Breastfeeding is hard. Breastfeeding and working is harder. For those of you that nurse, are considering nursing, or just plain curious, here are some things I learned about both.
1.) Know your rights.
Although the US is a little behind in a lot of parental rights compared to our peers throughout the world, we as new parents, do have rights. When it comes to pumping, there are many laws that protect us both on a state and federal level. The most important tool you have is information. According to federal law, a women has a right to express breast milk for up to 1 year, in a private space (NOT A BATHROOM) provided by the employer, and shall be allowed reasonable break time in order to do this. This statute applies to employees covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This is the same act that determines your eligibility for Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). These are minimun standards set by the federal government. Any state laws that expand upon these laws will take precedence. If you are not considered covered by FLSA, than you will solely rely on your state laws for information on your rights as a breastfeeding mother. Please be aware that there is a clause in FLSA if employers deem it an “undue hardship” to provide this for you. I have never had experience with this, if you have please let me know so I can make sure to include that information in this post for the people who may need it.
2.) Open communication
The second best tool that you have is communication, with your boss, and your co-workers. While I was on maternity leave, I went into work to discuss this new addition in our lives and how it will affect me in the workplace. At the time, I was a full time department assistant manager, so it was very important to me to have this open dialogue, not only with my superiors, but with my crew. Fortunately I work for some pretty awesome people, and we were able to sit down and come up with a plan. I also had a copy of this pdf with me in case I ran into any problems. I felt it was important for my co-workers to know that we were pumping, so that there wasn’t any miscommunication about any break times, or amount of “breaks” I was taking. If an issue arose, with another employee for example, it was addressed. I was never ashamed about having to pump, or talking about pumping, and everyone was very supportive.
3.) Private Space
As stated in the law, your employer is required to provide you a private space, free from prying eyes and such, that IS NOT A BATHROOM in order to pump. I used a conference room that was automatically locked, and only upper management had access to the keys. To further prevent any mishaps I also made a sign that I would put onto the door for sessions. Again, open communication. If you are using a shared space, yes it is your right to pump, no it is not your right to be a bitch about it. If I knew a meeting would be held in there, or someone was using it, I would ask someone if I could use their office, or time my pump sessions around it (if I could). Compromise is a good thing. It helps you, it helps them, and nobody gets angry, upset, or confused. If your employer offers you a bathroom, please remind them of the laws that apply to your situation (state or federal). Alternately, depending on your employer, you may be able to negotiate other compromises.
Depending on your employer, you may be able to come up with other arrangements. When I first started pumping at work, I worked 8-10 hours a day 5 days a week. A regular pumping schedule was needed to keep up my supply and still make sure I am doing my job. Now that I am part time, pumping at work is not an issue. I pump before work, or when I get home. B is also into solid foods, so he will usually wait for me to get home to nurse. Once in a while, I will be asked to do an 8-9 hour shift. Normally I am allowed 2 paid 15 minute breaks and 1 30 minute lunch unpaid. Instead of pumping at work every break, I take a 1 hour unpaid lunch, and drive 10 minutes home, feed and/or pump, and go back to work. This is why open communication is so important. This compromise meets both my needs and the needs of the employer, without me having to lug all my pumping stuff to work for one pumping session. I have read of other moms being able to go to daycare to feed their babies, and even of dads bringing babies to mom’s work for a feeding session.
You are the most important person in your breastfeeding journey. Whatever your reason for breastfeeding, you are providing nutrition for your child. You are using your body to grow a person, again. You should be confident in your decision and information is the most powerful confidence booster. Know your rights, communicate your needs, and never ever let anyone bring you down. Not all co-workers/employers are going to be understanding. Sadly enough, I even ran into some women that didn’t understand why I needed to pump, or why I’m still pumping. Remember you have the right to pump up to a year under federal law. Remember you are your child’s biggest advocate. Never be embarrassed or question your rights or decisions. Be confident in your actions. You are mom.
For all the men out there: The most important thing you can do for the mother of your child is BE SUPPORTIVE regardless of her nutrition decisions.
If you would like more information on feeding your babies please go to kellymom.com, or feel free to ask! You can reach me at Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and of course here!
Have a story of your own? Please comment!