Going back to work after maternity leave is challenging. It’s almost impossible to leave those adorable little chubby cheeks with a sitter or family member. And if you’re breastfeeding, it can be even more difficult because you have to figure out how to pump at work, which means finding time to pump breast milk or feed at work to keep your supply up.
Choosing a breast pump might seem easy, but it’s important to pick the right one for your needs when you’re heading back to work. A lactation consultant can provide information to help you choose the right one for nursing, but here are a few things to keep in mind and some recommendations if you don't speak to a lactation consultant's help.
1. Spectra Baby USA — S1 Plus Premier Rechargeable Electric Breast Pump: This hospital-grade pump boasts great value for the money. There's no need to clean the tubing of this one because it has a closed pumping system. The system also aides in protecting breast milk and your baby from bacteria, mold and viruses while pumping. And it's rechargeable, portable and customizable.
2. BelleMa Effective Pro Double Electric Breast Pump: This pump allows you to control the left and right pumps independently, and it's quiet and light, which makes it great for the office.
3. Philips Avent Manual Comfort Breast Pump: This pump features a compact and lightweight design, which makes it easy to hold and position on your breast. And it's also compatible with other Philips Avent feeding products, like some bottles and breast milk storage containers, so the working mom can have all the connecting parts.
It’s important to know your rights when it comes to breastfeeding in the workplace. Depending on where you live, you are covered by federal laws like the Fair Labor Standards Act, state laws or both.
Your employer is required by law to provide a private space that isn’t a bathroom for employees to pump, as well as make reasonable accommodations for the time you need to pump. Depending on how often you need to pump, you may be able to work around your existing break times.
But because federal legislation protects most hourly workers, white-collar mothers are the ones most often left unprotected. In general, if your employer is required to pay you overtime when you work more than 40 hours per week, then your right to pump breastmilk at work is protected by federal law.
If you work for a smaller employer with fewer than 50 employees, however, your company may be able to prohibit you from pumping breastmilk at work — but only if they can prove that they would be subject to “undue hardship.”
The United States Breastfeeding Committee provides some helpful examples of who’s covered and who’s not on their website.
Though you have the right to pump in a non-bathroom facility, your employer doesn't need to make a specific or even permanent pumping facility for you. A private but temporary space is acceptable, which means that employers can claim any empty office or even a closet space as a lactation site.
Your employer must, however, offer a "reasonable break time" to pump milk, including the time it takes for you to set up. Of course, the definition of reasonable varies by woman, and this break time does not have to be paid.
Some state laws provide additional protection to nursing mothers, barring those who work in Kansas, Idaho, Georgia, North Carolina and Alabama. The Department of Labor provides a helpful map of the states where additional protections may cover a new mother’s right to work.
In some states, for example, anti-discrimination statutes may cover nursing mothers through cases decided in court.
Just because your employer is required to allow any nursing mother to pump during your shifts doesn’t mean they are willing to do so. Talk to your employer, preferably before you are scheduled to return to work, and let them know about your needs.
If you can do so during your scheduled breaks or lunch hour, let them know. It always looks better if you appear to be trying to minimize the impact that your pumping has on your daily tasks.
If they don’t want to accommodate your pumping times, be prepared with the applicable state or federal laws. As a last resort, if you’re dealing with a particularly stubborn manager, you may have to reach out to your company’s Human Resources department to be sure your rights as a breastfeeding mother are enforced. It might seem like a dramatic step, but if it comes down to it, don’t hesitate to reach out to HR.
Once you’ve spoken to your employer, it’s time to prepare for your first day back. Here are four things to keep in mind in the milk production arena when you find yourself asking, how to pump at work:
Once you’re used to pumping it and have an idea of how long it will take to express during each session, it gets easier to schedule your day. Schedule your day, and your breaks, so you can pump efficiently and effectively without negatively impacting your day. Enjoy the time you’re taking to take care of your baby even when you’re away from home.
Pumping or breastfeeding after you’ve gone back to work can be a challenge, but if you know your rights and are prepared, it isn’t impossible. Just be prepared to pick up a pump, talk to your boss and schedule your break time accordingly, and pumping at work will be a breeze.
More of a visual learner? Here's another way to digest some great pumping at work tips and info:
Sarah Landrum is an expert career blogger and the founder of Punched Clocks, a career and lifestyle blog helping professionals create a career they love and live a happy, healthy life. For more from Sarah, follow her on social media and subscribe to her newsletter.
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