As with most things in life, planning is the best way to set yourself up for success. Success for breast pumping at work means knowing your rights with your employer, what to pack in your pumping bag, and how to set up the ultimate pumping station. This handy guide should answer a few questions and help start you in the right direction.
What are my rights as a breastfeeding employee?
Good news! Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, providing space and time to pumping moms are covered by United States federal law and those protections are often expanded under individual state law.
All employers operating under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), meaning employers with over fifty employees, are obligated under federal law to “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 needs to express the milk.” The US Department of Labor encourages employers to provide breaks to all nursing mothers regardless of their status under the FLSA.
The basic tenants of the federal law for breastfeeding mothers are:
The time: Employers are required to provide a reasonable amount of break time to express milk as frequently as needed by the nursing mother. The frequency of breaks needed to express milk as well as the duration of each break will likely vary.
The space: The space provided by the employer cannot be a bathroom and it must be shielded from view and free from intrusion by coworkers or the public. A space temporarily created or converted into a space for expressing milk or made available when needed by the nursing mother is sufficiently provided that the space is shielded from view, and free from any intrusion from co-workers and the public. The location provided must be functional as a space for expressing breast milk. If the space is not dedicated to the nursing mothers’ use, it must be available when needed to meet the statutory requirement. Of course, employers may choose to create permanent, dedicated space if they determine that is the best way to meet their obligations under the law.
The pay: Employers are not required under the FLSA to compensate nursing mothers for breaks taken for the purpose of expressing milk. However, where employers already provide compensated breaks, an employee who uses that break time to express milk must be compensated in the same way that other employees are compensated for break time. Also, the FLSA’s general requirement that the employee must be completely relieved from duty or else the time must be compensated as work time applies.
What should be included in a work pumping room?
As outlined in the Affordable Care Act, the standards for a pumping space at your place of work will vary greatly. But, if you feel comfortable, we encourage you to have a conversation with your employer about what they’re willing to make available to make sure you feel comfortable and provided for during what can be a difficult transition. After all–happy employees are more productive and anywhere an employer can go above and beyond will benefit everybody involved.
● Lockable entry/exit with an indicator for privacy
● Comfortable seating
● Moveable workstation/table
● Multiple power outlets
● A chair designed to double as a workstation with arms to ensure comfort
● Dedicated refrigeration
● Coat rack/bag storage
● Dedicated lockers/storage so moms can leave belongings between pumping sessions
● Soundproofing/soft surfaces to absorb distractions
● Cleaning station/sink
● Dimmable lighting
● Television or music system
● Dedicated HVAC control
● Scheduling assistant posted for rooms with multiple nursing moms
● Breastfeeding/pumping education assets
● Breastfeeding/pumping cleaning supplies
● Full-length mirror
● Dedicated bathroom access
● Snacks and bottled water
What should I pack in my pumping bag?
With a little bit of night-before preparation, you can rock this checklist to make sure you have everything you need to set yourself up for pumping at work success.
Essentials for pumping at work:
❏ Pump w/power cord or extra batteries
❏ Pump tubing
❏ Bottles/Milk storage bags
❏ Ice packs
❏ Insulated lunchbox
❏ Pumping bra
❏ Breast pads
Extras you may want to consider:
❏ Hand sanitizer
❏ Hair tie
❏ Quick clean wipes/sanitation steam bags
❏ Something to read/watch
❏ Pictures/videos of your baby to help encourage letdown
With so many moving parts (pun intended), there are lots of things to consider with going back to work but having your needs planned for and met will take a lot of the stress off of your shoulders. Remember, there’s no one size fits all when it comes to pumping schedules or what your individual breastfeeding journey will look like. Give yourself grace as you deal with your new normal and know that a fed and well-loved baby is your goal. No matter what that looks like!