One of the most common topics from the weekly breastfeeding support group is how to continue breastfeeding after returning to work. One critical element to successfully breastfeeding a baby while working is coordinating with an employer to provide the space and time during the workday to pump milk. Many mamas simply make do – often pumping in the car on the way to or from work, and pumping on lunch breaks or during prep time.
But did you know that the city of Philadelphia is one of two major cities nationwide to have legislation specifically protecting the rights of a breastfeeding mother who returns to work?
A University of Pennsylvania study of the breastfeeding legislation in 151 major cities was published recently in Breastfeeding Medicine; impressively (and perhaps sadly), Philadelphia was one of only two cities with legislation protecting the rights of breastfeeding mothers who return to work. The other city was New York. The researchers checked city websites, emailed mayor’s offices, and followed up with phone calls – and still, co-author Elizabeth Froh, a nursing scientist at CHOP, said “It was surprising to all of us how difficult and inaccessible this information truly was.”
It comes as no surprise that a new mother has to be her own advocate – and has to be dedicated to continuing to breastfeed and to figuring out how to make that happen. As an employee of one of the largest Philadelphia employers, I can tell you that when I went on my maternity leave, no one from human resources gave me any information about breastfeeding time and space for when I returned – despite this being a requirement of the legislation.
So if you’re returning to work soon or know someone who is – tell them to make an appointment at the BRC for a Back to Work consultation and then share the links at the bottom of this post that help outline what is required of an employer when it comes to breastfeeding and pumping at work.
And be sure to check out the BRC’s “Great Bosses” page for a list of breastfeeding-friendly workplaces in the greater Philadelphia area – or to nominate YOUR great employer.
Importantly, this recent Penn study – the first survey of its kind surrounding breastfeeding – is hopefully a great starting point for inspiring more cities and localities to support breastfeeding mothers who return to work by creating and enforcing thoughtful policies.
Read the official Executive Order from the City of Philadelphia’s Mayor’s Office in 2011
Read the full synopsis of the Penn study .
Read the Fair Labor Standards Act section (the existing federal law) on “break time for nursing mothers”.
A big thanks to Jennifer Shotto for guest writing this post for the BRC.