“My child was nursing frequently before I went back to work,” said mom Catherine. “I knew going back to work, my office did not have the proper accommodations for all the breast milk I had to pump to keep up with my baby’s demand during the day.” This is the story of every new working mom.
It’s such a painful ordeal to have to go back to work soon after your baby is born. So many things swarm through your mind, from wanting longer maternity leave to thinking “will my baby be safe without me?” If you are a nursing mom, there’s even more anxiety trying to navigate your work place with engorged breasts and making time between meetings to breast pump. In a perfect world everyone would have workplace accommodations to breast pump and refrigerate your breast milk, but many moms experience what Catherine does.
The Affordable Care Act requires companies, or employers with more than 50 employees, to provide a suitable facility and adequate time for a lactating woman to use for expressing breast milk. Many companies have either not established a workplace culture for nursing moms, or they do not know that this is required by law to provide a private, clean space for moms to express their breast milk.
There is also confusion about what a nursing space looks like. The Affordable Care Act also states the space provided to lactating moms must not be a bathroom. Some companies will offer a bathroom as a place to pump. What they do not realize is the bathroom has fecal matter in the air which is dispersed after each flush. But what it comes down to is if we are not willing to prepare a meal for ourselves in a bathroom why would we prepare a meal for a baby in a bathroom?
According to a new study conducted by the University of Minnesota fewer than half of U.S. nursing mothers have access to adequate workplace accommodations while they are breastfeeding. They found that 40% of the women surveyed indicated they had both time to pump and were able to use a private space that was not also a restroom. The study also suggests that lower income women were less likely to have access to proper pumping accommodations.
It is recommended by Moms Pump Here that a nursing or lactation space at minimum should have privacy, a comfortable chair, table, outlet and sink nearby. If a company has a break room for employees that meets these recommendations the employer should schedule use time (in 30 minute time frames) for the pumping mom when she will not be interrupted.
And still, because this is not a perfect world, it is suggested women be proactive going back to work by sharing the requirements of the Affordable Care Act with their employer and discussing affordable options for a company, with less than 50 employees, which meet the needs of the nursing mom. Remember, you are your best advocate.
On that note, here are some tips lactating moms can use at their 9 to 5:
- Before going on maternity leave discuss your options for when you come back to work. Be open and honest with your employer about your needs and if the work space does not have room for your pumping needs discuss compromises. Also, discuss times you can pump.
- Print out a copy of the Affordable Care Act and have it handy to refer to when going back to work.
- Do some recon of your workplace to see what spaces are available for you to breast pump. What amenities are available to you? If there is no fridge to hold your breast milk you will have to bring a cooler pack to hold the milk.
- If your workplace has less than 50 employees and there is no space to pump, use the Moms Pump Here Nursing Room Locator App to find a location nearby you can go to.
- Have a lactation work kit to make your breast pumping experience more pleasant. In your pump bag include: a magazine to read, head phones (with your favorite playlist programmed on your phone), baby wipes and rag to clean up any mess, pumping cover if needed, extra work shirt in case you have a spill, a snack, calming lotion to calm your mind and a picture of your baby for encouragement.
- You are not alone. Other women have gone through what you are going through. If you need support reach out to a lactation consultant or your local breastfeeding group for any questions you have.