Mums forced to express milk in toilets at work

Study shows problems faced by breastfeeding mums on return to work.

Breastfeeding mums at work


One in three breastfeeding mums are being forced to use a toilet to express milk when they return to work, according to a new study which looks at the problems faced by breastfeeding mums at work.

The survey of 2,000 breastfeeding mums who have had a baby within the last five years was commissioned by law firm Slater and Gordon. It found 56 percent of breastfeeding mums say they’ve had to express milk in unsuitable places, including the staff room (18 percent), their car (14 percent) and their desk (11 percent).

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

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

Lack of facilities

Currently, the law does not require an employer to grant paid breaks from a job in order to breastfeed or to express milk for storage. The law only states that breastfeeding mothers should have a place to rest.

While the survey showed many bosses seemed supportive, half of breastfeeding mums returning to work said their employer didn’t know what to do, didn’t have any facilities or felt embarrassed by the conversation.

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.”


Seven in 10 of the women surveyed said their employer never broached the subject before they returned to work, leaving them to raise the issue themselves, but 29 percent of mums said they were too embarrassed to have a conversation about breastfeeding.

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

One in 10 mothers said they had developed mastitis, an infection caused by a build-up of milk.

One in three said the issues around breastfeeding at work made them feel anxious and stressed and one in 10 went as far as to say it made them feel ‘side-lined’.

Chan added: “Employers need to recognise that supporting women with breastfeeding is not only a matter of safeguarding their health and well-being and that of their child, but will undoubtedly mean returning mothers feel supported and more engaged, which in turn will help employers retain key talent.”


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