6 tips to help you keep breastfeeding as a working mom.
*We’ve partnered with Bamboobies to share strategies to help you as a working, pumping mom.
If you’re a working, pumping mom, or planning to return to work while still breastfeeding, having a pump-friendly environment can make all the difference in your success. Many mothers stop breastfeeding or supplement with formula when they return to work because, in many cases, they don’t have a good environment in which to pump.
Creating a pumping-friendly environment in the workplace is critical for companies too, especially if they wish to retain mothers after the birth of a child. And yet, workplace lactation support is sadly still not the norm, and likely contributes to why breastfeeding rates drop significantly when women return to work. In fact, although about 81.1% of mothers in the U.S. breastfeed at the time of birth, breastfeeding rates drop down to 51.8% when babies are 6 months old.
That doesn’t mean you can’t advocate for yourself at your workplace, and help to achieve pumping (and breastfeeding!) success long after you return to the grind. Here’s a few things mothers can do to ensure they have the best possible circumstance to pump at work:
1. Check the law: At the federal level, mothers are also protected but for just one year: “Section 7 of the FLSA requires employers to provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child's birth each time such employee has need to express the milk. Employers are also required to provide a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.”
But laws also vary state by state. In New York, for example, breastfeeding mothers are protected for up to three years following childbirth.
Not all states are as generous though--there’s no law protecting mothers in Idaho, Virginia, and South Dakota, just to name a few, beyond what’s mandated federally.
2. Learn the lay of the land: Have there been pumping moms at your work before? Is there a Women’s Group or Parent’s Group? Other parents at your office will be invaluable sources of information, solidarity and support. If you can make a pumping room buddy, she’ll be able to walk you through the office logistics involved.
3. Educate your company and pay it forward for other mothers. You may be the first or only pumping mom at your office, especially if your company is a newer company. This means you’ll likely being doing a lot of educating to your boss and your team about the benefits of breastfeeding, as well as how your schedule needs to accommodate pumping. Anything you can advocate for lactation-wise will be paying it forward for the future mothers at your work.
4. Have a backup pumping plan. What if you can’t pump at work? If you’re a doctor, nurse, teacher or have a job that doesn’t support your pumping schedule or have ideal privacy, what are your options? Try a chic pumping shawl as a cover up, and suddenly your pump room is any room. I’ve witnessed a stealthy mom hand pump in a crowded auditorium during a work conference, and no one had any idea. You might also want to to take a closer look at times you might be able to pump, and try to either get in as much pumping as you can during each session, or pump in shorter sessions more often.
5. Take part in designing a lactation room. Assign yourself in charge of designing or converting an old storage room or office into a lactation room. A lactation room requires a few key features: 1) a chair; 2) a table or desk for your pump and computer; 3) ideally a sink; 4) a fridge for storage; 5) cubbies for storage; 6) cleaning supplies and wipes. Bonus items include: a community board with baby pictures, and a pump room “essentials” basket stocked with disposable nursing pads, snack bars, pumping lubricant, and nursing mothers tea.
6. Keep up your supply. Milk supply is just that, supply and demand. Breasts need to be stimulated and emptied in order to produce more milk. How does this happen? By keeping regular and consistent breastfeeding or pumping sessions.
Here’s a sample pump schedule that can help keep up your milk supply:
- 6 am feed with pumping after
- 9 am pump when you arrive at work
- 12 pm pump at work
- 3 pm pump at work
- Nurse or pump when you get home with baby
- 10 pm pump and then lights out
You will likely feel you’re connected to your pump all day…. And it’s okay if you feel this way, because you sort of are. Yet breastfeeding is such a short period of your parenting experience, and if exclusive breastfeeding, or any breastfeeding is important to you, I encourage you to keep it up. It’s not always easy but it is possible.
Jennifer Mayer supports parents through pregnancy, birth, new parenthood and the transition back to work. She’s the founder of Baby Caravan, a birth & postpartum doula agency and Baby Caravan at Work, a corporate consulting practice based in New York City. Jennifer lives in Brooklyn with her husband and son.
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