“But my employer won’t allow me to pump”
Alexiyah Coughlin, BSN, RN, IBCLC
Breastfeeding your baby is a full-time job. So, what happens when breastfeeding interrupts your normal full-time job? Luckily, there is a big movement for change, and culture related to breastfeeding is drastically changing, but not all employers are supportive of their breastfeeding employees. When breastfeeding moms lack support, especially from key players, it can be detrimental to the lactation journey. The good news is that employers are required by law to make accommodations. With a little help, moms can learn about their rights and continue to breastfeed even after returning to work.
Know your rights
In December 2022, a new law was passed to establish firm requirements for employers regarding breastfeeding employees. The Pump for Nursing Mothers (PUMP) Act mandates that employers provide reasonable break time and a comfortable place to pump until at least 12 months from the birth of their baby. Pumping space must be a location set aside for breastfeeding moms. It must be private, without risk of intrusion of coworkers. Frequency of pumping breaks must be variable, as needed by the breastfeeding employee.
What is unique is that the PUMP Act does not exclude small businesses. While many other federal employment protections exclude employers with less than 50 employees, the PUMP Act requires nearly all employers to comply. Only a handful of small businesses and transportation employers may be exempt. In general, breaks are not required to be paid, but many states do require paid pumping breaks, and the details of the PUMP Act are preempted by greater protections under state law. Additionally, if an employee is not completely relieved of work responsibility while pumping, they must be paid for their time. If the break time is paid, it must be compensated the same as break time for other employees.
Advocate for yourself
The PUMP Act was enacted to eliminate the pressure put on breastfeeding moms when they return to work. But what happens when your employer is non-compliant? Unfortunately, there will always be situations where moms run into obstacles, despite their rights under federal law. In these cases, moms need to know about their rights and how to advocate for themselves. It’s a good idea to approach your boss with respect. Educate them about your needs. Sometimes, employers simply don’t understand the implications. Explain what you need in a pumping location and how often you’re expecting to need breaks. This may be enough to change their position.
If you’ve tried the above without any luck, you may have to politely inform your employer about your rights under federal law. Take a deep breath, and be calm, collected, and brave. Educate yourself about your state laws, and schedule a meeting with your employer to discuss the PUMP Act and any local laws. Inform them that not allowing you time and space to pump would be violating federal and/or state labor laws.
If you have an employer who is still hesitant to cooperate, seek assistance. Don’t try to tackle the issue on your own. You may be able to reach out to your human resources office, doctor’s office, an employment attorney, your lactation consultant, or local representative for help. Reach out to other breastfeeding moms in your workplace and see if they are experiencing the same obstacles. Tackling these issues can be much easier when you have an army behind you.
We are here for you
At Rumble Tuff, we want to support every aspect of your breastfeeding and pumping journey. Our experienced lactation consultants are available for Rumble Tuff users and can help provide 1:1 guidance on returning to work as a pumping mom. For more information, schedule a consultation with one of our IBCLCs at https://rumbletuff.com/pumping-appointments/.
You’ve got this, and we’ve got you!