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Return to Work or School

Women with children are the fastest growing segment of the work force

Over 90 percent of Oregon mothers begin breastfeeding. When they return to work or school, time and space to express their breast milk during the work day helps them continue to give their best to both their work and their baby.

Workplace support for breastfeeding employees creates a 3:1 return on investment through:

  • Lower health care costs
  • Lower turnover rates
  • Lower absenteeism rates because breastfed babies are healthier and their parents are less likely to miss work. One-day absences occur half as often among parents whose infants are breastfed.
  • Higher productivity and company loyalty. Mothers who get workplace support are also more likely to return from maternity leave.

On this page:

Strategies that help mothers continue breastfeeding include:

  • Time and space to express breast milk during the day
  • Paid family leave
  • On-site or nearby child care
  • A caregiver who brings baby to mom at work to breastfeed
  • Allowing babies in the workplace (see
  • Flexible work arrangements such as part-time work, flexible scheduling or extended family leave
  • Offering professional lactation services and support

For Employers

Breastfeeding policies

Employers find that having a breastfeeding policy is helpful. A breastfeeding policy can:

  • Ensure that all employees have access to consistent support of both reasonable time and private space for expressing milk;
  • Define the roles and responsibilities for both supervisors and employees;
  • Build a worksite culture that normalizes lactation support as an accepted part of work-life balance to ensure that moms do not face harassment or embarrassment; and
  • Allow information sharing during employee orientations and in employee handbooks.
Sample Policies

Lactation support

Many employers have found that having a lactation support program for their pregnant and breastfeeding employees is cost-effective. A lactation support program could include:

  • An employer-provided or subsidized breast pump;
  • Lactation consultation services paid by insurance or by employer;
  • Breastfeeding classes; or
  • A worksite breastfeeding support group.

Toolkits and resources

For Moms

You CAN breastfeed and work! Lots of moms breastfeed after going back to work or school. Here are some tips for making it easier.

During pregnancy

Tell your supervisor you plan to breastfeed and discuss the types of support you will need. Talking about your needs during pregnancy will give your supervisor time to make any arrangements that might be needed. You could also share the employer resources on this page with your supervisor.

  • For ideas on how to comfortably discuss your needs with your supervisor, check out Making it Work: For Moms (pdf). This toolkit has ideas of things you can say to your supervisor and to co-workers.

During maternity leave

  • Get breastfeeding off to a good start in the first month. Breastfeed exclusively before you go back to work or school, so your body will make plenty of milk.
  • Try to take at least 6 weeks maternity leave, if possible, so you can fully recover from childbirth.
  • Get a breast pump if you will be away from your baby often. Practice pumping your breast milk during times when your breasts feel fuller.
  • Store any pumped milk in small amounts (1 to 2 ounces). Your baby may not take a large amount at one feeding, and your milk is too valuable to waste!

Preparing baby

  • Start helping your baby learn to drink from a bottle about 2 weeks before you go back to work.
  • Ask someone else to offer the bottle. Babies often prefer to nurse when they are with mom.
  • Find a breastfeeding-friendly childcare provider.

Preparing for child care

Getting support from family and friends

  • Tell family members how important it is to support your decision to breastfeed.
  • Connect with friends who are breastfeeding for support, or join a mother’s group in your community, at work or school.

Breast Pumps and Milk Storage

Photo courtesy of USBC