How To Approach Your Boss About Breastfeeding Support Needs In The Workplace
Sixty percent of mothers do not breastfeed for as long as they intend to, and unsupportive work policies and lack of parental leave are one of the main reasons why. So, whether you are having your first child, or your third, if you are planning on breastfeeding and returning to work, then breastfeeding support at work is essential. When work is removed as a barrier to breastfeeding, it increases success for nursing long-term.
“Pumping is not a fun job. I’ve had employers that provided breastfeeding support at work and employers that didn’t. I can say that having that extra support outside the home is one of the reasons that I was able to nurse my children as long as I did – both over 13 months!” – Kristina, working mom of two
Not only is providing breastfeeding support at work a benefit to mothers and their babies, it also provides many benefits to the employer. According to the United States Breastfeeding Committee (USCB), breastfeeding:
- Lowers family healthcare costs
- Reduces the amount of sick days a mother needs to take
- Increase employee retention (when breastfeeding support is provided)
- Increases employee productivity and loyalty
With this information in your back pocket, along with a few strategies to talk to your boss, you can feel confident and excited about requesting breastfeeding support at work.
Strategies to Secure Breastfeeding Support at Work
Even with the knowledge of breastfeeding benefits, preparing a strategy to secure breastfeeding support at work may seem daunting to some, especially if your company doesn’t have a formal breastfeeding support policy in place. Below, you’ll find tips for making the transition as easy as possible while reducing the stress of the situation.
Start the conversation before you have breastfeeding needs. At least a month before your due date, talk to your direct supervisor or your company’s HR department about the support plan for you after you return to work. Having this conversation early in the process gives your employer plenty of time to make any adjustments to preparations on their end, without surprising them with your requests.
Be clear on what you will need. Especially if your company doesn’t have a breastfeeding support program, they won’t know what you need unless you tell them. Many of your colleagues may not have children, but even if they have, they may doing things differently than what you have in mind. Be clear, be specific, and use direct language to communicate what you need. Here are some examples:
- I need a clean, private area to pump that isn’t in the bathroom.
- I need a 25 minute pumping break every 3 hours.
- I need a discreet and safe place to store my breast pump and equipment while at work.
You should also review the FLSA 7(r) legal obligations that your business must abide by. You can review the laws by state here.
Prepare yourself for the conversation. Rehearse what you will say and practice with a friend or family member. Be mindful of choosing words that are both respectful to your employers and also direct. Practicing what you will say helps to alleviate nerves and will make you more confident when conversation time comes.
This article from the United States Breastfeeding Committee (USCB) provides common responses from employers about breastfeeding support, along with how to navigate the conversation professionally. Here are a couple of examples USCB provides:
If your employer says: “The bathroom is the only space available.”
You can respond with: “Breast milk is food for my baby so it shouldn’t be expressed in a bathroom, but I looked into some solutions that other companies have used that I think will work here too.”
Also, legally, the bathroom is not an acceptable solution.
If your employer asks: “How am I supposed to cover your position while you are on break?”
You can respond with “I thought through a schedule and how we could handle it. It’s actually pretty similar to how we handle other staff breaks – can I tell you what I had in mind?”
Work & Mother
You can also offer Work & Mother as a solution to your breastfeeding support needs in the workplace. Currently, Work & Mother is operating only in Texas; however, they are soon expanding so if you are interested in a Work & Mother Suite in your building, click here.
Work & Mother facilities, which we refer to as “Suites,” are fully equipped & stocked with everything a woman needs to pump during the workday. All she has to do is show up!
You can share this webpage your supervisor or human resources team for more information in participating in this program. Alternatively, Work & Mother will reach out to your employer or building on your behalf: just fill out this form.