Nursing moms share their workplace pumping stories with Moneyish
Express yourselves, working moms.
Australian senator Larissa Waters was recently celebrated for doing what mothers have been doing since the dawn of time: Breastfeeding her baby.
— Larissa Waters (@larissawaters) May 9, 2017
Of course, Waters fed her newborn daughter on the middle of the Parliament floor during a vote, where apparently no woman has nursed her child before. Breastfeeding is tough enough, which is why many families opt for the bottle instead. But working women tell Moneyish that for those trying to make the breast of it, their jobs have often made nursing even harder.
Despite the fact that the Department of Labor reports 62% of all moms with children less than a year old are working, as are 70% of those with kids under 18, the mother of all stigmas still surrounds women who wish to pump while employed.
“The prospect of having to pump on the job is one of the reasons I quit office life after my first baby. It seemed so stressful,” New Jersey mom and editor Lee Helland, 37, told Moneyish. The mother of three now telecommutes as the editorial director at Precision Nutrition so she can nurse at home. “Even if your employer is giving you a private space, questions remain. Does the culture support it? Will you get eye rolls if you miss the beginning of a meeting? Will I feel self conscious because coworkers can hear the whir of the pump?”
She’s not the only woman feeling pressure at the pump. While 81% of U.S. babies start out being breastfed, only 22% are still exclusively breastfed six months later. And a 2005 CDC report found that 10% of mothers working full-time still breastfed their babies at six months.
The Affordable Care Act passed in 2010 added protections such as demanding an employer provide a place other than a bathroom for an employee to express milk, which must be shielded from view and safe from coworker or public intrusion. The employer also had to provide reasonable break time for the employee to pump. And the law made breastfeeding support, counseling and even breast pumps covered by insurance.
But it wasn’t a perfect solution. For one thing, employers weren’t required to pay employees for the break time they spent pumping – which takes at least 20 minutes, and must be done every two or three hours.
“But the big problem with the Affordable Care Act is that there is no enforcement mechanism, and so there is no way to make employers actually do the things that the law asks them to do” said Audrey Kingo, senior digital editor of WorkingMother.com.
No wonder a 2016 report found that only 40% of women had access to both break time and a private space for pumping milk, despite federal laws requiring both.
And now that the ACA is in the process of being repealed, many women are worried these already scant protections can disappear, particularly the portions that covered breast pumps and lactation counseling. So women in more than 20 states held public ‘nurse-ins’ to highlight the protections they’d lose if Obamacare is repealed.
Kristin Randazzo, a 35-year-old mother of three in Florida, gave up breastfeeding after just three months nursing her first child because pumping at work was impossible.
“It was horrible. I had to pump in the stockroom, and I was walked in on by the FedEx driver at least once a week, despite a sign on the door,” Randazzo told Moneyish.
Worse, the retail manager wasn’t given time to pump because the company – a baby clothing store, no less – wouldn’t provide another supervisor to cover for her.
“I’d often have to wait five or more hours in between pumping, because I didn’t have another manager in the building to cover me, and I’d end up engorged and developed mastitis (clogged milk ducts),” she said. “I’m a stay-at-home mom now and don’t need to pump.”
Or perhaps women can find power pumping in numbers. Nursing moms rule the roost at Sharon Paculor’s project coordinator gig with Columbia University’s The Earth Institute in Manhattan, where she is one of half a dozen women who recently returned to work after giving birth. This not only takes away any shame or stigma some women suffer from having to schedule meetings or calls around pumping, but the company has also provided comfortable lounges and private rooms for pumping, as well as refrigerators for storing the milk.
“I’m really lucky. It’s nice, because research shows that the more relaxed and destressed you are, you actually produce more milk,” Paculor said. “Some moms I’ve spoken to have to pump in the bathroom at work, or they run out and pump in their cars, which is crazy. If you’re anxious or feeling rushed, many times you just can’t produce.”
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