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Breastfeeding breaks

Staff who are breastfeeding, after returning from maternity leave, are entitled to breastfeeding breaks at work for up to one hour per normal working day.

The breaks may be taken until the child’s second birthday, if needed.

Staff who are working reduced hours, or work longer days, can take the breaks on a pro-rata basis.

Breastfeeding policy for staff working in the Public Health Service (PDF, 300KB, 26 pages)

Amount of breastfeeding breaks you can take

You are entitled to time off at work for breastfeeding breaks of up to one hour per normal working day. This is in addition to your normal rest breaks.

Age of the child

You can take breastfeeding breaks up until your child’s second birthday, if needed.

Ways you can take your breastfeeding breaks

Breastfeeding breaks may be taken in the form of:

  • one break of 60 minutes
  • two breaks of 30 minutes each
  • three breaks of 20 minutes each

Or in a manner as agreed by you and your manager.

If no breastfeeding facilities exist in the workplace, you may reduce your working day by one hour without loss of pay. This arrangement will need to be agreed with your line manager, in so far as is possible, to fit within the demands of the service.

Breastfeeding breaks can be taken on each working day. The breaks cannot be carried forward or banked as a further type of leave.

Change in your breastfeeding needs

You must let your manager know if your needs change. For example, if you need to change how your breaks are taken to maximise your milk supply or you have stopped breastfeeding and no longer need breastfeeding breaks.

Breastfeeding facilities

A room will be made available to you to express your breast milk. This room may be used for other uses provided that another room is available if that space is in use. For example office, consultation room, treatment room, meeting room or staff room spaces.

The room may be the place you normally work, provided the room:

  • has adequate privacy
  • is clean
  • is comfortable for you

Toilet facilities are not appropriate for women to breastfeed or to express their breast milk.

Managers review of breastfeeding breaks

It is important for staff who continue to breastfeed after returning to work to express breast milk whilst at work. This is to keep up their milk supply and reduce the risk of infection due to being separated from their baby.

Line managers should review, in the first month of the staff member returning to work, how breastfeeding breaks are going.

Managers should be supportive of their staff member's request for changes to the breaks. For example, to change from two thirty-minute breaks to three twenty-minute breaks.

You should review breastfeeding breaks every three months, or more often as staff breastfeeding needs change. For example, to review if the breastfeeding facilities continue to be suitable or if your staff member continues to need the breaks at work.

How to Apply

You should apply using the Breastfeeding breaks application form HR117 (Word, 153KB, 4 pages) at least four weeks before you plan to return to work or take breastfeeding breaks.

Before you come back to work, you and your manager will agree how the breastfeeding breaks will be taken. Your manager will need to see proof of your child’s date of birth. This is part of the application process to identify when breastfeeding breaks will end.

Related document

HR Circular 006/2021 - Breastfeeding policy for staff working in the Public Health Service (PDF, 501KB, 3 pages)

National HR Employee Helpdesk

Phone: 1800 444 925


The helpdesk is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 12 noon

National Breastfeeding Coordinator Contact