Breast Pumps at Work

One potential roadblock to breastfeeding for the working mom is having access to an appropriate place to use a breast pump and/or store pumped milk. I can speak from both personal experience and on behalf of friends that finding a “lactation station” seems to be a recurring issue for nursing moms.

Friends have reported being asked to pump in kitchens, break rooms, bathrooms, and unlit utility closets. At my current job, I go to my car and pump in between the courses that I teach, which is a luxury given the countless numbers of women who work in places like restaurants, stores, warehouses, and factories where stepping away for fifteen to twenty minutes is nearly impossible.

The best situations seem to be those in which the breastfeeding mother has a private office, but even then there are questions about where to store expressed milk and how to consistently block out periods during the day to pump. 

Twenty-four states have laws protecting breastfeeding mothers at work. Further, rolled into the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was amended legislation to protect hourly-wage workers’ right to breastfeed at work. This legislation calls for an appropriate amount of time, an appropriate space, and flexibility on the part of the employer when it comes to nursing employees. It is important to note, however, that this legislation only protects women with children under one year of age and women who work at companies with more than fifty employees.

This issue matters because mothers who work outside of the home are statistically less likely to continue breastfeeding. According to a 2007 poll, only 33 percent of working moms continue to breastfeed their children at six months, versus 42 percent of stay-at-home mothers. 

In some cases, moms may not understand their legal rights when it comes to expressing milk at work. For additional resources and information about your legal rights concerning breastfeeding and work, visit The U.S. Department of Labor’s “Break Time for Nursing Mothers” website.

What experiences have you had with pumping milk at work? How have you overcome the challenges? Please leave a comment!

 Photo Credit: Elvis Santana

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Mary Michael Pontzer found her way to natural and attachment parenting by trusting her heart and instincts. As a first-time mama, she practices breastfeeding, babywearing, cosleeping, gentle discipline, and she is learning all she can about unschooling and organic gardening, among other things. She is an educator by trade and currently teaches English part-time at a community college. When she isn’t spending time with her husband, Luke, and daughter, Alexandra, she is (in theory) working on her dissertation for a PhD in education. Mary blogs at The Accidental Natural Mama.

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4 Responses to Breast Pumps at Work

  1. Melanie

    I feel lucky. My office has a Wellness Room with a lock on the door, a couch, a small fridge and a desk/computer so I can pump in privacy and continue working.

  2. Brenna @ Almost All The Truth  

    I have been lucky to have not had to worry about this since I do not work outside the home. I do believe it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that all women have the support and access they need to continue breastfeeding while working. It serves our entire society.

  3. Amy McCarty

    Wow, I can REALLY relate to this article. Yes, I have my own private office at work but I have STILL be hassled. Im pretty blunt though and am willing to fight fir my rights to the bitter end. I was told from a co-worker that using the microwave to clean my pump parts was GROSS and should not be allowed to… The boss approached me and I clearly told HER another past breastfeeding mother to boot that I KNEW my rights and explained them to her clearly. Then I continued to do what I knew I was able to. I did get a little nervous after that.. I could see how this could really harm a breastfeeding mothers relationship with breastfeeding her baby. :( and thats so sad.. So I fought.. not just for me, but for the mothers who wont stand up for themselves!

  4. Molly  

    This was a fantastic article. I work full time, and I was able to successfully pump until my daughter was 20 months old. That was 18 months of pumping at the office!

    My company, as a policy, supports breastfeeding moms. But to take that a step further, I co-founded a Lactation Support Network to help moms with pumping/nursing resources and tips, to ensure lactation rooms are established in every building of our VERY LARGE campus, and in the future to provide hospital-grade pumps in each room for moms to use.

    We even got to speak in consultation with our corporate legal team to help them understand what the new federal legislation meant for our company and how that should be applied.

    I wish every working mom was as lucky as we are at my company.

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