When my daughter was six weeks old, I returned to my full-time job with my breast pump bag on my shoulder and lots of postpartum emotions. Not only was I the newest on my team, I was now a first-time mom trying to navigate the great balancing act of work and motherhood. Luckily, I had a very supportive boss and the company quickly created a beautiful Mother’s Suite for pumping. However, I know some parents need guidance on how to work with their employer on creating a supportive workplace.
Recently, ABQ Mom team members submitted questions to the New Mexico Breastfeeding Task Force, a statewide organization that promotes breastfeeding and supports mothers, families, and communities. They accomplish this through advocacy to pass supportive breastfeeding laws and work with businesses to create workplace solutions for breastfeeding employees.
The staff is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to all things breastfeeding. If you are currently working and breastfeeding or plan to return to work once baby arrives, make sure to refer back to this in case you need support during your breastfeeding in the workplace journey!
It is important to know that this should be used for information only. For legal advice, talk to an attorney. You can find more resources and information on the New Mexico Breastfeeding Task Force’s website www.breastfeedingnm.org, US Department of Labor, and [email protected].
Is your employer required to provide a private, clean place for pumping mothers?
There are several laws that protect an employee’s right to pump in the workplace, including federal laws and NM state law. Being that New Mexico has a more comprehensive law, it trumps federal law. In order to foster the ability of a nursing mother who is an employee to use a breast pump in the workplace, NMSA 1978, Section 28-20-2 requires employers to provide flexible break times and a clean, private space that is not a bathroom. It doesn’t have to be a space that is solely dedicated for pumping. It must be clean and privacy must be assured. It also means that the employer must be flexible with the pumping needs of the employee with breaks every few hours to maintain their milk supply. However, employers are not required to pay for the breaks taken for the purpose of expressing milk.
How long do nursing moms get pumping accommodations? Is it up to the employer or for as long as the working mother decides to breastfeed?
Because NM State law does not have any limitations, it can be for as long as the lactating parent and infant decide to continue breastfeeding/chestfeeding. Though as the child gets older, the frequency and need for pumping may become less.
What should a mom do if her workplace does not allow her a daily time or safe, secure place to pump?
It is important to start the conversation during pregnancy before you go on leave or during leave before returning to work. Familiarize yourself with the law, your specific needs, and possibly brainstorm a location you have identified that can work for pumping if a lactation room does not currently exist.
Schedule a conversation with your employer, manager, or HR. Explain your needs and the law. It may be helpful to have your doctor or lactation consultant write you a letter. Be prepared to provide education to your employer on the reality of breastfeeding/chestfeeding and the need for the flexible breaktimes, number of breaktimes, and potential space that can be used. Try to anticipate your employer’s questions and be prepared with a plan. Listen and take careful notes of the conversation and confirm that any agreements are done in writing. Additionally, if needed, you may contact the New Mexico Breastfeeding Task Force for support on self-advocacy strategies.
How do you handle pumping and storing milk if you have to travel for work away from your baby?
When traveling for work, a cooler with freezer packs can help maintain milk at proper temperature. During overnight travel or several nights, asking for a hotel room with a fridge as an accommodation can be helpful as well. If you are traveling for an extended period of time, consider shipping the milk, rather than traveling with it. In addition, for short travel periods, maintaining milk supply through pumping, but not milk storage may be more convenient. With air travel, according to TSA, expressed milk is allowed through airport security and not subject to volume limitation of typical liquids. However, it is still subject to screening.