Negotiating Support

In recent years, the proportion of employees with some form of family responsibilities has grown, and employers have been responding to this trend with family friendly policies and practices. Requesting breaks or space for breastfeeding fits with what many top employers are doing anyway in supporting staff’s caring responsibilities or achieving a work-life balance. However the introduction of breastfeeding breaks and facilities may be new to some organisations; employers and managers may not have considered this specific scenario previously.


If you have an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Officer, Human Resources Group or Personnel Group, or are a member of a union, you may want to talk with them first about the company’s breastfeeding policies before discussing with your employer.


Below is some helpful information and tips that will assist you in discussing the issue with your employer:


  • Know your entitlements: The Legislation, terms of employment, and relevant company policies and practices.
  • Discuss your overall wishes well in advance (before you go on leave). Discuss your options during your leave, and then your more specific needs in plenty of time before you return to work.
  • Explain your needs positively and state that you want to be able to work and breastfeed at the same time. Don’t apologise for breastfeeding!
  • Understand areas of common ground between you and your employer. You want a job where you can be successful and happy. Your employer wants you to be successful and happy in the job so you will be productive and continue to work there.
  • Be the one to frame the issue as this will often determine the type of solution devised. An issue that is presented as a problem, for example, “lack of a dedicated breastfeeding room” is more likely to result in a different or less desirable solution than the same issue defined as, “need for some private space for 15 minutes twice a day”.
  • If you can give an estimated time frame for your request e.g. “I expect to be feeding three times a day for the next 3 months and then probably twice per day for 6 months.” This will help your employer understand how much time you need, and in many cases it won't be as much as they might have thought!
  • Don’t be pressured into accepting conditions you’re not happy with. If you do feel pressured, ask for some time to think about it.
  • Suggest your preferred options for combining breastfeeding and work. You may be the first woman to have requested workplace flexibility so that you can breastfeed, and it may therefore be that initially the organisation does not know how to react.
  • If you feel comfortable continue to be open with your employer about your needs. Review the situation with them regularly.