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Making It Work

Pumping and Breastfeeding at Work

From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 21 No. 3, May-June 2004, pp. 98-9

"Making It Work" is a regular feature of the magazine NEW BEGINNINGS, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of NEW BEGINNINGS to help mothers who wish to combine breastfeeding and working. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's life-style. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.

Situation

I am going to start a new job in two weeks. My baby is nine months old and stays with her dad during the day, as he works the night shift. With my old job, he brought the baby to work at lunch so I only needed to pump once in the morning. I am uncertain how to approach this breastfeeding/pumping subject with my new manager. How do I let my manager know that my pumping will not affect my work, and how do I talk to him about the daily visits from my husband and infant?

Response

How great that you are able to maintain a strong nursing relationship while working! If your new job will have a similar schedule to your old job, you can explain how you made it work at your old office. Mention that this is very important to you and your baby. As you said, you only need to pump once a day, and your husband comes in at lunch. The nursing may not even have to be brought up. If you need to, you can explain that the visit at lunch keeps you from having to pump again in the afternoon.

I didn't start a new job while breastfeeding, but I wanted to return to my job full time after maternity leave. Most of my work could be done from home, with my husband doing the baby care while I was at the office. My approach to pumping was to find a private room where I could pump. My manager was okay with this, as long as I promised to not let it interfere with my work time.

I never had to discuss the nursing or pumping after my first couple conversations with my manager. Once she saw that I had found a place to pump and that my job performance would not be affected, it wasn't an issue.

Deayne Johnson
Littleton CO USA

Response

Good for you for managing pumping at work. As awkward as it was for me to ask my boss for a morning and afternoon break for pumping, he wanted to talk about it even less. So, I kept it very brief and said "I'm going to need a short break in the morning and the afternoon because of my baby." He said "That's fine, and I think I know why." My job performance spoke for itself to prove that pumping didn't distract me from my work.

At nine months, I was able to cut back to pumping only during lunch. In your case, if your husband can bring your baby to work during lunch, you may not need to pump at all during work. You may be able to pump after hours to get milk for the next day. My son seemed to adjust his schedule to nurse more from evening to morning, and drink less saved milk from a bottle during the day. At one year, I was able to skip the pumping altogether. Now, my son is a little over a year and still nurses from evening to morning and throughout the day on weekends.

Sara Phillips
Atlanta GA USA

Response

I don't think you should make a big deal out of this unless you think it will affect your work in some way. If you feel it's necessary, explain to your boss how well your arrangement worked at your previous job.

Your lunch is your time, as are your other breaks. Your boss wouldn't be able to tell you whether or not you could read on your breaks, so why should he be able to tell you not to feed your child or pump your milk? If it doesn't interrupt your work time I don't think it will be a big deal as long as you don't make it one. Good luck.

Athena Reynolds
Garden Grove CA USA

Response

I started a new position when my youngest child was about four months old. I simply explained what I needed in a straightforward way and explained how I would make sure pumping did not prevent me from doing my work on time.

You may want to think in advance about both the reasons why this is important and different alternatives to address any potential concerns. For example, if bringing the baby in to work would disrupt others, is adding an extra pumping session an option? If your manager doesn't understand why this is important, be prepared to talk about how human milk is shown to reduce absenteeism by parents because the babies tend to be healthier. If your manager does not have experience with other employees in this position, you may need to educate him about how long the pumping breaks will take, where you would store the milk, or other issues.

Having expressed milk in the office for each of my three children, my experience has been that, provided my work gets done and I'm not interrupting the work place, pumping has not been an issue.

Debra Rosenberg
McAllen TX USA

Response

It's great that you are still breastfeeding and pumping for your child. However, I am not exactly sure why you need to talk to your manager about pumping at all. Your husband should be welcome to bring your child to you during lunch, as that is your time. Also, you should be able to pump during your break, as that is also your time. I think if you make a big deal about this, you new supervisor might think it's a big deal. If you are casual about needing to pump, than your boss probably won't see it as a big issue.

Some employment places have rules regarding who can go into the buildings for security reasons. If this is the case, then perhaps you can meet your husband and baby outside the building for a lunchtime nursing session. I had a friend who did this for nearly a year. Her husband would bring lunch and she would eat while nursing, sometimes in the car (if it was cold) and sometimes in the picnic area outside the office.

Sandra Deutscher
Lakeside CA USA

Response

Congratulations on continuing to provide a wonderful benefit to your baby by continuing to breastfeed. It sounds like you and your husband have worked out a great plan. You might consider a face to face meeting with your new boss before you start working to talk this over. You could start by explaining your commitment to your job and your family, your plans for pumping and visits, and how it worked for you at the old job. Tell your new boss you just wanted to explain first so there wouldn't be problems later. There are also statistics on how breastfed babies are healthier and that mothers who breastfeed need less time off work to tend to a sick child. I hope you can work out a solution that works for everyone, especially your baby.

Kim Pierson
Van Buren AR USA

Response

I also had my husband bring our daughter to me at work during my lunch and pumped once a day until she was a year old. By that time, I was able to continue the breastfeeding relationship (for a few more years) without pumping. I think you should be nonchalant about your need to pump, and the issue doesn't really have to be about pumping itself (i.e., don't ask for permission), but rather the issue should be about where you will pump. Just tell your new employer that you will need to use your break to express milk, and you need a private room in which to do this. Be casual, but prepared to answer questions, such as how long you will need to pump, what time you will need to pump, and how you will make sure that your productivity does not suffer during this time.

Also, if you live in the United States, check into the laws of your state in regards to working and breastfeeding. Some states have laws that protect your right to breastfeed, and some protect your right to pump at work.

Joylyn Fowler
Garden Grove CA USA

Last updated Thursday, October 19, 2006 by njb.
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