Breastfeeding at Work: Do you know your rights?
Upon returning to work, many of us have become fast friends with our breast pumps. We have worked hard to find a pumping routine that works for our workplaces and our schedules, but this commitment has not been easy.
Today, MomsRising.org posted a great piece about pumping at work, highlighting the Surgeon General's Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding. And, it makes sense. Breastfeeding is linked to many positive health outcomes, including protecting mama & babe from illnesses, from post-partum depression, from the risk of obesity. And, with lots of us mamas now in the workplace, playing important roles as "wage-earners" in our households, we can't just stop breastfeeding just because we go to work.
Once at work, we need support to help us continue with our breastfeeding. We need a private place to pump, not a cold sometimes- or usually-vacant storage room where I tried pumping a few times. Not an unlocked conference room with blinds (are you sure no one can see in?) where I positioned a chair against the door while leaning forward because the electrical outlet was a good three-feet from the door that I was trying to protect. Not in the "quiet room" on the eleventh floor where employees sometimes went to nap, where there was no guarantee that it would be available, where it took about 10 minutes round-trip to get due to the inefficient elevators (that cuts into my productivity!). No, not there.
- A place to pump that is private
- A place in close proximity to your work area
- A place that is not a toilet stall or restroom
These are good things, but maybe not all of us know that this is actually a law for employers with more than 25 employees. If you need help understanding this law or help approaching your employer, the Nursing Mother's Council of Oregon is out there with a workplace lactation support program. You can even buy or rent pumps through them.
It is not easy, mamas. I say this as I am washing out all my pump parts, sterilizing valves and nozzles, checking twice that my pump tubes are in the proper place (as I have once left home without them). My wee one is 16 months and tiny, so I am still making him breastmilk while I am away at work. Our workplaces need to help us and support us in this task; the pumping is the hard part!
Have you had a hard time trying to navigate your workplace to find the right place, space, and time to pump? Please share. It helps to know we aren't alone.