Reconnecting skin-to-skin after a workday
is one of the great joys of breastfeeding
PJs by Belabumbum
Styling by Modern Mommy Boutique
Photo by Erin Rudd Photography
A discussion question on our student group led me to do some more digging. Hence today’s blog post on who exactly is covered under the amended Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to pump at work with mandatory break time.
I was originally ecstatic about the provisions for breastfeeding in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“PPACA”), which took effect when the PPACA was signed into law on March 23, 2010. There was a part of the law that was going to be implemented immediately that had the potential to positively impact our students!! YEAH!!
Sounds great, right?? Then the little chink started to show through. This “Break Time” provision is only for hourly employees that are not exempt. Although it would stand to reason that an employee who is salaried should be able to take breaks since there is a tacit understanding that work can be done throughout the work day, however it gets done, there is no guarantee that an employer will feel compelled to honor these same requirements for salaried employees, or those on the exempt list.
What about those employees who are exempt? Check out the complete list HERE. So that means that airline pilots (we have one lactating pilot amongst our alumni), teachers (almost one in every series since 2010!), employees of motion picture theaters (one used to work for a local theater!)…All of these mothers are at the whim of their employer/supervisors to either accommodate them…or not.
Surprisingly, our students that seem to have faced the most discrimination have worked for hospitals, the places where one would imagine they understood and valued the importance of providing breastmilk for an infant. Not so much. All three have been employed by the Banner Hospital System (different hospitals – seems to be an endemic value problem).
So what can you do if you want/need to go back to work, and you are not covered by the PPACA? Thankfully, there are other provisions in the law and otherwise, that might help you make your case.
1. Find out which laws are in place in your state.
Check out THIS interactive map that outlines the provisions under the law state by state. You can find out the protections for workers who are pregnant or nursing, protections against pregnancy discrimination, provisions for pregnancy accommodations, and workplace breastfeeding rights. HERE is another resource provided by the National Conference of State Legislators that breaks down the laws state-by-state.
2. Educate yourself so you can have a persuasive conversation with your employer.
Read up on some talking points so that you can have an informative and persuasive conversation with your employer and/or supervisor. The Office for Women’s Health has several resources for you, and for you to share with your employer.
"Business Case for Breastfeeding"
Remember that there are options for you as negotiate your return to work. Maybe you work part-time for a few weeks before you return full-time. Maybe you do a mix of work-at-home time/days + office time/days for a few weeks. Maybe someone brings your baby to you at lunchtime, or you negotiate for a longer lunch and a later end time so you can lactate (aka, “go nurse your baby”) during your lunch break. Maybe you start back to work on a Thursday or Friday, so the time to your first 24-hour reunion with your baby isn’t five days away. Maybe if you are lucky like me, your boss will say yes, and let you bring your baby to work with you. (I am not alone; a couple of other students have also been able to do this.)
As you may have noticed, I am trying not to use the word “breastfeeding” in this post. When you are ready, talk to your employer about accommodating your lactation needs after your maternity leave. Lactation is a condition of pregnancy, and is therefore more likely to be recognized by a court as discrimination, should you need to file a case against your employer. Mothers who have made the case for “breastfeeding” have not won in court to date. Read THIS article by an Ohio State law student for more historical background. She makes a great case for changing our language around the conversation from the first time you mention your desire to pump to your employer.
3. Talk to your insurance company about your pumping equipment.
Our students have found it is best to talk to your insurance company about providing your breast pump while you are pregnant. Hopefully this keeps you from scrambling for equipment as your return-to-work date draws nearer. Your breast pump AND all the parts are also supposed to be covered by your insurer as per the PPACA.
If you have questions about finding the right pump for you, click back to read a guest post written by Debbie Gillespie, IBCLC about finding the right pump for the job you need it to do (more on that HERE).
4. Know your legal recourse just in case you need it.
I hope that it will not come to this, however, in the event that your employer and/or supervisor change the agreement about your break times after you return from your maternity leave, here are some protections in place under the EEOC.
If you are in CA, THIS resource is available from the Legal Aid Society Employment Law Center.
Should you find yourself in the unhappy situation of facing hardship and/or discrimination because of your choice to breastfeed, there are two resources I can offer.
5. Set yourself up for success, and build your own support network.
As our students pointed out, rally your support team before you go back to work. Get your partner on board – pumping is a team effort. Their help packing the bag in the morning, and helping clean the parts when you get home from work helps ease the burden of this amazing commitment you are making to your Sweet Pea. Find other mothers like you on a social media forum, or amongst your co-workers. It helps to know you are not alone in this choice.
Also take the time to educate your peers if your employer does not take up the opportunity to do so. Pumping could take as much as 30 minutes between set up, let-down, collection time, and clean up (and that’s on a good day!). Let your peers know what the time commitment is, and also how you plan to keep up your workload, or trade-offs or concessions you are willing to make. This will help pave the way for an easier transition back to the workplace.
Reality check: Be prepared for the backlash that might come from mothers who feel judged by your choice. Remember, it is not about you. They did what was right for their family; this happens to something you want to commit to for yours. The "Mommy Wars" set mothers up for the potential to feel like they failed their child if they gave them formula, and here you are pumping to give your baby breastmilk. They may register, “MOMMY FAIL”. It simply is not true. Each family makes the choice that they made with the information that was available, and made sense for their situation. End of story.
However long you or however much you are able to pump, remind yourself that every ounce is good for your baby. Give yourself the grace to do your best and keep your sanity. Know that generally, whenever you take milk out, it places the order for the next day. Even if you can’t keep up your supply at work and you supplement with formula, every time you breastfeed your Sweet Pea during your contact hours with them tells your body to keep making milk.
HERE again is the list of 20 Tips for Workplace Pumping compiled from the brain trust of our SPB students who work in a variety of careers. Many of these moms have been able to lactate past the first birthday – they know what they are talking about. And, should you need them, HERE are some ideas to boost milk supply.
I wish you all the best as you navigate returning to work and keeping up your breastfeeding relationship with your Sweet Pea.
What was your experience with returning to work and lactation? Any tips to share?
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It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult her or his healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation. Krystyna and Bruss Bowman and Bowman House, LLC accept no liability for the content of this site, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided. This blog contains information about our classes available in Chandler, AZ and Payson, AZ and is not the official website of The Bradley Method®. The views contained on this blog do not necessarily reflect those of The Bradley Method® or the American Academy of Husband-Coached Childbirth®.