If you’re pregnant and working in America, you’ve likely been inundated with advice for how to care for your little one. But one thing people tend not to talk about is how difficult it can be to pump when you return to your 9-to-5 job—and how little support you might receive.
Your boss may not come right out and tell you this, but the Fair Labor Standards Act grants federal employees and non-exempt workers the legal right to a reasonable amount of break time to pump for up to one year after your child is born—and to a private place other than a bathroom where you can pump. If your employer gives you any trouble on this front, knowing what you’re legally entitled to can help. (Click here to find out more about whether you’re covered under this Act.)
It’s also smart to brainstorm ideas for when and where you’ll pump in the workplace and to pitch this to your HR contact (particularly if your boss has been less-than-helpful). Other moms in the office can be a lifeline here since they may have gone through the same struggles you’re experiencing.
If you still have little to no support, think about how you can go guerrilla: Can you pump in your car on your breaks? Do you have a friend who has an office with a door? Are there any unused storage closets around?
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And remember: Having the support of coworkers and friends makes all the difference. Seek out some veteran working parents who will be available by text to help provide moral support. If you’ll be pumping at work, talk to your boss and coworkers about it. You don’t need to go into detail, but you’ll be grateful later that you got the awkward “I’m going to be making milk three times a shift” conversation out of the way.
Jessica Shortall is the author of Work. Pump. Repeat: The New Mom’s Guide to Breastfeeding and Going Back to Work (Abrams, 2015).