- Almost two-thirds of respondents to a recent survey said that a stigma surrounds breastfeeding in the workplace. The survey of more than 700 expecting mothers by Aeroflow Breast Pumps also found that 47% of respondents had considered a job or career change because of their need to pump at work. About half said they had discussed their needs with a supervisor and/or someone from HR. Twenty percent said they hadn't discussed it and they were worried about their supervisors' reaction.
- Most women in the survey said they planned to breastfeed their babies when they returned to work. Just under half said their employers have a breastfeeding or pumping policy, and nearly the same number have a designated lactation area. About one-third of respondents have had a negative interaction with a co-worker over breastfeeding.
- "It is concerning that negative connotations around breastfeeding and pumping in the workplace still exist," said Jennifer Jordan, director of Mom & Baby at Aeroflow Healthcare. "Simply put, this is unacceptable and we must do better. We hope this study creates a groundswell of awareness and appreciation for the mothers so devoted to both their children and their careers, often at the expense of the latter."
As this survey makes clear, employers that don't accommodate breastfeeding mothers risk losing them to the competition. Employers like Goldman Sachs, which announced last month that it would pay for mothers to have breast milk shipped to their homes while traveling for work, are leading the way on breastfeeding and pumping policies. But many employees needing to pump are still hoping for the basics: a pumping policy that's enforced, and a place to express milk.
Since 2010, the Fair Labor Standards Act has required employers to provide non-exempt workers reasonable break time for breastfeeding for up to a year after a child's birth. Employers must also designate an area, obscured from view, where mothers can pump, and a bathroom doesn't count. Employers aren't required to pay nursing mothers for these breaks, but if a worker uses her paid breaks to pump, the employer must compensate her for that time.
Breastfeeding policies and accommodations are much-needed benefits for many working mothers and their families. Christine Dodson, founder of lactation pod manufacturer Mamava, in a recent interview that there's a new wave of millennial mothers whose expectation is to be able to pump in the workplace. "There's an awareness of the law and it's a part of the benefit that's expected at a company," Dodson added. "You're going to be supported in not only the leave you take when you have a baby but also when you come back to work."