Let’s be real here, pumping isn’t glamorous at all. We can try to make it so with shiny pump accessories and celebrity-backed hashtags, but it’s not glamorous. It’s awkward and uncomfortable and time-consuming, but we do it. We do it because we’re mothers and our children need nourishment. We do it because we’re mothers who also work. We do it because we choose to; because we have to; because we want to; because it is our right to.
If you choose to pump at work, your employer has to allow you to. Not only do they have to allow you to pump, they have to give you the time and privacy to be able to do so comfortably.
I pump in a teeny supply-closet sized room with a chair and a cooler that is dubbed the Quiet Room. It’s (thankfully) quite separate from the main room of cubicles and offices so there isn’t a big spectacle anytime someone needs to use it. It’s not a luxurious space, but it serves its purpose and it meets the legal requirements.
Pumping breast milk at work laws:
Employers are required to provide a reasonable amount of break time and a space to express milk as frequently as needed for up to one year following the birth of your child. The frequency and duration of your pumping breaks are dependent on your needs. The space provided by your employer cannot be a bathroom, and it must be shielded from view and free from intrusion by coworkers or the public.
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. In addition, 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.
Now that we got the legal stuff out of the way, here are a few things to keep in mind to make your pumping experience at work as successful as possible:
1. If you share a pump room with other expressing moms, make a schedule and stick to it.
I share my Quiet Room with one other mom at the moment and possibly one more in the coming weeks. I pump every three hours for 15-20 minutes depending on my let down (and level of distraction. whoopsy!). I use the Quiet Room at 9 a.m., 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. every day I’m in the office, which is much more consistent than my pumping routine outside of the office. To avoid scheduling conflicts and arguments over who needs to use the room first / most, I’ve made a schedule that is tacked to the door. And whether you have a large room or a teeny supply-closet sized room, you don’t want to share it. Awkward silence with uncomfortable eye contact while you’re both strapped into milking machines sounds bad; very, very bad.
2. Bring pictures of your baby with you
Numerous studies have shown that women who look at pictures of their babies while expressing breast milk produce more in a single sitting than mothers who don’t. But really, it’s not like you need a reason to look at your bundle of adorableness, amIright?!
3. Work while you pump
Depending on the type of work you do, and if your employer doesn’t offer paid break times, you may be able to work while you pump. 90 percent of my job is done on a computer, so sometimes I bring my laptop (sometimes my tablet) into the Quiet Room with me. I knock out some of the miscellaneous tasks I usually don’t have time to get to and call it a win.
4. Or don’t work while you pump
Hell, you’re a mom. You may even be a single mom. You are Superwoman. But sometimes even Superwoman needs a break. Take your fifteen minutes (or 20 or 10) to clear your head. Zone the eff out and don’t think about anything. Don’t think about the laundry, about the presentation due next week, about everything you need to do. Don’t do anything except relax and let yourself be responsibility free for a few minutes.
Pumping breast milk at the office isn’t glamorous, but it is your decision to do so and also your right. Make your life a little easier and less hectic by knowing what those rights are and following the tips above.