Though federal law says employers must supply moms with time and space to pump breastmilk, most women don’t continue breastfeeding after returning to work.
What parent hasn’t brought their new bundle of joy home from the hospital and then thought, “Now what?” Taking care of an infant means mastering a host of new skills, from feeding to burping to recognizing when baby is sick. And, for moms who return to work, it isn’t long before everyone is adjusting to that, too.
Unfortunately for breastfeeding moms, this transition can be a little harder because pumping breastmilk at work isn’t that easy. Though federal law says employers must supply moms with time and space to pump breastmilk, most women don’t continue breastfeeding after they return to work. On average, women breastfeed their babies for around 12 weeks, even though the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends babies nurse for six months and then combine it with solid food for another six months.
However, according to the CDC, in 2015 only about 16 percent of working women with newborns manage to breastfeed their babies exclusively for six months.
Why, despite the law, does this happen? Breastfeeding for shorter periods of time means baby and mom get fewer health advantages of breastfeeding. They can miss out on mutual bonding, stronger resistance to infections, less allergies and risk of obesity for baby, and lower risk of ovarian and breast cancer for mom. The sad truth is that women often feel employers and coworkers think pumping on the job means a woman isn’t handling her workload as required. Or, worse, that it isn’t “natural” or “tasteful” for her to breastfeed during the day.
It’s time for a change in this attitude.
Companies need to help supervisors and staff understand that supporting pumping and breastfeeding helps retain good employees, and lowers healthcare costs and absenteeism. New moms should talk with their human resources departments to help them gain support and understanding. They should be transparent with their contacts in these departments if they feel other employees or managers are making them uncomfortable with this natural and healthy act.