Season 3, Episode 12: Fighting for Breastfeeding Education in the Workplace and Beyond
Amy Van Haren invented and developed “Pump Spotting” when she had the pivotal moment of sitting on the floor of an airport trying to provide milk for her son. She saw a problem and she set out to fix it by providing a service she knew was needed.
There are countless stories of people who are shunned away to disgusting bathrooms to pump or breastfeed in public places. They are hiding in supply closets at work, afraid to talk to their bosses to get the time and space they need to pump milk for their babies. Amy saw these people and created a service that gives them the support they crave.
But Amy didn’t set out to be a leader in the maternal health space. She had to get out of her comfort zone to create this business. She knew it was needed so she cranked up her optimism and built something beautiful out of the collective strength from the stories around her.
In our talk on Moms With a Purpose, Amy gave some great advice concerning the conversations about breastfeeding with your employer and your colleagues. It might push you out of your own comfort zone. Here are a few tips to help you along the way.
1. Prepare Your Mindset & Be Gentle With Yourself
Breastfeeding and pumping is hard even before you add juggling your responsibilities at work and possibly raising other kids. You’re dealing with hormones that make you feel so many emotions at once. At the same time, you have to keep an infant alive, manage your family, and go back to work.
Some days, it may seem impossible and it’s important to be gentle with yourself. You are not a burden. You are worthy of respect and the time and space to provide sustenance for your child. And you are not alone.
2. Get Everything In Place Before Your Maternity Leave
You don’t want to spend the precious first few weeks with your newborn chasing down higher ups and coworkers to have the conversations you need to have. Your needs are going to shift over time and that will require flexibility.
Be transparent and honest about this with your employer and colleagues to avoid any confusion in the future. Check with Human Resources about any requests that need to be made in writing. Most of all, know your rights and assert them before you start your maternity leave so that there aren’t any surprises when you come back.
3. Be Specific About Scenarios That Involve Pumping At Work
When people ask you questions or if you have any that your employers and human resources need to answer, include scenarios you believe you might encounter. For instance, if you’re wondering how much time you’ll get to pump, tell the person deciding what you need to do during each session. This might help them better see how much time is really needed.
What will a typical day at work look like for you while you have to pump? When you think about these scenarios, consider if there are policies attached to them that you need to know about.
4. Find A Pumping Buddy At Work
Chances are that there is someone at work who has also had to deal with pumping. If not, use online communities and the forums at Pump Spotting online to find people who have had similar situations. They will be your best allies for navigating all you need to know about pumping at work, who to talk to about issues you have, and how best to communicate with coworkers.
5. Provide Education If Necessary
Some people may not know that breastfeeding people might pump at work for a few months or for years. Talk about your intentions with the amount of time you’ll be pumping at work and provide education about why you’re doing this if needed.
There might be some questions that are easier for professionals to answer. Your health and the health of your baby are affected by your ability to express milk while you’re breastfeeding. Even if the employer doesn’t want to allow it, the milk has to come out. Education may be required to help them understand.
Communicate and Include Everyone
Some people may not understand how to support breastfeeding people. For those of us that choose to breastfeed, making milk becomes a whole lifestyle. It takes up a large chunk of our lives and those that have never been exposed to breastfeeding may not know much about how to support people who need to pump at work.
Keep channels of communication open with all of your coworkers and talk about your boundaries. Remember the stories of others and that there is power in collective strength. This isn’t easy but it’s not impossible. Know your rights and know, again, that you’re not alone.
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Listen on Apple Podcasts:
Moms With a Purpose Season 3, Episode 12