Making It Work
Pumping for an Older Baby
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 19 No. 9, July-August, p. 137
"Making It Work" is a regular feature of the magazine NEW BEGINNINGS, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of NEW BEGINNINGS to help mothers who wish to combine breastfeeding and working. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's life-style. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.
When I returned to work after the birth of my daughter, I had a supportive employer and a boss who helped me work out pumping arrangements. However, my contract with that company ended and I was forced to find a new job. My new firm is not as family-friendly, and my responsibilities have increased. My new boss questions my desire to keep pumping, stating that since my daughter is nearly a year old, she is eating solids and doesn't need my milk. I want to make a good impression in my new job, and I fear that my boss thinks my requests are a bit odd. How do I negotiate for pumping time and location now that my daughter is older and I am a relatively new employee?
I got so angry when I read about your boss trying to tell you how to raise your baby so that you can fit the company's needs better. And I still get angry enough every time I think about it to actually take some time and write in about this. I would recommend that as an internal attitude you are very clear with yourself that your boss has no right whatsoever to tell you how you should feed your daughter. It often helps me to be really clear about where my limits are in terms of dealing with difficult situations such as yours. You might even want to consider a friendly but firm way to let your boss know that he/she is stepping over the line and then ask again for what you need. Consider yourself a trailblazer for other mothers at your new company.
There may also be some friendly ways to ignore your boss and keep pumping. In my state (California) every employee is entitled to two 15-minute breaks plus a lunch break. You could use these for pumping. I haven't had to try this, but I know you can get adapters to even pump in your car. I know one mother who used to go into the restrooms of fancy hotels in downtown San Francisco and pump.
Another idea that I had was from Dr. Sears: He says you can always use him as your (second) pediatrician as in: "My doctor recommends I keep giving my daughter my milk to avoid allergies." Also, your real pediatrician might support you with a letter to your boss. If the letter from your pediatrician stated how many fewer illnesses breastfed children have, your boss might even re-think his attitude.
However, whatever you do, please do not give in. Your boss' attitude is outrageous and inappropriate and your daughter is so much more important than this job and this boss. Good Luck.
Congratulations on your commitment to "Making It Work" on an extended basis. That's awesome! My advice would be to separate the issues. Not only do mothers often want their needs met, but they also want those needs validated. While this is understandable, to seek both of those at work may be setting yourself up for frustration. Seek validation from others, and concentrate on getting your needs met.
Your need in this regard is for time and space to pump. Avoid trying to defend, educate, or justify your need to continue to provide breast milk for your baby. Your company is not in the position to evaluate or comment on your parenting and medical decisions.
Instead, I would address their concerns. Respond to those with solutions. (If the conversation returns to the "need" or lack due to your baby's age, return the topic to your employer's needs). For example, if the employer's fear is that you will take too much time away from work, offer to work an extra amount of time (subtracting reasonable times for breaks).
Does your employer make accommodations for mothers who are pumping for new babies? If the answer is yes (or even that they would), they need to make the same accommodations for you.
I would suggest that you don't get caught up in justifying your need to pump for an older baby. Don't let that become the issue. It's not the time to change minds or educate-it's simply a time for you to negotiate the needs of your family while fulfilling your obligation as an employee. Do talk about how you have made a researched and non-negotiable parenting decision and are very committed to it. Also mention you are willing to work around reasonable requests in order to fulfill that commitment to your family.
Talk about it in terms of how it's going to work, not if it's going to work.
An effective way of dealing with your new colleagues might be by saying something such as, "My child's pediatrician has said that providing my milk while I am working is vital. I will need the time to pump during the day. I will do so on my breaks or at lunch and will make sure that it does not affect my work." I really wouldn't make a big deal of it or try to educate your supervisor or your fellow employees. Some literature given to your supervisor about how breastfed babies are not as sick and therefore mothers need to take less time off work to care for them might also help.
You might also want to negotiate a trial time period, during which you would prove to your employer and your co-workers that your pumping would not decrease your ability to be a good employee. At the end of the trial time period (six to eight weeks), the newness or uniqueness of what you are doing (pumping in general and pumping for an older baby) most likely would have worn away, and the issue will have been forgotten.