For new moms, heading back to work after the birth of a child can come with a number of daunting challenges and potential hurdles. Chief among them, however, is breastfeeding. In fact, new research has found that a number of moms felt pressured to stop breastfeeding after they returned to work.
A survey of 1,000 new moms conducted by OnePoll in conjunction with Seraphine, found that although 66 percent of respondents said they'd planned to continue breastfeeding after returning to work by pumping when on the job, a number of them cited their return to work as the reason they ultimately stopped breastfeeding.
While 19 percent of respondents reported having been pressured to stop breastfeeding by their employer, nearly 27 percent said they simply "could not pump at work" and thus had to quick breastfeeding. Another 31 percent said the return to work had left them "too tired" to continue breastfeeding while just over 30 percent reported that they'd stopped because breastfeeding "was not convenient with my working routine."
What's more, while nearly 79 percent of new moms surveyed reported finding a "supportive work environment" upon returning to their job, only 27 percent reported being given time to pump. Similarly, just 34 percent reported returning to a designated breastfeeding room.
"With all the known benefits of breastfeeding, it is so important that mothers feel able to continue feeding their babies in whichever way they choose even after returning to work," a spokesperson for Seraphine said in a press release shared with Romper.
While the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010 extended a number of protections to nursing mothers returning to the workforce, a number of workers aren't covered by the law's provision. Specifically, the law requires companies with 50 or more employers to provide nursing employees with "reasonable break time" to pump milk as well as a private place to do so that is not a bathroom.
But according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's WIC Breastfeeding Support resources, the federal Break Time for Nursing Mothers law doesn't extend to employees not covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). It also doesn't require that pumping breaks be paid, leaving many employers free to deduct the time from workers' checks.
More worrisome, however, is that studies have shown that many employers aren't in full compliance with the law. A 2016 study published in Women's Health Issues, for example, found that only 40 percent of working mothers to infants had access to both the time and space required for pumping at work. Among black and Hispanic mothers, that number drops to just 14 percent.
And while the burden of holding companies accountable shouldn't be placed on employees, a recent study commissioned by Byram Healthcare found that a majority of working moms likely aren't advocating for their pumping rights simply because they're not fully aware of them. According to that study, some 54 percent of working moms were unaware that they were legally entitled to the use of a room with no shades or windows for pumping. In fact, Byram Healthcare's study found that fewer than 18 percent of working moms were aware of every protection afforded to them in the workplace.
For many mothers, the return to work can be fraught with both anxiety and excitement. But the choice to continue breastfeeding shouldn't be one of them.