump, if required. A comfortable, supportive chair should also be made available. There should be an electrical output, a sink and a fridge or cool bag for storing expressed milk at 2-4 degrees centigrade.

By enabling breastfeeding mothers to continue breastfeeding when they return to work organisations can benefit in many ways. They will be less likely to have to replace mothers who are breastfeeding and who put their baby's needs before their professional responsibilities. By looking after breastfeeding mums, responsible firms will save money which would otherwise have to be spent on recruitment, retraining and the expenses involved in employing temporary staff.

Also, since breastfed babies are less likely to be ill, breastfeeding mums will not need to take so much time off to care for them.

Supportive firms gain respect from their staff and become more attractive to potential employees. Word will spread and people will see the company as forward-thinking and progressive. 

The result: more productivity, a happy workforce, very contented breastfeeding mothers and well fed, happy babies.

Now find out what the following bloggers say about breastfeeding and working:

MumUnplugged: This is a Working Office

My World Edenwild: Nursing Mothers Need Workplace Support

Best for Babes: Beating the Employment Booby Trap

Breastfeeding Moms Unite: Breastfeeding at My Family Day Care

MotherWear Blog: Breastfeeding and working is possible, and you can make it work

The Milk Mama:  A Job Where Everyone Breastfeeds

Momnesia, the Book:  Sorry, Facilities Guy

Marshins:  Taking your Boobs to Work

Strocel:  Working and Breastfeeding a Toddler

The Marketing Mama:  Working and Pumping

BabyReady: What about Breastfeeding when I go Back to Work

Chronicles of a Nursing Mom: Do you really need a pump?

Breastfeeding 123: Tips for Breastfeeding and Working

Blacktating: The 5 Biggest Mistakes Working & Pumping Moms Make

Vanderbilt Wife: I Think This Officially Makes Me a Mommy Blogger

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