Pumping in the loo or in the car
“Mama share: First day at my new job and I have to pump in the bathroom,” the post began.
The comments on this post told a similar story, that lots of mums were being forced into the loo – or other inappropriate spaces – to express milk while they were at work.
“I am currently pumping on the floor of a bathroom,” one mum empathised noting that she too had just started a new job.
“I had to do this for a whole school year at my internship it was so annoying,” another mum commented.
“This was my situation and I ended up just pumping in my car …. thankful for tinted windows!” someone else posted.
Lots of other mums chimed in to say they did the same because at least their car was relatively clean and not full of strangers’ or workmates’ germs.
There’s often a glaring power imbalance when it comes to new mums and their employers. It’s possible that for many women, securing a job after they’ve had kids is struggle enough. It can be really hard to ask for what you need, when you feel lucky to even be hired, post-bub.
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Mama share: First day at my new job and I have to pump in the bathroom.. 😢 “If, during pregnancy, you find out that your company does not provide a private lactation room, identify a temporary private area you can use. Ideas: an employee office with a door for privacy, conference room, or a little-used closet or storage area. The basic essentials are that the room is private and can be secure from intruders when in use, and an electrical outlet if you are using an electric breast pump. Explain to your supervisor that it is best not to express milk in a restroom. Restrooms are unsanitary and there are usually no electrical outlets. It can also be difficult to manage a pump in a toilet stall." Source: womenshealth.gov
“Do not disturb”
Thankfully not every workplace is ignoring the fact that some employees are parents, and new ones at that. Some are making facilities for breastfeeding mums part of their office design, while others are seeking out comfortable space so that women can express in peace.
“I’m lucky that my work recently built and moved into a new building so we have a lactation room,” one mum explained. “It is off of the lunchroom so it’s a little awkward walking out like ‘heeeey my boobs were just out in there’ but it’s still great to have. I doubt I’d keep pumping if I had to use a bathroom/closet.”
“Sorry for this pumping mama!” another posted. “I was the only pumping mama at work and my boss created a space for me in a small room that wasn’t used much. I could set up and leave it all there for the day. My co-workers made a “Do Not Disturb” sign for the door so they knew when I was in there.”
The Australian Breastfeeding Association says that in Australia, “all states have legislation that protects your right to combine breastfeeding and paid work.”
“The Federal Sex Discrimination Act 1984 was amended on 24 May 2011 to further strengthen the laws protecting the rights of breastfeeding women. ANYONE who discriminates against breastfeeding mothers is now breaking the law.”
The experience this mum is having – that is being required to express milk in the toilet – could be considered discrimination, according to Fair Work.
“A best practice employer can support employees who are breastfeeding by making sure they have suitable facilities available – examples include a private room for breastfeeding, somewhere where the employee can store a breast pump, and a fridge where they store any breast milk,” Fair Work explains on their website.
“Employees should also be given appropriate breaks so that they can breastfeed or express. Breastfeeding is a protected ground of discrimination. Making an employee feel uncomfortable about breastfeeding, or not providing adequate facilities or breaks, may constitute discrimination. It may also be a breach of work health and safety laws.”
In other words, making mums express in the toilet is flouting Australian discrimination laws. Among others.