Pumping at Work: What Employers Can Do to Help Breastfeeding Moms

January 29, 2014

We still hear too often of moms having to fight for their right to use a breast pump at work. Fortunately, there are many laws in place that protect breastfeeding moms at their place of work, but it’s important to educate yourself and talk directly with your employer to set yourself up for success. You may also wish to share with your supervisor the benefits of breastfeeding and why continuing to provide breast milk for your little one is so important.

Here are some ways that your employer can help support you in your breastfeeding goals:

  • Provide a designated nursing mothers room. The law requires that this room not be a bathroom and be hidden from view, but it’s also great to provide an extra-comfortable chair, preferably with arms, and make sure there are plenty of outlets for powering electric breast pumps.
  • Plan for storage. Breastfeeding moms will need to store milk in either a cooler with ice packs or in the fridge, so make room! If possible, allow moms to also store pumps, pump kits, and spare parts either in the nursing mothers room or in a cabinet nearby.
  • Allow for easy cleaning. Provide a sink somewhere close, if not in the nursing mothers room, for washing hands and rinsing pump parts.
  • Create an environment that supports breastfeeding moms and respects their parenting decisions. This might mean updating or creating a written company policy and communicating this policy to all employees.
  • Be flexible. Understand that pumping takes time, and although it may be possible to multitask in some instances, it’s not always comfortable (or convenient). Work with moms to adjust beginning and end times of work, time breaks when other employees can cover necessary tasks, and plan schedules ahead of time to reduce stress. Some companies even allow schedule options such as a gradual return to work or flex schedules to accommodate moms’ needs.

It’s also important to recognize the benefits of breastfeeding for employers – moms who breastfeed miss less work due to infant illness, have lower healthcare costs, and increased productivity, loyalty, and satisfaction.

What does your employer do to support breastfeeding moms? What do you wish they did better? We’d love to hear about your experiences.

15 thoughts on “Pumping at Work: What Employers Can Do to Help Breastfeeding Moms

  1. My employer does all the above. We have a nice room w a locking door, big comfy chair, mini fridge, shelf, sink/soap, paper towels, hand sanitizer and a foot stool. I pump twice a day. Once after each 15min break. Amazon is very accommodating. My HR rep has even asked several times, of there’s anything else we need in the room. Anything they can do to make it better, easier, nicer! But it’s fine. I’m not gunna ask for too much, other than a clock! Mayb a mirror or a pic of the baby, since we can’t have our phones.

    • Hi Mary Ann – that’s fantastic! We love hearing that there are employers out there who genuinely care about moms and support their breastfeeding journeys. We hope that more workplaces begin to follow suit. Thanks for sharing your experience with us – Kathy

  2. I work as a CPA and my company is awesomely supportive – a lactation program that includes lactation consultant support for at least six months, nursing mother rooms in all our offices and extremely generous leave compared to other companies (I was able to stay out – paid- for 4 months with each of my children). Unfortunately, things aren’t so rosy when I go back to work because nearly all of my work happens outside of the office at client sites. My clients represent the spectrum of supportive. One of the best has a specific nursing mothers room set up for two pumping mommas to have private space and includes a fridge. One of the pumping moms there made a cute bulletin board for moms to put up pictures of the babies that room has helped get the best start in life possible. On the other end of the spectrum is a company that had 3 female employees (total) and none were child bearing age. Needless to say they didn’t have anything setup, but even they were able to figure out something to accomodate me because I asked. I have used CEO/CFO offices, a no longer used shower stall, a supply room, a first aid room, and a variety of other offices and conference rooms. In the end, what I have found is that people are ultimately supportive and really try to make things work for me. the key is asking for support in the first place; I think people hear horror stories and are afraid to ask. I think that if all of these companies are willing to figure something out for me, a non-employee, then surely they would be supportive of their own people – So ask!

    • Hi Olivia,

      Thank you for sharing your experience, it’s so true that you never know unless you ask (and it never hurts to do so)! We’re happy to hear that you were able to find a way to pump regardless of the situation you were in. Keep up the great work!


  3. I work in retail and my job isn’t so accommodating to my needs. I have to pump in an office and we only have 2 with Windows covered up. All of the supervisors have keys to these offices. I can’t leave my pump set up so every time I pump I have to set it up and take it down and I don’t have time to clean any of the parts either. I did get a note from the doctor saying I need to pump every 2 hours because sometimes I was only pumping once at work (8 hours). We do get paid 15 minute breaks and because it took me so long to set up and take down I would eat as I pumped, thanks to the hands free pumping 🙂 but needless to say they’re saying I’m taking too long and I’m not really sure what else I can do.

    • Hi Nicole,

      We admire your dedication to providing your little one with breast milk. Is there an HR department or someone you could talk to about your struggles with your schedule? The law states that you must be provided with a reasonable break time to pump. Here is more information on your rights in the workplace: http://bit.ly/1kxiMM7.

      Keep up the great work!

  4. I have been through the state I live in and had to breast feed several times in public, and I have found so many people are supportive and surprised me and respecting of you taking the effort to feed your child with natural way instead of bottle( not saying it’s wrong) and allowed to feed where ever I pleased. Just try understand their side to. For retail sadly I understand that struggle normally they have just enough to cover for the day. Just keep trying.

  5. I work in the medical field with scheduled patients. Our office is small and just under 10 people so they might be exempt from the breastfeeding law . My work day is 7:20 to around 4:20. When I first came back to work my employer scheduled time for me to pump mid morning, and I would also pump during my lunch at noon or 12:30. The mid morning pumping time has gradually gone away from the schedule (but I feel I need it!). I have had multiple breast infections and I feel like if I went back to adding that mid morning pump time it would really help me. My coworkers have been somewhat supportive and I have a space to pump but they have said things like “why can’t you not pump mid morning and pump it all out at noon? ” and “why don’t you give your boobs a chance to fill up and then pump them” (when I was pumping both times). It’s frustrating because they fed their babies formula and didn’t breastfeed so they don’t understand how it’s important to properly drain the milk from the breast as needed! My boss does breastfeed and pump but her body is able to just pump at lunch with no problem. I feel like everyone at work expects me to do things as my boss has and just pump at lunch. Is it pointless to add back the mid morning pumping (I don’t want to increase my supply). How can I get my employer and employees to understand? Help!!

    • Hi Christine,

      So sorry to hear that you’re experiencing a lack of support and understanding at work! It may help, if you feel comfortable, to explain to your coworkers why pumping frequently is important to drain your milk and maintain your supply. Unfortunately, many people are uneducated when it comes to breastfeeding and don’t understand that breasts don’t “fill up” – and that you can get an infection if you don’t empty your breasts often enough. Every woman is different, and while some can go long stretches without pumping (and experience no negative effects), most pumping moms need to pump about every 3 hours or so. Because it’s often recommended that pumping moms pump about as often as baby feeds, you could also explain your baby’s feeding schedule and how you try to match up your pumping sessions.

      Can you talk to someone about getting your mid morning pump session rescheduled? It might also help to bring up a recommendation from your healthcare professional, or consider even getting a note from your doctor.

      Hope this helps, and keep up the amazing work!

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