by Sascha Mayer, Mamava Co-founder and CXO
Sascha Mayer is the Chief Experience Officer (CXO) and co-founder of Mamava, the creator of freestanding lactation spaces for breastfeeding on the go. Sascha is a recognized expert on lactation space design, family-friendly workplace policies, and social entrepreneurial leadership.
Pumping breast milk in public bathrooms or crowded supply closets sucks twice over. Yet it’s what almost 9 million breastfeeding employees had to do at work if they wanted to continue feeding their babies breast milk after returning to work. But now, thanks to the new Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) for Nursing Mothers Act, expressing breast milk at work should be easier.
The PUMP Act amends—and most importantly expands—the 2010 federal FLSA law “Break Time for Nursing Mothers” that previously had only provided “reasonable break time” and workplace lactation accommodation protections for non-exempt (e.g. hourly) employees. Passed by Congress and signed into law by President Biden as part of the federal spending bill in December 2022, the PUMP Act will ensure that all breastfeeding workers have break time and a workplace lactation accommodation that’s not a bathroom. (Notably, there are exemptions for airline, rail, and motor coach industries.)
As the co-founder of Mamava, the category creator of freestanding lactation spaces, I’ve been working to make workplaces better for breastfeeding parents for almost 10 years. Supporting breastfeeding employees is about complying with the law—many states already have robust lactation accommodation legislation—but it’s also about creating a more inclusive workplace culture where employees can feel seen and celebrated holistically, not just for their bottom line contribution. We work with employers around the country to help them comply with the law, so I’d like to share some specific ways to improve support for breastfeeding employees.
- Provide a dedicated lactation space. The PUMP Act requirements for workplace lactation accommodations are deliberately vague—they need to be spaces that are free from intrusion (and view) and not a bathroom. But beyond the letter of the law, breastfeeding employees need clean and comfortable spaces to express milk when they’re at work. Accommodations should also be close to where employees work and easy to access throughout the day. At a minimum, lactation spaces need a place to sit, a surface and outlet for a breast pump, and easy-to-clean surfaces. But additional touches—like a locking door for peace of mind, a mirror for arranging attire post-pumping, and sanitizing wipes for quick pump-part cleaning—can go a long way to demonstrating that your organization values breastfeeding parents.
- Develop a written lactation accommodation policy. Workplaces may be physical environments, but they’re also tacitly shaped by an organization’s policies. In addition to dedicated lactation spaces, a supportive workplace has a written lactation policy in place to ensure that all employees understand the benefits of breastfeeding and the logistics of pumping at work. This is a policy employees and their managers should be familiar with before they even go on parental leave. Research shows that workplace lactation support programs are effective and that co-worker support can make a big difference for new mothers.
- Create a workplace culture that supports breastfeeding parents. Employers can help shift the culture of an organization by encouraging an open dialogue around breastfeeding. Consider establishing a bosom buddy program, where more experienced parents provide support to other new parents in your business. Approaching breastfeeding and pumping with bodacious optimism in HR materials, internal news, and by respecting blocked-off pump time in employees’ calendars, will break down barriers and help your colleagues successfully meet their breastfeeding goals.
The PUMP Act is a significant update to the federal FLSA and will have a positive impact on breastfeeding employees across the country. And that is cause for celebration! But as organizations grapple with the new requirements, it’s essential to understand that the law is just the beginning. Truly supporting breastfeeding parents at work means providing lactation accommodations designed with pumping in mind, ensuring that workplaces policies clarify (and codify) what breastfeeding employees need, and shifting traditional workplace cultures to be more inclusive of all bodies.