Breastfeeding at work no problem for some

Ania Sawicka works at Mamaway in Burwood with her 8 month daughter, Sofia, in a sling. She is serving Lani Swann with ...
Ania Sawicka works at Mamaway in Burwood with her 8 month daughter, Sofia, in a sling. She is serving Lani Swann with her son, Israel, on right. Photo: Janie Barrett

There are just two known workplaces like it in Australia - where a mother can breastfeed on the job and keep her baby by her side while she works.

Mamaway, a maternity-wear company founded by a mother of three who recently arrived in Australia, was accredited this week as a breastfeeding-friendly workplace.

Out of 19 employees in Australia, seven have opted to breastfeed while working. One is Ania Sawicka, a new mother who happily feeds her eight-month-old, Sofia, while sitting on a sofa in front of the fitting rooms at Mamaway's store in Burwood.

"I don't feel like I'm doing something wrong," said the 34-year-old, who returned to work six months after her daughter's birth.

"I can get all this support. No one is looking at me in a different way."

When Sofia is not being fed, Ms Sawicka, who works three days a week, will often carry her in a sling as she serves customers. The baby often interacts with customers and their children, and also sleeps in her pram. 

Ms Sawicka said she hadn't even been thinking of returning to work, but that the conditions had made all the difference. The Australian Breastfeeding Association says many other women are driven by financial pressures.

"More and more women are returning to work when their babies are still breastfeeding," the association's breastfeeding-friendly workplace program national manager, Tracey Kelly, said. She knows of many mothers who were back at work full-time within six weeks of giving birth.

Just one other Australian workplace allowed mothers to breastfeed and keep their children with them at work, a Sydney public relations firm whose director was worried she'd lose all her staff when some fell pregnant.


"There's very few companies like that," Ms Kelly said. "That's the extreme. That's fantastic."

The workplace accreditation program has been running for a little over a decade. More than 100 companies and organisations are registered, and a further 40 - including the Royal Australian Air Force - are in the process of joining.

"If a company is accredited, then a woman is more likely to ask for support," Ms Kelly said.

She knew saleswomen who would find a quiet spot on the roadside to express milk, then carry on driving. Other organisations make arrangements for mothers to perform office-based duties while they are breastfeeding, rather than sending them out on the road to feed their child, she said.

Under equal-opportunity laws, workplaces are required to assist mothers to return to work and provide time and space for them to express breast milk. It has been illegal to discriminate against breastfeeding women since mid-2011.

Talk to other women who breastfeed - and get advice and support - in the Essential Baby forum