A third of breastfeeding mothers have been forced to use the toilets to express milk on their return to work, a new study has revealed.
The survey, carried out by law firm Slater and Gordon, looked at 2,000 breastfeeding mothers to come to the worrying conclusions.
They also found that in seven in 10 cases on a mother’s return to work their employer did not raise the issue and 29 per cent of employees were too embarrassed to bring it up themselves.
Half of those surveyed said that their employer did not know what to offer them on their return to work, did not have any suitable facilities for expressing or acted embarrassed if the issue was raised.
Legally, an employer does no have to provide work breaks for breastfeeding employees to express milk or storage for expressed milk, but breastfeeding mothers must be given an appropriate place to rest.
‘This research is concerning,’ said Paula Chan, an employment lawyer at Slater and Gordon, ‘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.’
A third of those studied said that they felt anxious or stressed at the lack of suitable facilities to express milk and one in ten even developed mastitis, a painful condition that can be caused by improper breastfeeding.
The survey also found that many women experienced ‘embarrassing’ consequences when they weren’t able to express milk when they needed to.
22 per cent reported leaks, 13 per cent said that they were excluded from conversations and 11 per cent said that they had to miss important meetings.
‘Employers need to recognise that supporting women with breastfeeding is not only a matter of safeguarding their health and wellbeing and that of their child,’ said Paula, ‘but will undoubtedly mean returning mothers feel supported and more engaged, which in turn will help employers retain key talent.’