California Working Mom Rights and Tips for Going Back to Work

Returning to work after having a baby can be very overwhelming for mothers as they navigate the logistics, as well as the emotions they experience, entering this new role of working mom. Add breastfeeding into the mix and you open a flood gate of questions regarding milk supply, pumping, introducing a bottle, storage guidelines, and how to reconcile the role of employee with the role of breastmilk provider. Here at the San Diego Breastfeeding Center, we understand the challenges breastfeeding moms face when returning to work and we are here to help!


Breastfeeding Laws Related to Working

As you get ready to return to work, you are probably wondering what laws are in place to protect your rights as a breastfeeding mother, to either express breastmilk or breastfeed your baby during your work day. California Labor Code stipulates that every employer must provide a “reasonable amount of break time to accommodate an employee desiring to express breastmilk;” and furthermore that the employer must provide a space, that is NOT a bathroom, for the employee to use for milk expression. The following link outlines what is covered under the law.

We understand that the wording of the law is somewhat vague and that is because every work environment is different and what is “reasonable” for one situation may not work well for the next situation. It is important to remember that communication is key. Talk to your supervisor or to someone from the human resources department, before returning to work, about your needs and come up with a plan ahead of time.

Are you in the military and planning to continue breastfeeding your baby after you return to duty? The following websites contain many resources for military moms, including an overview of the breastfeeding policies for the various services of the military, as well as the newly updated policy on breast pump coverage.

Are you a teacher or someone who works on campus in a school? Although we have yet to find specific policies for every school district, we wanted to share this 2011 resolution from the San Diego Unified School District. The resolution encourages the creation of supportive work environments for employees who breastfeed, accomplished by building a positive atmosphere and providing accommodations to aid them in continuing to breastfeed while working.$file/Resolution-Lactation%20Accommodation,%207-12-11.pdf

Getting a Breast Pump from Your Insurance Company

If you haven’t already received a breast pump from your insurance company to use once you return to work, you may want to review the following link, which discusses the Affordable Care Act’s legislation regarding insurance coverage of breastfeeding supplies.


Preparing to Go Back to Work

In a few weeks you are returning to work and it’s time to get all your ducks in a row, so to speak. You’ve read over your rights, secured childcare, and made the decision to continue to breastfeed while working, so now what? We hope you find this step by step guide to preparing yourself, your baby, and your employer for your return to work helpful.

Step 1: Set up a meeting with your boss and HR while on maternity leave. At this meeting you will discuss the logistics of pumping at work. Where will you pump? How many pumping breaks are you asking for? How much time do you need to pump? The following link provides an abundance of information to help problem-solve a variety of work environments’ logistics issues. Visit the website before your meeting and click on the job link which most closely resembles your line of work. Read over the suggestions and think ahead about strategies that will work for you in the environment you work in.

Step 2: After your baby is over two weeks old, begin pumping once a day in order to both gather breastmilk (to be used when you introduce a bottle to your baby) and familiarize yourself with your pump. You should feel comfortable assembling and disassembling your various pump parts and know what pump setting feels best to pump on so you are able to spend more time expressing breastmilk during your break and less time setting up your pump. Many moms will continue to pump after their first morning breastfeeding session to stock away some milk in the freezer. The San Diego Breastfeeding Center has several blog articles and Boob Group episodes which discuss pumping logistics and tips.

Getting the Most Milk Out While Pumping

How Can I Pump Enough for my Baby When I’m at Work

The Boob Group: Back to Work Series

Step 3: Introduce a bottle to your baby. This is ideally done when baby is between 4-6 weeks of age. If baby is older than 6 weeks and you haven’t introduced a bottle yet, don’t stress, just consider doing it sooner rather than later so the transition is as smooth as possible. Once you have introduced a bottle, continue to offer one a few times a week to keep it as part of your baby’s feeding routine. This way it decreases the risk of your baby refusing a bottle when you return to work. There is much to consider when it comes to bottle-feeding the breastfed baby. Take a look at this link for helpful information on paced bottle-feeding.

Step 4: If possible, have a trial run about a week before you go back to work. Leave your baby with your childcare provider for a few hours and spend this time away from your house. Try to practice pumping somewhere other than your own home. Even if you simply go out to lunch with a friend and then pump at her house, you will get a chance to experience what it will be like pumping at work.


Frequently Asked Questions

My Baby Won't Take a Bottle, Now What?

How and When Should I Introduce a Bottle to my Breastfed Infant to Prepare for my Return to Work?

My Expressed Breast Milk Smells Strange.  Do I Have Excess Lipase?

My Pump Broke.  What Do I Do?

I am not Pumping Enough Breastmilk at Work.  How Can I Produce More?

What are some Tips for How to Pump Efficiently at Work and Maximize my Pumping Sessions?



Print a breastfeeding law card to carry with you in case you run into people who need to be educated about the rights of breastfeeding mothers.

Attend our Breastfeeding for the Working Mom class!

Schedule a Returning to Work Consultation. If you are unable to attend our class or find yourself having difficulties once you are back to work, you can book a one-on-one consultation with one of our IBCLCs. We are available in person, by phone, or by Skype/Facetime.

Don’t forget about our collection of blog posts, articles, and Boob Group episodes! We have covered a wide range of topics and continue to add more monthly. We hope you find them helpful in answering your questions and giving you tools to help make your breastfeeding journey a pleasant one.