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Breastfeeding, Pumping and The Working Mom
by Kenyatta Thomas
This topic is near and dear to my heart. As a mom who works outside the home, one of the things I worried about while out on maternity leave, was continuing the breastfeeding relationship I established while on maternity leave the past five months.

It was something that I KNEW I would do - even before going out on maternity leave - so I had everything in place, a room to pump, supervisors understanding I would need several breaks during the day to pump - and that I had no time set as to when I would stop.

I'm always amazed that I managed to do it for 18 months! It was not a set goal that had been planned - but more a mind set that I would provide breastmilk for Christian any way I could - for as long as I could - and that I would take it one day at a time.

After doing lots of research, I purchased the Medela Pump In Style about 3 weeks before I returned to work, and it was probably the best purchase I could have ever made. The price was steep, $250.00, but it was WELL worth it when I took into consideration the milk I sent to daycare each day, and the short amount of time it took to pump.

About two and a half weeks before I returned to work - and after I purchased the pump, I called my manager to confirm the arrangements I'd made with him before I'd gone on maternity leave. I wanted to follow Christian's nursing schedule as closely as I could, and by the time I was ready to return to work, at four and a half months old, Christian was nursing every 3-3.5 hours.

The following was a typical day of nursing and pumping during the week for me:

  • Before I left for work, I nursed: 5:30 AM
  • Started work: 6:00 AM
  • First pumping session: 9:00 AM (15-20 min ~ 9-12 oz of EBM pumped)**
  • Second pumping session: 12 NOON (15-20 min ~ 8-10 oz of EBM pumped)**
  • Off work: 2-2:30 PM
  • 3:00 PM nurse Christian after picking him up from daycare
Now while my schedule WAS smooth - my relationship with one of my supervisors and her attitudes towards my pumping was not. Luckily I had the support of one of the company VP's, and after a tense couple of months, I was allowed to continue pumping.

With this in mind, not to discourage you - but to better prepare you - I do think there are some things you can do to prepare yourself JUST in case you run into problems.

  • Your first step is to obtain information on the laws of the state you live in by calling up your local Department of Labor Office.

  • Are you hourly or exempt employee? -- It makes a difference. Exempt employees can alter their work schedule without it affecting wage and hourly laws. Hourly (or non-exempt) employees must stick to wage and hour laws. This includes provisions for breaks. Most states do not have provisions for breaks for exempt employees.

  • Analyze other employee breaks. See if they are sticking to company policy. After you've gathered all of this information, take this to your personnel office. Tell them that you are willing to negotiate on work time for them to allow you to pump -- still maintaining an eight-hour workday.

  • There should be no reason for the company not to work around a pump schedule providing you are exempt. It does become more difficult if you are hourly and that's why it's important to document what OTHER hourly employees do on their breaks (such as smoke breaks).

  • It is always best to speak with your direct supervisor first, and if they are not willing to negotiate, tell them that "unfortunately you are unsatisfied with their response and would like to speak with someone from your personnel department - or another manager."

  • It is important that you follow the chain of command and most times bosses *will* negotiate - so that their boss does not have to be involved. Remember to NOT lose your temper and be respectful in your meetings discussing this
Working and nursing is something that can be done successfully with the right planning - and the right attitude. With a little planning in advance, a good breastpump, and a comfortable work environment, you can continue the breastfeeding relationship you started with your infant. Going back to work doesn't necessarily mean you have to stop nursing.

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