Talking to Your Employer About Breastfeeding: What to Say

August 20, 2013

Working moms already have a lot to think about, not to mention the anxiety that often comes along with talking to an employer about breastfeeding. You might be preparing to welcome your little one into the world and are making arrangements for your maternity leave. Maybe you’re about to return to work and still need to approach the subject with your employer. Or, you may have started a new job after your little one was born – no matter what the situation is or what your relationship is with your employer, it’s totally understandable that you might not be too thrilled about bringing up the topic of your breasts and pumping milk for your baby.

It’s important to know your rights and do your research. Educate yourself about Section 4207 of the Affordable Care Act, which requires employers to provide reasonable break time and a private, non-bathroom place for nursing mothers to pump for one year after their baby’s birth. Develop a plan so you have an idea of what your routine will be for pumping at work. If you’re able, include a revised schedule for when your little one is a bit older and you can pump less often. Show that you have done your research and are prepared for this change in your schedule.

Once you’ve gathered all the information you need, it’s time to get talking and set yourself up for breastfeeding success. Here’s where to start and what to say:

Talk to your coworkers – because every work environment is different, fellow moms might have some unique insights on the challenges you may face, as well as tips for successfully and comfortably pumping in your specific place of work. Ask:

  • How supportive would you say the management here is of breastfeeding moms?
  • Where did you pump? Were you comfortable?
  • I’m about to talk to management. How did your talk go with them when you asked about pumping at work?

If you have coworkers who are pregnant or breastfeeding, too, you might consider meeting with your boss together to make arrangements.

Talk to your HR department, if you have one. Some larger companies may even have an employee wellness program or other guidelines in place that can support you in your breastfeeding journey.

Schedule a meeting with your boss or write a letter or email to discuss your return. If needed, consider getting a letter from your physician that states that they have recommended you continue breastfeeding. Ask:

  • When I return to work, I plan to use a breast pump. Can you tell me more about how the company will support me?
  • Here is my schedule of when I’ll need to pump. I’ll also need a private space to do so. Can you tell me where this will be?

You can also explain why breastfeeding is important to you. Keep in mind that some employers might not know anything about breastfeeding and its many benefits. It might help to share some facts with them about how breastfeeding can make a big difference – for your little one, your family, and your workplace.

Even if the conversation is a little uncomfortable, know that you’re doing what’s best for you and your baby. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters.

What did you say to your employer and how did the conversation go? Share your experience and advice for other moms in the comments below.

6 thoughts on “Talking to Your Employer About Breastfeeding: What to Say

  1. Nice article. I have been very fortunate that with both my first child and now my second, I’ve had really nice accommodations (my own office with a door I can shut) and understandable employers. I know how blessed I am. I work in healthcare and travel some for my job. I recently visited a HOSPITAL to do some work for them and when I asked for a place to pump the woman gave me my “very own private bathroom with a lock on it and a sink too!”. It was a bathroom. A bathroom with no hooks to hang my pump bag or my coat. No wall plugs. A dirty toilet… Needless to say, I quickly found other accommodations while I was working there.

    • Hi Shawn,

      We’re so happy to hear that you’ve had the support of your employers and nice accommodations for pumping. It’s frustrating that some people still see bathrooms as acceptable places for moms to express milk! Thanks for sharing your story.

      – Kathy

  2. Gabriela Anderson says:

    Grate article I was so nervous to speak to my boss about pumping at work. After we talked it wasn’t that bad.

    • Hi Gabriela,

      We’re happy to hear that! It can be nerve-wracking to start the conversation, but it’s so important to do so. Thanks for sharing your experience with other moms.


  3. This is a big concern of mine because as a sub I work in many different buildings with many different principals. Thank you for this article!

  4. Pingback: Tips for Pumping at Work – The Memoirs of a mommy

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