While the U.S. still has a long way to go to make employment breastfeeding-friendly for all babes, there has been some great progress recently, and more women are getting into the working and pumping groove. Who knows, some day soon, the water cooler may be eclipsed by the lactation lounge as the ultimate hang-out! For expecting babes who are planning to go back to work, we’ve put together our top tips. Leave your suggestions & fave resources in the comments so we can improve this guide!
This blog is part of the #HERvotes #Jobs blog carnival at Momsrising. For other posts in the series, click here.
1) Read a short overview, and be creative and flexible: In The Top 5 Questions on Going Back to Work and Breastfeeding, expert Kirsten Berggren, PhD, RN, IBCLC from www.workandpump.com covers the basics: how to talk to your boss, how often to pump and how much milk to leave, and working with your childcare provider, with great links. Be creative and flexible; Diana Cassar-Uhl, IBCLC suggests trying to meet your caregiver & baby during your lunch break for breastfeeding, and explore bringing them on business trips or to events and meetings. Think outside the cubicle to sneak in breastfeeding instead of pumping whenever you can, it’s worth it for you and your baby, and there’s less chance of baby refusing the breast.
2) Know your legal rights. Under the Affordable Care Act, FLSA non-exempt employees (check your pay stub to confirm your status) are entitled to a private, clean, non-bathroom place to pump, and reasonable (although unpaid) break time. This law was signed into effect on March 23rd 2010 and establishes the minimum coverage nation-wide; it does not pre-empt your state laws if they provide even better employment protection. This law goes for moms who are pumping for babies up to one year of age. All companies are expected to comply, but companies with less than 50 employees can apply for exemption if they can prove that the application of the law causes undue hardship. To better understand “reasonable break time,” see our article by Kori Martin, JD, LLLL. *Updated 9/16: If you are serving in the military or as a police officer, firefighter or any other non-traditional type job, you have a whole other set of rules to comply with! The new healthcare act, as of yet, does NOT include the military, they have their own policies and regulations. Finding a time and place requires a lot more ingenuity when you are on the range, in the back of aircraft for 8 hours, or deployed overseas. While many of the suggestions above will work to some degree, there are unique challenges to pumping while in the military service. For more info and specific military policies, check out www.breastfeedingincombatboots.com.
- State Laws on Breastfeeding: a comprehensive list describing the laws are in each state; if your state law provides better protection than the national minimum, it prevails.
- Frequently Asked Questions on Break Time for Nursing Mothers: developed by the United States Breastfeeding Committee, this excellent resource answers most common questions and is good link for you and your employer.
3) Become a pumping expert: There are lots of great resources on going back to work and pumping, one of our favorites is www.workandpump.com. Many other websites and resources are searchable for working and pumping, try www.kellymom.com, www.mothering.com and www.llli.org. We recommend you breast- and bottle-feed for maximum benefits, you may want to send a link to How to Bottle-feed as you’d Breastfeed to any caregivers. Rent or buy an efficient, comfortable, top-notch double pump: your boobs, baby and boss will thank you! Remember, Not All Pumps Are Created Equal–OUCH!. Consider one that is certified as multi-user so you can re-sell or recycle. Feel good about investing in quality gear, like a hands-free pumping bustier: it will be returned several-fold in saved doctors visits, fewer missed days of work and productivity. Pumping boosts your connection to your baby and eases the transition back to work after a usually too-short maternity leave!
4) Read a great book: Our favorites are Milk Memos: How Real Moms Learned to Mix Business with Babies and You Can, Too by Cate Colburn-Smith and Andrea Serrette; Working Without Weaning by Kirsten Berggren; The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk, by Diana West and Lisa Marasco; Balancing Breast and Bottle, by Amy Petersen & Mindy Harmer; and, especially for military moms–and firefighters and police officers too–Breastfeeding in Combat Boots, by Robyn Roche-Paull. Knowledge is power, and when you read these books, you’ll know you are not alone, and you will feel empowered and mighty!
5) Find a support group, meet other moms and take ACTION: Connecting with other moms at your job (or if you’re solo, online or through other mothering groups) can save your sanity and sense of humor. Get inspired by success stories like Juanita Ingraham’s, or how New Moms Love the Capitol ‘Boob Cube’–a bi-partisan pumping place! Then, take action to pave the way for other moms: Use this easy form from the United States Breastfeeding Committee to tell your congressperson to co-sponsor the Breastfeeding Promotion Act and end discrimination in the workplace, and allow ALL employees to take breaks to pump in a private place! Get involved with www.Momsrising.org to change the abysmal lack of paid maternity/paternity leave in our country — The U.S is one of only 4 countries that doesn’t offer paid leave to new mothers (the others are Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, and Lesotho!)
More Reading & Other links:
- Kellymom.com’s FAQ on Pumping.
- The United States Breastfeeding Committee works actively to bring about policy change in breastfeeding & employment. Take a few seconds to tell your congressperson that ALL breastfeeding moms deserve breaktime and a private place to pump, and should not be discriminated against.
- The Business Case for Breastfeeding – Prepared by womenshealth.gov, this is a fantastic kit (with handouts) to help your company to start a lactation program.
- Insurance companies are now mandated to cover breast pumps and lactation support under the Affordable Care Act, effective August 1, 2012.
- Lactation and the Law: A great overview on the laws around breastfeeding in public and at work, by one of the leading experts in the field, Jake Aryeh Marcus, JD.
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