Guidance for doctors who are pregnant or breastfeeding

Breastfeeding

Updated: Tuesday 9 July 2024

Inadequate provision for breastfeeding, which is widespread within the NHS, is associated with significant health risks for the breastfeeding parent. These include:

  • An increased risk of mastitis and breast abscess
  • Reduction in milk supply, leading to earlier cessation of breastfeeding with the consequent long term health implications for the breastfeeding parent
  • Risks to the baby include reduction in milk supply, and the long term health implications of earlier cessation of breastfeeding for the baby.

Obligations of an employer regarding facilitating breastfeeding

1. A breastfeeding doctor is entitled to:

  • a safe place to pump and store milk
  • more frequent or longer rest breaks where requested.

Employers must provide a suitable area where breastfeeding doctors can rest. These facilities should:

  • include somewhere to lie down if necessary;
  • be hygienic and private so they can express milk if they choose to – toilets are not a suitable place for this;
  • include somewhere to store their milk, for example a fridge.

It is incumbent upon the employer to ensure the doctor’s workplace is equipped with these facilities in order to meet the requirements for the doctor to continue to work safely in their workplace as set out by any risk assessment, and ensure new parents can return to work safely and ensure they can safely breastfeed their child/children when required.

Recommended adjustments for breastfeeding

On top of what employers are obligated to do, the BMA has also identified adjustments that would significantly improve the current situation for doctors are breastfeeding their child/children.

The BMA recommends that the breastfeeding doctor should:

  • have the right to request exemption from night shifts and long shifts (>10 hours), for as long as they are breastfeeding overnight, as a minimum until the child is one year old.
  • be supported to take protected breaks to express and/or breastfeed. During this time arrangements should be made for any emergency duties to be covered by other doctors.