- Most women feel they lack the support they need to continue breastfeeding when they return to work after having a baby, according to a new survey of more than 2,000 working mothers.
- According to the survey, conducted by Medela, Mamava, and Milk Stork, 68% of respondents said lack of time to pump at work, or the stress of pumping enough at work, were the most difficult pumping challenges. And a similar percentage (65%) said they felt challenged getting milk home to their babies.
- Less than half (40%) of the surveyed moms said they had a dedicated lactation space or mother's room with a locking door, and only 28% said the available space was comfortable and well-furnished. Over a quarter (26%) said they had no space at work to pump at all. Survey respondents reported pumping in their cars, in a boss' office with another person present, and in plain view of the public and security cameras. One respondent said she had resorted to pumping in a shower stall.
As of 2010, the Fair Labor Standards Act was amended by the Affordable Care Act to include a break time for nursing mothers requirement. For one year following the birth of a baby, companies must permit a "reasonable" break when the employee needs to express milk. The employee must have access to a private space other than a bathroom, shielded from view and intrusion from coworkers and the public. Companies with fewer than 50 employees are exempt from this requirement if it would cause undue hardship.
Despite the law, this survey and other research indicates that new moms are still having trouble finding the space, time and support they need to express breast milk at work.
Last December, a group of plaintiffs sued New York City, claiming its police department engaged in a pattern and practice of refusing to provide nursing mothers with reasonable accommodations such as return-to-work or modified assignments or the proper time and space to express milk.
That same month, four female pilots and four female flight attendants for Frontier Airlines filed lawsuits against the company, alleging pregnancy and breastfeeding bias. Additionally, a former youth skating coach for the organization that operates the Pittsburgh Penguins says she was subjected to bias and retaliation for pumping — including being asked by an HR rep, "Do you want to coach or do you want to pump?"
In addition to providing adequate space and break time for nursing mothers to pump, companies should train managers on the rules prohibiting bias and retaliation against nursing mothers. Additionally, companies that work to create an inclusive, family-friendly culture are better able to demonstrate a commitment to all employees, including new parents.