workplaces, that’s the only option for breastfeeding moms.
even that’s a problem.
experts recommend breastfeeding for the first year when possible and desirable.
support in the workplace may be one reason that breastfeeding rates in the United States drop after six
Katy Tang, a
San Francisco supervisor, recently introduced legislation that could
potentially change that, at least in her city.
ordinance would require private and public workplaces to provide a lactation
space with a seat, a surface, an electrical outlet, and access to a sink. All
new construction would have to include a lactation space.
notes that Tang is open to hardship exemptions for some small businesses.
Affordable Care Act (ACA), federal
requires employers to allow break time to express milk, along with a private
place to do so. It can’t be a bathroom.
applies only to companies with more than 50 employees, and there are hardship
exemptions. There are no federal rules for electrical outlets or sinks,
although some states have more requirements than the federal law.
of the ACA on the table, those federal requirements may disappear, leaving the
matter to states or individual businesses.
Read more: Breastfeeding gaining more acceptance »
Townsend is the founder of TheEnclosed.com, which has four employees in San
also expecting her first child in a few months.
“I plan to
breastfeed and pump in the office as needed throughout my first few months. While
we will not have a ‘lactation space,’ we are taking a conference room and
making it more private with curtains,” she told Healthline.
acknowledged her privileged situation as the boss. But she’d do the same for
any of her employees.
In fact, she
believes all employers should do everything possible to help mothers breastfeed
or pump at work. She added that it’s a crucial part of keeping these women in
Even so, she
doesn’t embrace the idea of strict legal requirements for lactation spaces.
business, it would be “completely untenable,” she said. “Especially if the
requirement didn’t specify the size of the business and other parameters.”
rents space in an office building shared by other businesses.
lactation space will have access to electricity but no sink. This setup, she
said, is the only way it’s feasible.
“It [the sink]
would require complete re-plumbing of rented space. Landlords wouldn’t pay.
We’d have to move or shut down the business if it was really a requirement,”
part of Dogpatch Business Association, a group of local businesses including
bars, restaurants, accounting services, and others. She said it likely wouldn’t
be different for any of them.
“It would be
a straight-up deal breaker for the majority of small businesses, especially
with rents in San Francisco,” she said.
hyperaware because San Francisco is legislation-happy. As a result, small
businesses are getting squeezed out of the city. We don’t want to squeeze women
of childbearing age out of the workforce as less desirable hires,” she
Some of her
concerns are informed by the past, she explained. She once worked for a company
where, though it certainly wasn’t a written policy, the culture was not
friendly toward hiring women of childbearing age.
“That is the
implication of this type of legislation,” said Townsend. “It puts this
perceived burden of ever hiring women of childbearing age which, to me, is a
far more horrible concern. Don’t get me wrong, you have to be able to
breastfeed or pump. But it’s the other side of this, that’s what we risk, and
it’s a really frightening prospect. This sort of legislation could have a
subtle, but material impact on hiring practices.”
comes to business, size might matter.
suggested that any legislation on lactation spaces should at least
differentiate between small, medium, and large businesses.
more to it than size.
office with extra space might be able to handle it. But a large restaurant with
a hundred employees on a high-trafficked street — think of the rent on that.
Creating a lactation space would be totally prohibitive. They’d have to leave
the area. You have to understand the physical setup of each business,” said
legislation like this is problematic. It comes down to a case-by-case basis.”
A tale of
director of communications at Lumos Labs, Inc. (Lumosity) reports a positive
to offering 12 weeks of paid leave, when I returned to work, I had access to a
serene Mother’s Room equipped with a comfortable chair, pillows, ottoman,
hospital grade pump, drawers to store my pump parts, a refrigerator, sink, and
extras like a bottle brush, dish soap specifically for removing breast milk
residue, dish rack specifically for pump parts, nursing tea, parenting books,
and a bulletin board for putting up baby photos.”
It’s a good
way to retain valuable employees. It’s a setup that enabled Perng to breastfeed
her son beyond his first birthday.
points out, businesses in Silicon Valley tend to be supportive of working
parents. But it’s probably more than many companies around the country could
Aselstine, founder of Uncorked Ventures, does business just outside of San
Francisco. He has a small, part-time staff, and breastfeeding hasn’t been an
requiring new construction to include lactation space is a great concept. But
he shares Townsend’s concerns about business size and older, established
of a business when they hire their first employee is dramatically different
than say Google, Facebook, or Apple,” he said. “Where I get concerned as a
small business owner is that if size isn’t taken into account, do I need to
create this space, before I can even hire an employee?”
told Healthline that his wife had to deal with less-than-ideal setups at work.
“Some of the
time, it was the best that an employer or site could do. Other times, it seemed
they simply didn’t care all that much. It always seems better to me to allow
people to make the best accommodation that they can, given the space and
monetary requirements at play. But I know that also leads to some percentage of
people thinking that means there aren’t any real requirements,” he explained.
like those two are competing concepts, which is why our local ordinance for new
construction is pretty important. If I moved into my own space, it would be
great to have ordinances like this taken care of already,” said Aselstine.
spaces don’t solve everything
Kathryn Tiller of Texas likes the ordinance.
Healthline it would go a long way to improving women’s experiences of pumping
in the workplace.
Not that it
would solve every problem.
Tiller has had
access to a private room in the workplace. She called it a partial win.
first child was born, she used the company conference room and brought her
laptop in so she could continue working while pumping.
thing between her and her co-workers was an “in use” sign on the door.
By the time
her second child came along, she had a new job and a private nursing room.
was that her job involved a desktop computer. And she was paid by the hour.
the mobility, like a laptop, to move my workspace into the private room,” said
Tiller. “Otherwise, I would have to clock out and lose pay. Unless the
company’s culture is supportive of breastfeeding mothers and will not punish
them, either socially or financially, it doesn’t solve all the problems.”
credits both employers with being family friendly and supportive of her desire
neither was adequately equipped with the tools to help me blend work and
breastfeeding in a way that didn’t detract from my work day. I think you need
both, the moral support and the equipment to be successful as a breastfeeding
mom in the workplace,” she explained.
she and her husband decided things would work out better if she stopped working
outside the home. It wasn’t the only reason, but not having to deal with
pumping on the job was definitely a factor.
to mothers who cannot afford to leave their job is pump if you can. It’s hard
work and terribly inconvenient. But if it’s what you desire to do for your
child, it’s worth it and it’s just for a season. If pumping wears you out, or
is just not feasible in your job, formula provides a fantastic alternative for
your babies. You’re working hard to provide for your kiddos, financially and
nutritionally, whether you use breast milk or formula,” she said.