Survey Shows Only 1 In 5 Moms Know Their Breastfeeding Rights In Workplace

by Cassandra Stone
Originally Published: 
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The results of this survey show we need to do better by breastfeeding/working moms

The results of a new survey reveal that fewer than 1 in 5 working moms — or just 18% — are aware of all the legal protections they are afforded as breastfeeding moms at work. The study was conducted by Byram Healthcare Center, a “leading durable medical equipment provider,” and the findings are eye-opening.

The survey polled 1,000 working moms in the United States with children ages two and under, who are currently breastfeeding or recently breastfed. The survey is also the first of its kind to ask working moms how critical breastfeeding equipment and support are to their work lives.

A vast majority of moms — 95% to be exact — who breastfed have used a breast pump. Many of those who responded say that being able to pump at work (while likely not anyone’s favorite activity, let’s be real) has helped them return to the workforce.

That being said, many, MANY women are unaware of their full rights when it comes to breastfeeding and pumping while at work:

  • 52% of women surveyed do not know they are legally entitled to a designated room to pump or express milk for a full year after giving birth
  • 54% were unaware that the workplace is supposed to provide this space, and that it needs to have shades or no windows
  • 42% didn’t know the room is supposed to have a lock

Lots of women also reported not knowing their rights as a breastfeeding mother in the workplace also includes access to running water and a refrigerator to store milk. Even more disheartening is that 11% of women surveyed did not believe they were entitled to any of these protections.

“The results of this survey show us just how critical access to breastfeeding equipment and support are for moms who plan to return to work,” says Judy Manning, Vice President of Marketing at Byram Healthcare. “Protecting the legal rights of breastfeeding women not only shows them they are welcomed with open arms, but it levels the playing field.”

Additionally, workplaces are supposed to allot designated time for pumping — which can take up to 20 minutes or more, depending on the individual. Most moms polled in this survey admitted they “multitask” at work while pumping by doing it during lunchtime, making work-related phone calls, and checking work email.

Unfortunately, even knowing your protections and rights under the law as a breastfeeding mom at work doesn’t guarantee that you’ll have a smooth experience. I was fully aware of my rights when I was working in corporate America after the birth of my oldest child. My former employer was fully aware of my maternity leave and pending return, and that they needed to find a space to accomodate pumping. They did not. Once I got the wheels in motion myself, on my first day back, the best they could give me was an accessible bathroom, which is also against the law. You know, because moms don’t want to make food for their babies in the same room people are pooping. Crazy! My whole return ended up being a stressful nightmare.

We’ve got to do better by new moms at work. It’s really and truly NOT THAT HARD.

In response to the survey results, Byram Healthcare is publishing “A Working Mom’s Guide to Breastfeeding” as a resource for new moms headed back to work.

“I’m excited to give moms the tools they need to get up to speed on their rights and to advocate for themselves in the workplace,” said Shari Criso, an RN and certified lactation consultant. “It’s a great resource to help all breastfeeding moms learn their protections, select the best breast pump for their needs and get answers to their most common questions about going back to work.”

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