Breastfeeding at Work or School

Continuing breastfeeding when you must return to work or school can present new challenges. The healthiest thing for your baby is for you to continue to provide them with breastmilk if at all possible. 

The information on this page can help you make the transition back to your pre-baby responsibilities without having to give up your breastfeeding goals. Our Breastfeeding Peer Counselor can also help you prepare for this transition, including giving you tips for talking to your employer.

Planning for Breastfeeding When Away from Your Baby (En Español)

Breastfeeding Moms Respond to Questions About Going Back to Work or School

Know Your Rights

You have a legal right in Maryland to breastfeed anywhere, including in public, at work or school, and on public transportation. A person may not restrict or limit the right of a parent to breastfeed their child.

If you experience a situation in which your right to breastfeed is challenged, you can report noncompliance with the Maryland law to the Maryland Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division. The Consumer Hotline is 410-528-8662. You can also file a complaint by e-mail to consumer@oag.state.md.us, or online at www.oag.state.md.us/consumer.

Additionally, the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide breastfeeding employees reasonable break time every time they need to express milk, for one year after the child’s birth. However, the employer is not required to compensate you during the break periods. For these employers, they must also provide a place, other than a bathroom, for you to express breast milk.  

Employers with less than 50 employees are strongly encouraged to also provide breaks and dedicated pumping space. However, if doing so would impose undue hardship, the employer is not legally required to do so, but must receive an exemption from the federal government.

If you believe that your employer is not following the break time for nursing mothers requirement, you can call 1-866-487-9243. You will be directed to the nearest Wage and Hour Division office for assistance.

Visit the Maryland WIC website for more information.

Talking to Your Employer

We recommend talking to your employer (either your boss or a human resources staff member) about your breastfeeding goals before you go on maternity leave. This gives them time to prepare to support you, including identifying an appropriate location where you can pump. If you can’t talk to them before you leave, talk to them as soon as you are back, or call them a couple of days ahead of your return to work.

While you may feel nervous about having this conversation, keep in mind that breastfeeding is good for your employer too. Parents who breastfeed have healthier babies and because of that, they miss work less often and have lower healthcare costs. You can share with your supervisor that our website has a section dedicated to helping businesses understand why supporting breastfeeding is good for them and how they can create a family-friendly workplace.

The Maryland WIC website also has great information about continuing to breastfeed while at work or school.

Learn more:

Pumping & Bottle Feeding

Pumping and partial bottle feeding are key strategies to help you continue to provide your baby with the health benefits your breastmilk provides when you must return to work or school. It is important for your baby’s safety that you properly clean your breast pump and its parts, as well as the baby’s bottles, and store your breastmilk safely. 

There are many options for getting a breast pump. Talk with your healthcare provider about their ability to place an order or prescription for a pump through your health insurance. If you can’t get a breast pump through insurance, we may be able to lend you a pump. Talk with our Breastfeeding Peer Counselor about getting a pump that is right for you.

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