As a society, we’re beginning to realize the undeniable benefits of breastfeeding – from building stronger immune systems and providing optimal nutrition for growing infants, to lowering the risk of certain health conditions in both mother and child.
But breastfeeding itself is not always an easy task, especially when it comes to maintaining your professional career at the same time. It can be time consuming, energy draining, isolating, and even unpredictable. However, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, recent studies have shown that approximately 40% of women indicate an increased commitment to providing breast milk to their babies and 25% are breastfeeding or pumping more now than prior to the virus.
While we are seeing these rates rise, any change to a feeding schedule or pumping routine can present new challenges. For a smooth transition to remote work, it’s important for breastfeeding mothers to be proactive in talking with employers about the support they will need in order to be successful in this new setting.
Tips For Talking With Your Employer About Breastfeeding:
- Determine your personal breastfeeding goals at the start of this transition. Once they’re established, schedule a time to discuss with your employer and let them know how they can support you in meeting those goals.
- Be open to hearing your employer’s concerns and addressing them honestly. This might be a new conversation for both parties, so a new mother shouldn’t give up if it doesn’t go as planned the first time.
- Know your rights as a working (and breastfeeding) mother! Even before the recent switch to remote work, breastfeeding mothers were protected by the federal Break Time for Nursing Mothers law, which requires employers covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child up to, whenever they need, for one year after the child’s birth.
- Be prepared and confident. Research indicates that because breastfeeding produces such positive health outcomes, those who support nursing moms, reap the benefits as well. Employers who provide accommodations to nursing and pumping women see reduced healthcare costs, improved company culture and morale, higher productivity, and increased retention rates across the board. All of which are critically important to note when working mothers (with children under the age of three) account for just under half of all workers and are the fastest growing workforce segment.
Another key to maintaining a daily pumping schedule when working remotely is to protect time each day to better maintain pumping or feeding routines. Blocking time on a shared calendar helps to avoid interruptions and decrease scheduling conflicts. When meeting and feeding times coincide, how a breastfeeding mother chooses to respond is a personal choice. If you prefer to maintain some privacy while breastfeeding or pumping during a video meeting, utilize zoom to its full potential by disabling your camera and microphone while feeding. An alternative to turning off the camera function would be to wear clothing that allows for minimal disrobing. Some may feel comfortable nursing during the meeting and others may prefer to reschedule, but in either scenario the support and understanding from your colleagues is essential.
It can be intimidating to initiate these conversations, but ongoing communication, open-mindedness, and a deeper understanding of the benefits of breastfeeding are necessary to normalize this process for women in the workplace. Ultimately, employers, managers, and co-workers are all responsible for creating a supportive environment for the breastfeeding women in their organization.