From Gisele Bundchen to Alyssa Milano, every once in a while, a celebrity breastfeeding at work (which is, for these celebrity women, breastfeeding while getting styled) photo would appear on the media, catching attention and starting discussion. I’m always thrilled to see women multitask like that. I also envy those who are lucky to have such understanding colleagues that they could nurse at work.
For many mothers, it’s not possible to have their baby with them on the job and even asking for a reasonable time and/or space to pump at work is a challenge.
I used to work for a company where I had to pump in the restroom and was harassed by my colleagues for washing pump accessories in the office kitchen. The fight for my right to breastfeed was long and exhausting, and the situation eventually resulted in my resignation.
A while ago I was invited to a KAZN talk show to talk about my breastfeeding experience, and the most important thing I wanted to tell my fellow breastfeeding mothers was “know your right.”
You don’t have any right if you don’t know any. Federal law requires any employer with 50 or more employees to provide employees with reasonable time and space for nursing. Here in California, even require all the employers to do this.
So breastfeeding is your personal right. Most employers are happy to provide the support that you need, as long as they know how important it is for you to have their support. If your company does not have a breastfeeding support program (like my previous company), it could be that nobody has ever asked for one. As a breastfeeding mother, it is important that you be the one who asks for it!
If the supervisor doesn’t understand how important it is for you to breastfeed, explain to him that breastfeeding is the healthiest choice for you and your baby. You can even have an expert from your local breastfeeding organization to talk to your supervisor. Just contact your local breastfeeding support group and they would be happy to help. San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition is a good place to start.
Your supervisor may not know what you need to continue breastfeeding. Let him know your basic needs for express milk is simply a private location and some flexible breaks. If your supervisor tells you that the company has no space for a pumping area, you can look around, find space that you are willing to use, and make the proposal. If your supervisor tells you that other colleagues would complain, you can invite lactation professionals to your company and have a seminar about the benefits of breastfeeding to mother and baby’s health so that your colleagues can learn. If your supervisor tells you that they don’t want to do this just for one person, you can remind him that supporting breastfeeding is actually beneficial to the company.
And supporting breastfeeding does benefit the company. Employees receive support for breastfeeding are happier and more productive. They are less likely to miss work to take care of sick babies because breastfed babies are healthier. Breastfeeding also helps lower the company’s health care cost since both the mom and the baby are healthier.
If you do get the support you need, remember to show appreciation to your supervisor and colleagues. And the employers who support breastfeeding do deserve some appreciation! San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition is currently accepting nominations for the coalition’s 2015 Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace Award. Know a local employer that goes extra miles to support breastfeeding? Submit an online nomination here: http://www.breastfeeding.org/site_page.php?page=workplace_awards
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