Staying home with our little ones for the first two years, six months, or even just two weeks, isn’t a reality for many new parents (and needing to choose between having kiddos or a career is seriously antiquated —unless it’s your heart’s desire -- then by all means, and we also think a stay at home mom is a beautiful career). The pandemic has increased some people’s ability to work from home; however, being a full-time parent and a full-time employee at the same time is quite the juggling act (kudos to you if you’re in that category!). But working from home isn’t an option for many new parents. And even then, many parents who work from home need to have their little one cared for in a separate setting.
Those in non-essential and essential categories of work often have the option to take some kind of parental leave, but more often, essential workers are hourly employees with lower incomes. And many don’t have access to paid leave — sometimes there’s no access to leave at all because of the rules that surround FMLA. Those that do qualify for unpaid medical leave often can’t afford to take it --and they simply need to work to survive.
The type of job you have, how much money you make, and what type of leave you’re able to take, should not affect the ability to feed your baby in the way that’s best for both of you. Going back to work means that those who want to provide human milk for their babies need to express it in order to do so.
For most parents, that means pumping at work to keep their milk supply up and also to provide the milk needed for their little one while they’re away. Expressing milk is a biological need, like eating, drinking, or using the restroom, and there are laws that protect your ability to do it.
Because we know there are enough obstacles out there to breast/chestfeeding, we looked into the laws so you don’t have to. Here’s what they look like, and also some tips on the best ways to approach your boss about your needs.
Access to a breast pump is a right for every breast/chestfeeding parent that’s insured. The Affordable Care Act requires insurers to provide a pump and lactation counseling at 100% coverage without a co-pay (some policies were in place before 2010 and they can grandfather in not supporting breast/chestfeeding, but it’s pretty rare). If you aren’t insured, there are programs available to rent or secure a breast pump as well. Find out more about that here.
Many times, management isn’t informed on what the laws look like surrounding breast/chestfeeding, and they don’t necessarily know what your needs are or what you’re entitled to by law. Different places of work have different policies on who you should approach with human resource issues such as lactation policies; be sure you follow those channels since they’re typically in place for everyone’s benefit.
In order to make the transition of feeding your baby a more seamless one while you're at work, here’s what we recommend:
Working out a plan ahead of time, and communicating with your place of employment can help you feel more at ease and lessen some of the stress that going back to work can bring. It can also give your company time to provide the things that are mandatory by law, which will be a benefit to you (and maybe others in the future).
Breast/chestfeeding, pumping, and simply being a parent can be tough -- you’re doing a fantastic job, and you’re exactly the parent your kiddo needs.
This article was sponsored by Medela as part of their ongoing work to support breast/chestfeeding parents. Learn more at Medela's Moms' Room.