By Wendy Eson, IBCLC
Congratulations! You’ve made the decision to provide your baby with breast milk to get the best possible start in life. But, like many mothers today, you may be returning to work and have questions about pumping in the workplace.
Employers can support breastfeeding mothers in a variety of ways: providing a clean, private place for pumping, designating available refrigerator space for the storage of pumped milk and offering flexible breaks throughout the day are just a few. Time allotted for mothers to express their milk doesn’t always fit into a set lunch period or 15 minute break time. Allowing a mother to leave her workspace when she determines the need to pump is the ideal situation. If approached from a health standpoint, employers will greatly benefit from having a workplace that supports breastfeeding. Babies of breastfeed mothers tend to have fewer illnesses, which translates to fewer days of work missed by mom.
Certain laws exist that protect a mother’s right to pump while at work. Under Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers with 50 or more employees are required to provide“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 has need to express the milk.” Under these requirements, employers also must provide a place for pumping, other than a bathroom, that is private and free from interruptions from coworkers and the public. A bathroom, even if it is private, is not an acceptable location under the FLSA.
The Breastfeeding Center of Pittsburgh offers a monthly class on Working & Breastfeeding. The class covers everything from how often to pump at work to handling an unsupportive employer.
Returning to work after being at home with her baby is a stressful time for new mothers. One way to help reduce that stress is to have an employer that provides acceptable space and time for a mother to express her milk. For more information on pumping and working rights, visit:
To find out more, call the Breastfeeding Center of Pittsburgh at (412) 246-4726.
Wendy Eson is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and the Manager of the Breastfeeding Center.