I remember going back to work after having my first baby. Well, I’d have to say I DON’T remember going back to work. I was in such a fog from being exhausted, figuring out how to be a mom, trying to manage pumping for the first time, and worrying about how my baby was doing at daycare without me.
And I had a pretty good deal. I was very lucky to receive 12 weeks of paid maternity leave, and I still felt like my return to work was very difficult to manage. Many people get no paid maternity leave or get a short period of paid leave and the rest is unpaid. And if a person or family can’t afford unpaid time off, they may be forced to return to work within a few days or weeks of a baby’s arrival. Let me tell you, at 3 weeks postpartum, I would have been useless at work. On top of that, this would have certainly hindered my breastfeeding success, decreased job satisfaction, and put me at significant risk of developing a postpartum mood and anxiety disorder.
Now let’s get to lactation support at work. Workplaces are required to provide break time as well as a comfortable private location for pumping that is not a bathroom (would you want to eat in a bathroom?). Again, this is open to interpretation, unfortunately. The new PUMP Act requires that employers allow reasonable breaks for pumping, and compensation for these breaks is like that of non-pumping rest breaks that employees may have. For instance, if you typically get two paid 15-minute breaks each workday, you can still have those paid breaks and use them for pumping. Any additional break time must be allowed but does not need to be compensated. If you are doing any work while you are pumping, you must be compensated.
Ultimately, employers can offer more than what is required (for instance, they can offer 12 weeks of paid leave), or they can figure out ways to provide as little as is needed. These laws should be considered only the first steps towards reasonable accommodations for new families and breastfeeding people.
This year’s World Breastfeeding Week focuses on hearing from the families themselves and learning what has been helpful, what has been unhelpful, and what they wish they could have in terms of employer parental leave and lactation support. Please join me along with the Collaboration for our community’s recognition of WBW during the week of August 1-7. We will learn and advocate but also do some celebrating of all the amazing efforts of our own breastfeeding moms!
- Thursday, August 3, 6:30-7:30 – Virtual Q&A With Dr. Rubin
- Saturday, August 5, 11:00-1:00 – Caregiver Gathering and Conversation at Spilt Milk
- Breastfeeding: What Are My Rights?
- Finding A Breast Pump
- Order a Breast Pump through Your Insurance
- Local Resources for Breastfeeding Mothers and Caregivers
About our Guest Contributor, Dr. Rubin of In Touch Pediatrics and Lactation
Dr. Rubin is a general pediatrician and breastfeeding medicine specialist practicing in the Western Suburbs of Chicago. She worked at a large academic center as an outpatient general pediatrician for 13 years before opening her Direct Care practice, In Touch Pediatrics and Lactation, in 2021. Dr. Rubin loves providing care in patients’ homes, when and where they need it most! Her personal journeys with postpartum and breastfeeding led her to focus her career on improving care in this field for everyone. She offers physician-level lactation consults, in-home postpartum pediatric and lactation packages, and general pediatrics memberships in the Chicagoland area. She continues to be involved in teaching medical students as the adviser for her Breastfeeding and Lactation 4th Year Elective, and she serves as the Co-Chair for the Committee on Breastfeeding for the Illinois chapter of the AAP. She is also a founding board member of the North American Board of Breastfeeding and Lactation Medicine.