how to: advocate for a better mother's room at work
by Lisa Boettcher of In Wild Hearts
Advocating for Mothers Rooms is important for all nursing mothers. Thankfully, under the Affordable Care Action Fair Labor Standards Act, there were national regulations set regarding break time for nursing mothers. This act states that “employers are required to provide a reasonable amount of break time and space to express milk as frequently as needed by the nursing mother, for up to one year following the birth of the employee’s child…The space provided by the employer cannot be a bathroom, and it must be shielded from view and free from intrusion by coworkers or the public.”
Unfortunately, there is a lot of room for improvement in terms of these existing accommodations and many employers who have not yet set a plan in place. As pumpspotting is bringing together mamas who pump, nurse and nourish on the go, we're also committed to improving the physical accommodations for working pumping mothers everywhere.
Where to Start
If your employer is not providing the nationally regulated minimums for time and space to express milk, start with providing a Human Resources contact with the facts. This resource from the United States Department of Labor is a good place to start.
If your employer does have accommodations for you, or has just recently agreed to provide those accommodations, put in the effort to advocate for the space that will meet nursing mothers’ needs.
Basic Mothers Room Needs
A dedicated room to meet lactation needs of nursing mothers at the most basic level should have a few specific items. These are minimum suggestions, though still helpful to the employee with lactation needs.
• Door that locks
• Electrical outlet for plugging in a breast pump
• Appropriate lighting and ventilation
• Comfortable seating
• Surface for breast pump and supplies
• "Occupied" sign for the door
• Nearby sink for washing hands, pump, and tubing
• Nearby refrigerator for storage
Recommendations above and beyond the minimum requirements would help enhance the working mothers’ pumping experiences. Her experiences are incredibly important in the success of her commitment to being a pumping and working mother.
• Sink for washing hands, pump, and tubing, with soap and paper towels
• Compact refrigerator with freezer compartment to store cold packs and milk
• Reservation system for room usage (electronic calendar, sign-in sheet, or dry-erase board)
• Computer terminal, Internet access, and/or telephone
• Clock, and small mirror to help check and readjust clothing before returning to work
• Décor for a more pleasurable experience
The benefits of a supportive breastfeeding workplace are extraordinary. The mother with supportive breastfeeding policies and accommodations at work is more productive and has fewer distractions during the workday. She takes fewer sick days due to infants having less illness, as a result of being breastfed. Overall, there are health benefits for mothers who breastfeed and therefore those who choose to work and breastfeed will acquire those benefits through the appropriate workplace accommodations. Babies who are breastfed and given expressed milk from a working mother also benefit. These babies may have superior immune systems than those who are not breastfed, reduced risk of obesity and a reduced risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Employers benefit too. Agencies supportive of the breastfeeding mother may result in increased productivity from pumping, working mothers due to fewer sick days and ability to be away from her child. The implementation of breastfeeding accommodations can provide organizational loyalty, assist with employer recruitment and retention and also provide an increase in job satisfaction for child bearing women.
Mamas make a choice when returning to work while having children at home. The workplace almost becomes a second place of home - especially when she is pumping - so it is incredibly important that it be supportive and comfortable to meet mama’s needs. Advocating for this time and space will boost confidence in mothers everywhere. Have you talked to your employer yet?
Resources: Some resources that support this post include The MIT Work Life Center, the Guide for Establishing a Federal Nursing Mother’s Program and the United States Department on Labor.
Lisa Boettcher is a Wisconsinite, residing in a small suburb outside of Milwaukee with her husband Mark, daughters Maven (04.04.14) and Sylvie (10.28.15) and blonde Goldendoodle pup, Nova. She’s madly in love with her family and is passionate about living a happy, healthy life. She writes over at In Wild Hearts for women who juggle the demands and desires of every day life and want to make the absolute most of it by sharing real, genuine content inspired by her world.