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Breastfeeding in the workplace


two twin baby girls look into the camera while laying down
Natasha’s twin girls at three months. Natasha’s employer supported her to pump her milk when she went back to work at the hospital in Masset.

Haida Gwaii employer supports parent’s breastfeeding goals

Oct 1-7 was Breastfeeding Week in Canada. As a nurse with a passion for infant feeding, this year’s theme, “Protect breastfeeding: A shared responsibility,” hit home for me. Along these lines, Northern Health Stories has recently featured a few local health care providers who help get infant feeding off to a good start.

But breastfeeding is not just for newborns. In fact, it’s recommended to two years and beyond, for as long as mother/parent and child wish to continue. So, what steps can be taken to protect breastfeeding for older infants and toddlers? What does breastfeeding look like when mothers/parents return to work?

Getting ready to return to work

With new routines and time apart, going back to work after having a baby can be stressful. I spoke with my colleague Natasha Ning, a nurse at the Northern Haida Gwaii Hospital and Health Centre in Masset, and a mom to three young children. She told me about this shift for her family. Her twin girls were born in 2017, and with support they got over some early struggles with breastfeeding and got into a good routine. When she was getting ready to return to work only six months later, she wasn’t ready to stop nursing. “My goal was to nurse them for the same length of time I had nursed my eldest child,” she said.

Talking with her manager

To prepare for her return to work, Natasha had a chat with her manager about her goal to continue breastfeeding. Together, they came up with plan that would best support her.

“My manager was 100% supportive that I would be pumping on my breaks,” she says, adding that her coworkers were also understanding. “They knew that I’d be using part of the fridge to store pumped breast milk, and helped me to take my breaks on time.”

Making a plan to reach her goals

By having a plan in place before returning to work, Natasha was able to pump and store her milk during her day. Using the staff break room (with a sign on the door), she had a private and comfy space where she could pump freely.

“My husband would feed this milk in bottles while I was at work,” she says, “and then I would nurse the twins when I was home.”

This approach helped Natasha to meet her feeding goals. “I was able to keep pumping at work until I was ready to wean the twins. I am so grateful to have been supported in my breastfeeding journey and to have completed that journey on my own terms.”

Thank you, Natasha, for sharing your story!

Learn more about continuing to breastfeed when returning to work

  • Breastfeeding is a human right protected by the BC Human Rights Code. We encourage Northern businesses and organizations to prominently display the breastfeeding-friendly spaces decal. Show your commitment by ordering yours today.
  • In BC, employers must make reasonable efforts to allow parents to nurse or express their milk at work. To see what this could look like in practice, see these guides from the City of Vancouver and the City of Toronto.
  • With older infants and toddlers, parents may not need to pump their milk at work, if there’s time to breastfeed at other points in the day.
  • Parents who are away from their young children for long hours or even days at a time will find that as well as providing milk to meet their children’s needs, pumping helps protect their milk supply. Learn more about expressing and storing milk.
  • If children are in child care, parents can discuss their feeding goals with the facility manager and staff. There are many ways they can help: see Breastfeeding is easier with support: What child care providers can do (Northern Health Stories).