Breastfeeding-Friendly Workplaces

Returning to work after having a baby may be a stressful and difficult time. Continuing to breastfeed has many benefits for both mother and child as well as the employer. 

In Ontario, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers are protected from discrimination under the Ontario Human Rights Commission. This includes the right to be accommodated when you return to work so that mothers can continue to breastfeed.

When the time comes to return to work, it helps to be prepared.

For mothers returning to work 

Questions to consider when planning your return to work:

  • Is your workplace close to home or your childcare provider?
  • Is your employer supportive of breastfeeding?
  • Can you have your child with you at work?
  • Can you go to your child to breastfeed at lunch and on breaks?
  • Can someone bring your child to you at work so you can breastfeed them?
  • Are there facilities at work where you can pump and refrigerate your milk?
  • Can you take an insulated cooler with ice packs to work?
  • Does your job allow working from home, part-time or flexible work hours?

Tips to help you return to work:

  • Consider meeting with your employer before returning to work so that you can discuss your breastfeeding plan.
  • Talk to other mothers who continued breastfeeding after returning to work to learn about their strategies.
  • Practise expressing your breast milk before returning to work.
  • Breastfeed before you leave and when you get home from work.
  • Store your expressed milk in a refrigerator or a cooler bag with ice packs.
  • Leave your expressed milk with your child's caregiver while you are at work.

For more information, see Returning to Work and Breastfeeding Checklist for Employees or visit Best Start - Returning to Work After Baby

For employers

It is in the employer’s best interest to support employees returning to work to continue to breastfeed for as long as they are able to.

Benefits for employers include:

  • Lower absenteeism: breastfeeding is good for a child’s immune system. Parents will miss fewer days as a result of caring for a sick child.
  • Lower health care costs to extended health plans: research shows that babies who are not breastfed have more physician visits and more hospital stays than those who are breastfed.
  • Higher productivity and loyalty: mothers who work in breastfeeding friendly work environments have more peace of mind, decreased stress, and improved productivity.
  • Improved public relations: by providing a program to support breastfeeding employees, your ability to recruit talented staff will be enhanced.

The toolkit includes:

  • information for both large and small businesses
  • a business case for promoting breastfeeding in your workplace
  • a sample policy
  • ideas for promoting the program
  • other resources for both the employer and employee to use

If you or your employer would like more information on breastfeeding friendly workplaces, please see the Creating a Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace Strategy toolkit which has several helpful ideas to get you started.

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