Just as moms are learning the ropes of new parenthood, it may be time to return to work. As one of just a few countries in the world with no paid federal leave, a staggering 1 in 4 women in the United States go back to work 2 weeks after giving birth. Many moms return to work still wearing their own postpartum diapers as their bodies are recovering physically, mentally, and emotionally from pregnancy, birth, and the early days postpartum.
For moms who plan to pump, there can be an additional layer of challenges. Many moms juggle the emotional toll of being away from their baby as they get up to speed on their workload and adjust to a new pumping routine at work.
Despite the recent passage of the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act (PUMP Act), the need has never been greater to support pumping moms. In fact, 82% of moms say pumping moms are not supported by society, according to a new survey by Lansinoh.*
Pumping Moms Feel a Lack of Support in the Workplace
Breastfeeding is a win-win for moms, their babies, and their employers. By supporting lactation at work, employers can reduce turnover, lower recruitment and training costs, cut rates of absenteeism, boost morale and productivity, and reduce their health care costs. And now, with the PUMP Act in place, more companies have a legal obligation to allow employees the time and space to pump breastmilk.
"With new laws protecting pregnant and lactating workers in effect, we have a lot to celebrate this National Breastfeeding Month,” said Tina Sherman, Senior Campaign Director for Maternal Justice, MomsRising. “Gone are the days of choosing between a healthy pregnancy and a paycheck. No more pumping in storage closets or bathrooms. Pregnant, breastfeeding, and lactating workers are no longer forced to make these impossible decisions thanks to the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act."
Yet many moms still feel a lack of support, with over 50% of moms reporting they did not personally feel supported pumping in the workplace.*
"There are a number of variables at play when a mom returns back to work after baby, but having a supportive workplace is key," explained Pam Cohen, Ph.D., chief research and analytics officer at Werklabs, the research arm of The Mom Project. "Overall, a culture of support for parents is extremely important. When managers check in with returning parents about their needs, and are flexible in adjusting to those new needs, it makes a big difference. Bottom line, when organizations seek to understand parent needs and act in ways that actively demonstrate that understanding, it goes a long way in terms of retention, inclusion and productivity."
Lack of privacy and respect for pumping time are issues many moms face when pumping in the workplace. “Sometimes it was hard for me to step out exactly when I needed to, leading to engorgement and being uncomfortable,” explained Amanda. “The room I was in also didn’t lock and I had 2 male supervisors walk in on me while pumping.”
Society’s perception and lack of understanding regarding breastfeeding and pumping can also pose significant challenges for working moms. Katelyn pumps at work in a small interior room with a locking door and access to an outlet for her pump. She’s grateful for the privacy, but faces a lack of support from her coworkers. “I often feel resent coming from coworkers about ‘all the extra breaks’ which is not at all supportive. I do feel judgement like I am somehow being lazy or taking advantage by taking 2 pump breaks during the day. I know it's not right, I know it's not a break/cheat, but it still makes me uncomfortable almost anytime I leave to pump.”
Juggling Stress and Overwhelm
For many moms, relaxation is key to getting their milk to flow freely. (Relaxing can help stimulate the let-down reflex, which makes pumping easier.) Although moms are often advised to try to pump when they aren’t rushed and won’t be interrupted, the reality is 78% of moms said they were overwhelmed by pumping in the workplace.*
When Mallory returned to work, she was able to access an extra office to use as her pumping space, though it hasn’t been without its challenges. “[I’m in] an extra office with a closed door with a makeshift curtain over the glass panel. It’s overwhelming and feels awkward when I get a knock on the door and have to say, ‘come back later.’ I wish pumping spaces were respected and inviting to moms, especially when we need to look at pictures and videos of our baby to get things moving!”
When asked to describe their experience pumping at work in one word, moms’ top responses were: “stressful,” “uncomfortable,” and “difficult”.*
Kasi is a first-time mom who juggles her work and pumping schedule and found pumping in her car to be a better option than the space provided at her workplace. “I work at a school and the only place I have possible is the nurse’s bathroom however it's also used to shower some of the students who have had accidents,” she explained. “So I’d rather pump in my car because I feel it's a bit more sanitary and I'm more comfortable. It just stresses me out because I have to manually pump both breast and eat my food all at once.”
Pumping Options for Busy Moms
Moms today are juggling more than ever – at home, work, and all the places in between – and they’re looking for options that offer more flexibility for their busy lives. In our recent survey, 87% of moms without a wearable pump said having one would make pumping at work easier.* A wearable pump offers tremendous support to working mothers by providing them with options to move freely and comfortably, with more privacy and discretion, so they can continue breastfeeding while pursuing their professional careers.
Another recent survey found 60% of moms stop breastfeeding before they intend to, with pumping at work cited as one of the top three breastfeeding challenges mothers face.** Recognizing the current struggles that come with pumping at work, it’s crucial for employers to provide the necessary support and accommodations for pumping parents. The recent passage of the PUMP Act helped extend the rights for pumping moms, but lack of Federal Paid Leave, high costs of childcare, and unrealistic expectations continue to take their toll.
Feeling Unprepared for the Breastfeeding Experience
The benefits of breastfeeding are well documented, and many mothers-to-be plan to breastfeed before their baby is born. But while breastfeeding is a wonderful experience for many moms, it does not come easily for everyone—and more than 55% of new moms feel unprepared for the breastfeeding experience, according to a 2021 survey by Lansinoh.**
When asked what would help them feel more prepared to breastfeed, new moms pointed to three top solutions:
- 1. More realistic portrayal of breastfeeding (and postpartum) in the media and social media (53%)
- 2. More prenatal breastfeeding education (37%)
- 3. Better family leave benefits (35%)
In our survey, 81% of moms went as far as to say that breastfeeding is not realistically portrayed in popular media. This impacts not only moms, who are not seeing realistic representations of their experiences; but it affects society as a whole, as they miss out on the opportunity to better understand the realities and challenges of new parenthood.
Although many pregnant women take classes to prepare for childbirth and to learn about infant care, breastfeeding education often takes place after birth, when new moms are trying to breastfeed or already encountering challenges with breastfeeding.
The 2021 Lansinoh survey also reveals that this learning process begins anew with each birth, as 49% of second-time moms said they were not prepared for the breastfeeding experience. Nearly the same number (48%) said breastfeeding as a second-time mom was more difficult than they expected.
Previous research has shown that trouble latching is the #1 reason why mothers stop breastfeeding. Improper latching can contribute to other breastfeeding challenges, including nipple pain, ineffective milk transfer, and insufficient milk production. This concern may take hold before a new mom even begins breastfeeding, as 55% of those surveyed by Lansinoh said they were fearful of latching challenges.
There is an emotional component underlying the breastfeeding experience as well. In our survey, 70% of respondents said breastfeeding moms are not sufficiently supported by society. And yet, the pressure to breastfeed can leave them with feelings of guilt. When asked “Would you feel guilty if you did not breastfeed?” the majority of moms (74%) said yes.
When asked which one word best represented their breastfeeding experience, moms replied both positively and negatively with words like “bond,” “hard,” “rewarding,” “painful,” “stressful,” and “amazing.”
Prioritizing the Wellbeing and Support of Mothers
Education is key to changing the tide in support of mothers. Not sure where to begin? Visit Lansinoh.com for more education and resources on how you can support the new parents in your life:
- 3 Steps To Building Your Postpartum Support Network
- 10 Ways Dads & Partners Can Support Breastfeeding
- 8 Ways Grandparents Can Support Breastfeeding
- 5 Ways To Support Your Breastfeeding Coworker
- How To Support A Breastfeeding Mom's Return To Work
Despite recent changes in legislation, there is a pervasive lack of awareness regarding the struggles and sacrifices that new parents face daily. It is essential to recognize the physical, emotional, and mental toll of motherhood, as well as the societal expectations and structural barriers that mothers encounter. Through increased education and awareness, we can promote empathy, advocate for policy changes, and create communities that prioritize the wellbeing and support of mothers.
*METHODOLOGY STATEMENT: Lansinoh designed the survey which was administered by Crowdly and reached 277 mothers. Mothers were recruited through social media. This report focuses on moms who gave birth in the past 2 years. Crowdly analyzed the data, providing insights to trends and key findings reported here.
**METHODOLOGY STATEMENT: Lansinoh designed the survey which was administered by HARK Research and reached 1,166 mothers. Mothers were recruited through social media and online panels. This report focuses on moms ages 18-45 who are currently pregnant and/or have at least one child, have breastfed or plan to breastfeed. The Lansinoh team analyzed the data, providing insights to trends and key findings reported here.
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