The number of breast-fed babies in Florida continues to rise. In 2017, 58.3% of infants were breastfeeding at 6 months, according to the CDC Breastfeeding Report Card. So, how do moms balance breastfeeding with employment?
Fortunately, there’s a law for that. It is called the Break Time for Nursing Mothers Law. Under the Fair Labor and Standards Act (FLSA), employers are required to provide reasonable break time for an employee to pump breast milk for one year after their child’s birth. Employers are also required to provide a private place, other than a bathroom, for the mother to pump. Working moms should speak directly to their supervisor about their needs, which may include a place to store breast milk.
If your supervisor is not willing to accommodate you, speak to those higher up, including your company’s human resources division. If you work for a company with fewer than 50 employees, however, you may not be covered by the Break Time for Nursing Mothers requirement of the FLSA.
Megan Atwater was a mother of a preschooler when she found out she was pregnant with twin girls. “Finding a comfortable, safe space was super important to me,” she said. “Feeling like someone was going to walk in or that I would be interrupted caused me anxiety. I started to bring this up with my supervisor before I even went on maternity leave because I know there is a shortage of spaces.”
To ensure safety and comfort, always lock the door before you begin pumping. If the room or door has a window, close the curtain or cover it with paper. For added security, place a sign on the door requesting privacy while you pump. To make your pumping experience more pleasant, be sure to practice at home first so you can work out any kinks before you get to the office.
Ericka Floyd is a first-time mom to a baby boy and can relate to the discomfort. She finds support and empathy in her co-workers and encourages others to do the same. “Pumping at work can be very uncomfortable, especially when you’re a first-time mom,” she said. “You should open up to your co-workers about your new breastfeeding mom experiences. That way, when it’s time to pump, everyone will understand.”
Atwater said she pumps once every two hours to keep up her supply, even if she has just fed her girls. She said making pumping a priority has been the most challenging task of all. She uses a pumping bra that frees up her hands for typing or making phone calls while she pumps.
Although pumping at the office may seem intimidating at first, with a little at-home preparation and help from your employer, it can easily become a part of your regular workday.
What should you pack?
In addition to a breast pump, working moms should remember to pack storage bags, bottles and/or a cooler. Consider wearing two-piece outfits with lightweight shirts that can easily be removed or pulled down to pump. “Have an extra shirt and a blanket just in case you may need it one day,” said Floyd. “You want to be prepared for any oopsies.”
For additional resources, including area support groups, visit La Leche League’s website at LLLUSA.org.