Is Your Workplace Supportive of This Basic Need? Here’s What You Need to Know.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding are the most important – and natural – functions of a woman’s body.

But while no one would ever give a second thought to when and where an animal nurses their young, there is still a stigma against women breastfeeding in public.

Among the worst environments is in the workplace – and it is having long-lasting consequences for both mom and baby.

Let’s face it – as much as we’d all like to be stay-at-home moms the entire time our children are young, it’s not possible for everyone.

Many new moms face an all-too-short period of maternity leave, but it doesn’t change the fact that they still want what’s best for their baby.

That includes quality childcare and a flexible schedule, and it also means that many moms want to pump and store their milk while at work, so they can continue to provide the best nutrition possible while they’re away.

But according to Pregnant at Work, there is still a long way to go toward ending discrimination against breastfeeding moms in the workplace.

According to the site, more than 26 million women of childbearing age are denied pumping breaks, even when in pain or leaking milk, denied a private space in which to pump (other than an uncomfortable bathroom stall), and are left to pump exposed while being harassed or listening to inappropriate comments.

Not being permitted a break to pump breast milk can have serious physical consequences like infection, pain, and diminished milk supply – and the emotional toll can cause a woman to wean her child far earlier than she would like, or than doctors recommend.

Ironically, as discrimination laws have been passed to protect those with alternative lifestyles in the workplace, breastfeeding women who are legally afforded the same protections continue to face adversity.

Millions of women are protected under the Break Time for Nursing Mothers Act, a provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act, for a year following the birth of their child.

But unlike employers who must bend over backwards to accommodate homosexual or transgender employees or face lawsuits, non-compliance for nursing mothers is commonplace.

There are multiple exemptions and loopholes in the federal law that is supposed to allow women ample breaks to pump their milk, making it very easy for employers to refuse.

Even if women are permitted a break to pump, they are often required to “clock-out” or otherwise not be paid, according to federal law.

It’s outrageous to think that mothers who are simply trying to feed their babies are ostracized in the workplace, looked at as “unproductive” for trying to balance all their responsibilities.

So, if the law is not protecting nursing moms, what can be done?

Well, both mothers and employers can take the initiative, according to Romper.com.

Employers can offer support and ask nursing moms what can be done to meet their needs.

What kind of private space would make them comfortable and how can it be created?  How much time would they need to pump at work, and how could the time be made up in other ways?  For example, finishing up a task at home.

Moms, as well, can approach their employers and request a space that would be mutually acceptable for pumping, as well as set forth a necessary schedule that both parties can agree on.

The best circumstances would be providing a private room with power outlets, a small refrigerator, comfortable chair, and sink that can be used exclusively for nursing moms.

Many employers who offer these spaces know they make a difference.  It increases morale and productivity when an employer is willing to help a new mom find a good work/family balance.

And above all, no employer should tolerate another staff member creating an uncomfortable work environment for new moms.

Bosses can take the lead by making it known that their place of business is one that understands the struggles a new mom may be facing in returning to work and offers necessary support – not a stigma or negativity.

Studies have shown that employers who are supportive and flexible about their employees’ private needs find they are much more productive on the job and remain with that employer for a longer period of time.

It also creates a far more pleasant work environment for everyone when the work/family balancing act is made a little less stressful with a supportive workplace.

If you’re a nursing mom returning to work, research the Break Time for Nursing Moms Act to see if and how it applies to you.  Then take time for an open conversation with your employer – it will help everyone in the long-run.

Is your workplace supportive of nursing moms?  Leave us your comments.

 

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