If you are planning on breast pumping at work, you may have a lot of questions about your rights, the schedule, where to pump and how to make it work. However, once you get the hang of pumping breast milk at work a few times, it isn’t as difficult or overwhelming as it may seem.
The Affordable Care Act went into effect in 2010, including an amendment to section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which is also known as the FLSA. This amendment requires employers to provide a safe, private area for employees to pump milk in the workplace. The guidelines state that this area cannot be the restroom and must be free of intrusion from other employees or the public.
What this means is that you now have the right to comfortably pump in a private setting as long as your employer is bound by the FLSA, and your employer must give you adequate break time to pump as needed. The only way for a company to become exempt is to prove that they employ fewer than 50 people and would face a hardship if they allowed breastfeeding mothers to take breaks for the expression of milk.
Even with this law in place, there are challenges that some women face when pumping at work. These following tips will give you the information needed to make the transition back to work more comfortable for everyone involved.
Who Should You Tell That You Plan on Breast Pumping at Work?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services created the Business Case for Breastfeeding to deliver important information to breast-pumping employees while making it easier for businesses to comply with the law. This includes the Employees’ Guide to Breastfeeding and Working, which makes it clear that employees should work with their supervisors when it comes to pumping at work. If you don’t have a supervisor, select the most appropriate member of the administration to discuss this issue.
The Employees’ Guide suggests that you scope out your workplace first. If your company doesn’t already have a reserved lactation room, find a little-used space with an electrical outlet and a lock on the door. You can then approach your supervisor with the request for reasonable pumping breaks and the use of that space.
If your supervisor suggests that you use the bathroom, let them know that bathrooms typically don’t have electrical outlets in the stalls and are unsanitary environments for pumping. The law backs you up on this issue, so print it out and take it in if needed.
Where Should You Pump?
Many large companies are now creating comfortable lactation rooms that are reserved for breastfeeding mothers interesting in pumping breast milk at work. If your company has yet to implement a lactation program, you may ask other breastfeeding mothers what space they use when pumping at work. If you’re alone in this adventure, then you may have to work with your supervisor to determine the most private and comfortable place.
It’s common for women to use closets, meeting rooms, training rooms, or any other space that isn’t occupied most of the time when pumping breast milk at work. As long as you can get comfortable and have access to an electrical outlet, any sanitary and private space will do. Just make sure that you can lock the door and that your supervisor knows what you’re doing inside the room.
What Should You Bring When Pumping Breast Milk at Work?
Moms suggest bringing the following in your breast pump bag when breast pumping at work:
- your breast pump,
- breast milk bags or bottles to hold your expressed milk,
- a fresh set of nursing pads,
- wipes, a washcloth or towel in case of spills or messes.
In addition, breast milk must stay cold, so either bring an insulated cooler with ice packs or get your supervisor’s permission to store the milk in the employee refrigerator or freezer. There are a few reasons that you may feel more comfortable keeping the milk at your desk or in your personal office:
- This minimizes the chance that someone may tamper with the milk.
- You may forget to take the milk home at the end of the day if its stored in the break room.
- If your company cleans out the employee refrigerator on a weekly or monthly basis, you don’t want to risk your milk getting thrown out accidentally.
Most breast pump bags include insulated space to hold bottles or breast milk bags, so it isn’t difficult to carry a cooler with ice packs to work.
When Should You Pump? What Pumping Schedule Works Best?
Most babies consume no more than an average of three ounces of breast milk per hour. You can use that guideline to determine how much milk you may need to express during a workday. If you have already established a healthy milk stash at home, then you may get away with expressing a little less some days. If you know about how much milk you can pump in a 10 or 15-minute break, you can determine how many breaks you may need to take in order to collect enough milk to keep the stash going strong and your baby’s belly full.
Most women only need a few pump breaks during an eight-hour shift, and most can do the job within 15 minutes. You may choose to pump during your lunch break or on standard 15-minute breaks that are given to all employees, but you will still need to let your employer know that you may need an additional break or two at times.
Some women prefer to pump on a schedule while others consider this an as-needed task. You will make this determination based on the nature of your work and your personality. Some busy professionals must pump when they get the chance and cannot stick to a routine schedule. Other women work their pump breaks into their daily workflow, scheduling this task just as they would a professional meeting.
Remember that talk you had with your employer when you first returned to work? That talk should have given you the information you need to decide on a suitable pumping schedule. You should know if you will need to work overtime to make up for pumping breaks or if your employer prefers that you pump at certain times so as not to interfere with the flow of business.
While your employer is required to give you adequate break time to pump, they are not required to pay you for added breaks. Create your personal schedule according to the information collected from your employer and the your body’s needs.
Why Bother Breast Pumping at Work?
Research has proven that breastfed babies are healthier than formula-fed babies (OSG, 2007). They get fewer infections and spend less time in the hospital, which means that parents of breastfed babies often miss fewer days of work. This is due to powerful breast milk antibodies and other nourishing components that cannot be duplicated by formula. Your milk keeps your baby healthy and increases the chances of you working consistently and keeping your job.
In addition, pumping breast milk at work:
- Protects your milk supply so your milk does not dry up and become unavailable to your baby when you are NOT working. Going too long without nursing or pumping on a regular basis can sometimes make your milk dry up completely.
- Helps reduce the possibility of breast engorgement when moms are away from their babies.
- Ensures that your baby enjoys breast milk for all feedings even when you’re not with the baby.
- Gives you the pleasure of continuing to breastfeed when you are with your baby, and that means valuable time bonding with your little one.
Breast pumping at work may not be glamorous or convenient, but it is your right and privilege as a mom to be able to able to provide your baby with milk as long as you want to keep doing it.
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