Third of breastfeeding mothers 'forced to use toilet' to express milk at work

Updated: Feb 26, 2019

UK poll shows problems finding suitable place means 30% stop earlier than they want

Press AssociationPublished:05:31 Thu 21 February 2019

One in three breastfeeding mothers have been forced to use a toilet to express milk after they return to work, according to a survey.

More than half said they have had to express in an unsuitable place, including the staffroom, their car or at their desk and highlighted a lack of workplace support after having a baby.

Breast is best for everyone in the workplace – not only new mothers

As a result, almost a third said they had experienced problems while trying to express, including issues around supply, infections and anxiety.


These difficulties resulted in 30% of mothers stopping expressing earlier than they would have liked.

One 36-year-old pharmaceutical worker, who asked to remain anonymous because she feared losing her job, said her employer had not provided adequate facilities to express milk while she was at work.

The mother-of-one said: “At head office there isn’t a specific room to use, so I have to try and find an empty office or conference room, which don’t have locks or any privacy. I’ve had to use the toilets on many occasions.

“Sometimes I’ve just gone back to the car park and expressed in my car. It’s not acceptable but I don’t really have a choice.”

Employment law states breastfeeding staff should have a place to rest, but there is no requirement for workers to have paid breaks to express milk or feed their baby.

Half of breastfeeding mothers said their bosses did not know what to do, had no facilities or felt embarrassed by the conversation, according to the survey by the law firm Slater and Gordon.

One of the firm’s employment law specialists, Paula Chan, said: “This research is concerning – 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.”

The anonymous worker also said there were no storage facilities for her expressed milk, so it had to be thrown away sometimes, which she said was “heartbreaking”.

She added: “There was a time when I first started with the company and I could feel myself lactating.

“I hadn’t had the chance to express before the meeting had started and ended up leaking all over my shirt. I had to spend the rest of the meeting trying to cover the wet stains with my blazer.

“I didn’t feel I was able to leave and just sat there. It was so embarrassing.”

The research polled 2,000 breastfeeding mothers who had had a baby within the last five years.

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