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Creative Space for Expressing Milk at Work

by Jane Wangersky | August 18th, 2014 | Pregnancy

baby-bottleIf you’re planning to go back to work before you stop breastfeeding your baby, you’re likely aware that your employer is required by law to give you time and space to express your breast milk. (This goes for employers with 50 or more workers; smaller companies can’t be held to it if it would be too much of a strain on them.) It can be just as urgent as needing to go to the bathroom, a workplace right we’ve taken for granted for a long time. Awareness is only the beginning. This card from the U.S. Department of Labor sums up what you’re entitled to: A private, suitable space that’s not a washroom, and access to it whenever you need it. In the space, you’ll need, at a minimum, a chair and a flat surface to work on. If you’re using an electric pump, obviously you’re going to need an outlet, and a place to wash your hands and your pump is also good, though not required by law. says many workplaces have found the best thing to do is re-purpose a room permanently for nursing mothers, possibly even with private space for two or more at a time. However, it also shows solutions some employers have come up with for less favorable conditions. Your employer may want to look into some of them.

Portable lactation stations may look like porta-potties, and they’re made from the same basic shell — but inside, instead of a toilet, there’s just a chair and small table. They lock from the inside, too. See pictures and read more here.

Pop-up tents big enough to hold a folding chair are a less elaborate, less expensive alternative.

If you take your car to work, that might be a space for you — you can run your electric pump from the car battery, and a windshield visor will give you privacy. If you don’t drive to work, you might be able to borrow a company vehicle.

If there’s unused space in your workplace, your employer may be able to enclose it with moveable partitions. See here for a wooden divider one company built. Of course, room dividers can also be bought ready-made.

Finally, your employer might be able to do more for you if they don’t have to do it alone — if they can partner with other organizations in the same building, or even just the same neighborhood, to set up a space for all nursing mothers working working nearby.

As you can see, this takes planning, but there are ways to make it work for everyone.

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