In order to provide breast milk for your baby while you are at work, you really don't need much. The bare essentials are as follows:
1. A private room - preferably with good lighting, electricity, and a comfortable chair. This can be your office, a conference room, or even a large supply closet.
2. Flexible break time to use for pumping. You should be allowed to alter your schedule to accommodate your three pumping breaks, each to be about 20 minutes (though for some women pumping takes a little more or less time). These breaks can be a part of your regular paid day, unpaid time, or time that you can make up by staying late or coming in early.
3. A supportive company policy. Your company should have something in writing that states that it is supportive of breastfeeding mothers. A sample policy is provided here. If your company is not willing to put a policy in writing, be sure that you have a clear agreement with your direct supervisor.
Stepping it up
Your company can make working and breastfeeding easier for its employees in many ways. Here are a few examples of suggested enhancements to your lactation policy:
1. A specified pumping room - this room should contain electrical outlets, comfortable chairs, desks or tables to set the pump on, good lighting and possibly computers and a telephone. It can have a refrigerator specifically for milk storage, a sink for washing up, and reading materials that support breastfeeding.
2. Paid breaks - your company can provide three paid breaks during the day in which to express your milk.
3. On-site daycare - Daycare located close-by eliminates the need for pumping, as you can be called to come feed your baby whenever they are hungry. On-site daycare can make the return to work easier for both mothers and babies.
4. Flexible maternity leave - Allowing a mother to return to work part-time, working part-time from home, or a compressed work-week can make breastfeeding easier for her. Some companies encourage job-sharing for new mothers or allow telecommuting for a few months after a mother returns to work.
5. Paid maternity leave - a paid maternity leave allows a mother to stay home longer without financial stress. Paid maternity leave is a family-friendly policy, encouraging mother-baby bonding and increasing the duration of breastfeeding.
6. Lactation Support - some companies employ corporate lactation specialists or private Lactation Consultants to help their new mothers with breastfeeding concerns. By helping to get breastfeeding off to the best start, employers are protecting the health of their employees families, in addition to reducing the amount of time the parents will miss from work once they return.
7. Breast pumps. Some companies provide multi-user breast pumps in a specified pumping room. This saves the employee the expense of a pump, and these multi-user pumps are typically of the highest quality. Some companies select health insurance packages that cover the cost of a breast pump for every new mother, sometimes at no additional cost to the company.
By Kirsten Berggren, author of Working Without Weaning and creator of the site, www.workandpump.com.