Spotlight on Women's Health
An Interview About Pumping at Work: Rebecca Flores
August 03, 2014
Breastfeeding mothers need support from employers to continue breastfeeding after returning to work. Pumping at work allows moms to give their best to their baby without jeopardizing their jobs. Businesses benefit, too: Breastfed babies are healthier, meaning lower health care costs for employers and fewer days out for moms. Allowing pumping at work also decreases turnover rates and increases employee productivity and loyalty.
This was true for Rebecca Flores, a mother of two. Unable to breastfeed her first child for very long, she knew she wanted to prioritize breastfeeding with her second child. To succeed, she'd need to pump at work, but as an hourly worker in a department store, she wasn't sure about her options. Thanks to the federal Break Time for Nursing Mothers law, Rebecca's employer was required to provide time and a place, other than a bathroom, for her to pump. Read our interview with Rebecca to learn how her employer met her needs, enabling Rebecca to continue breastfeeding her child after going back to work.
Rebecca Flores lives in Texas and is the proud mother of two. Although she wasn't able to breastfeed her first child for long, she is happy to report that she successfully breastfed her second child for 13 months, thanks to the support of her employer.
Q: Why was it important for you to breastfeed?
A: I was not able to breastfeed my first child for long, and he suffered from ear infections and other illnesses. I didn't want that for my second child, so I learned more about how I could make breastfeeding work better for me the second time around.
Q: When returning to work at a large department store, what was the setup for moms to pump at work?
A: Unfortunately, when I returned to work, there was not a designated breastfeeding location. I was actually having to pump in a closet. It had electrical and everything, but it wasn't comfortable. I knew I wanted to keep pumping at work, so something needed to change.
Q: How did you go about changing this situation?
A: After about a week, I approached my boss with the idea of turning one of the store fitting rooms into a room just for nursing mothers. My boss liked the idea.
I knew it would also benefit our customers. We would see women in the store sitting on benches breastfeeding. Some of them weren't embarrassed, but I thought the fitting room solution would make it more comfortable for both the mother and the baby.
Q: How did this change affect your experience pumping at work?
A: Having a space that was exclusively for breastfeeding made it more comfortable for me. It also helped other mothers and children, which made it that much more rewarding. When a customer was in the store and their child got hungry, they had a private place where they could breastfeed. Having a lactation facility makes it easier for mothers who are doing their best to make sure their child is healthy by continuing to breastfeed.
Q: How did you get the time you needed to pump during the workday?
A: Taking a break was never a problem. My managers were really good about working with me. I didn't have to go off the clock, and they encouraged me to pump whenever I needed to, which was generally every few hours.
At first, when I was building up the milk supply, I was pumping about four times a day. Each time, it would take about 20 minutes. As my son got older and I had a larger milk supply, I only had to pump three times a day.
Q: With the improved pumping situation, how long were you able to breastfeed your second child?
A: I breastfed my second child for 13 months and would have continued for longer, but he had a full set of teeth and started biting.
Q: Your first child was sick a lot. Did you notice a difference in the health of your second child?
A: I noticed a great difference with the health of my second child. For one, he has never had an ear infection and no more than a slight fever.
Q: Since your second child was healthier, how did it affect your job?
A: I was able to feel at ease and less stressed at work knowing my child was in good health. I didn't have to miss work due to his having an illness. I only had to take him to the doctor for checkups.
Also, I appreciated that the company created the room and kept it even after I got a different job in a different location. It gave me a good sense of family with my company.
Q: Why do you think it's important for employers to support breastfeeding moms?
A: I believe it is important for employers to be supportive of nursing mothers. It gives me comfort knowing that they believe family comes first and they care about my health and my child's.
Q: What advice would you give to other women who aren't sure they want to continue breastfeeding when they go back to work?
A: I would tell all mothers that are struggling between work and breastfeeding to stay strong and keep breastfeeding. The long-term payoff is well worth it. Not only do you save money breastfeeding, you're also giving your child a healthy great start in life.
Q: Do you have any tips for women who want to speak to their supervisors about their needs but aren't sure how?
A: Build a relationship with your supervisor. Express your beliefs on the importance of nursing and how it benefits all.
Q: Is there anything else you'd like to share?
A: I am thankful for the opportunity to share my story. It's not easy maintaining both work and being a nursing mom, but I knew I wanted a healthy child, so I managed both with the help of my employer. Just reach out and you can do the same.
To learn more about how your employer can support breastfeeding moms, please visit Supporting Nursing Moms at Work: Employer Solutions.
Learn more about the federal Break Time for Nursing Mothers law.
The statements and opinions in this blog post are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health.