Though every employer is required by law to provide a necessary space and enough time for breast pumping, even in offices that have the best facilities for new mothers, the system still remains imperfect.
We saw this recently with a new social media campaign that showed the realities of breast pumping at work. The #IPumpedHere campaign, started by Moms Rising, launched earlier this month and called on parents to post photos on Twitter and Instagram of some of the most terrible places they've had to pump. Needless to say, the images were pretty grim.
So, are women in the workplace still an “afterthought” when it comes to providing them with the tools they need to maintain both professional and personal continuity upon return from maternity leave? "Abso-freakin-lutely," one woman who recently started pumping at her job in the financial industry told Levo.
With August being Breastfeeding Awareness Month, we asked five women in different industries what it's really like to pump at work. They had plenty to say about the subject.
I am trying to pump breast milk – which my baby will ultimately drink – while sitting in an old leather chair covered in dried milk stains, which is housed inside a room that is no larger than a New York City coat closet, while hooked up to a pump that is plugged into a surge protector that is dangerously strewn across a tiny sink that even a wet bar would turn its nose up at!!! In other words, to say that my company’s “wellness room” is more of an afterthought would be an understatement. It is not sanitary and it is not at all inviting, never mind comfortable. So, here I am – a relatively strong leader within my corporation – having returned from maternity leave trying to pump my baby’s food in an environment that I myself would never eat in, nevermind relax in, while also feeling the pressure of my surroundings. Meanwhile my company spends more of its resources on non-essential job “perks.” It doesn’t make sense. —Woman Who Works in Finance
What no one tells you is just how long pumping takes. When first coming back from maternity leave, I tried to pump 3 times a day to keep up with how much milk my kiddo was drinking. That's 1.5 HOURS spent pumping and not being productive at work. That's 3 times a day where I was running to pump, feeling uncomfortable and in pain (boobs exploding) in meetings running long. That's 1.5 HOURS where people are wondering where you are. But I do have some pretty funny stories as a result. I got a company bought fridge in my office to store my breast milk (I was first woman in my office to go on maternity leave/pump). VP of Sales walks in and says in a sort of condescending way, "Oooh, I see you got a fridge. That's pretty sweet. How do I get one?" I answer, "When you need a private place to store your breast milk, I'll get one for you, too." -Woman who works in Non-Profit
While visiting my company's headquarters for a full day of meetings, my breasts were engorged and in pain from having missed my normal pumping session. I was fortunate to find a 20 minute break in the schedule and quickly ran to the ladies room to begin the unfortunate familiar activity of pumping in a bathroom stall (fortunately the handicap stall was vacant). I began pumping and answering emails on my mobile phone and a few minutes later the lights went out. Thanks to the beauty of energy-saving technology the timers in the lights left me in the dark! Fully connected to the pump with milk in full flow I began flailing my arms to no avail. The motion sensors weren't activating in the stalls. I had to weigh risking walking out into the bathroom topless and chance a run in with a coworker or finish pumping in dark. I opted to sit in the pitch black stall and had to manage not spilling milk as I finished pumping and contaminating parts as I put gear away. One of many not great experiences! -Woman Who Works in Media
As a trader, it's pretty competitive and to step off for 30 minutes while the market is open was looked down upon I feel like. A lot of that was inward pressure I think though. After taking 5 months off for mat leave and your team is covering for you it's hard. And when you get back to work with lighter hours and need to be off the desk every 3 hours for a half hour it takes a toll on you. I got the vibe that people found it inconvenient. Providing all of your child's food by pumping is about a 2 to 3 hour a day job in itself. That has a lot of pressure associated with it and it coincides with returning to the work force and wanting to contribute there. Plus you are wanting to be with your baby as much as possible so it is just a lot of stress! This then only brings down your milk supply. But looking back now I do realize most of the pressure was internally driven. I was the only person saying 'I must do this!' I suggest getting a daily mantra going telling yourself you are strong and you are giving your best in every area. And stop comparing yourself to other moms. You are unique and what you are doing is your best.-Woman Who is a Trader for a Bank
When I'm pumping I'm usually on my phone looking at pictures of my baby. I'm thinking about whether or not I made enough milk. I definitely think about when I am going to stop. It just feels like such a waste of time sometimes. I could have been listening to podcasts or meditating. I'm thinking about how tired I am most of the time. -Woman Who Works in Healthcare Policy Development
(Image via Getty)