Pumping at work is hard work!

Know your rights pumping parent and how everyone benefits from a pumping-friendly workplace.

A mother smiles with her baby as they look at one another on a white couch.

If you are pregnant or recently had a baby, you may already be thinking about what your return to work will look like. If you hope to breastfeed, you will need to find a way to pump during your day. Often, workplace demands can make pumping difficult. You may feel: 

  • Pressure to avoid breaks
  • Overwhelmed when you think about adding one more thing to your day 
  • Unsupported by your colleagues or by leadership 

However, research shows that supporting pumping at work is good for both employees and employers. Knowing your rights as a pumping parent can help make the transition go more smoothly.  

“Breastfeeding and maintaining milk supply is especially hard for the first month back after having a baby,” says Annette Magner, RN, IBCLC, a lactation consultant at the OHSU Center for Women’s Health, “Chest or breastfeeding parents who work need to know they have rights to feed or pump in the workplace, and that they have the full support of their colleagues and employers.” 

The benefits of protecting pumping parents

There are many studies about the benefits of breastmilk for babies. But what are the benefits of supporting pumping for both you and your employer? 

  • Breastfed babies have less common newborn illnesses (ear infections, tummy bugs, etc.), which means less sick leave for parents. 
  • Healthier babies also lower health care costs for you and your employer. 
  • Breastfeeding parents get more sleep than formula-feeding parents (though still not enough!), leading to better focus during the workday. 
  • Feeling supported at work makes you more likely to stay with your employer. Establishing a supportive workplace culture helps with employee retention. Turnover is costly to companies and job changes can be stressful for families.  

Know your rights as a pumping parent

In late 2022, federal lawmakers signed the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) for Nursing Mothers Act. The PUMP Act outlines what employers must provide pumping parents: 

  • Break times 
    Your employer cannot deny you a pump break when you ask for one. They also cannot set a time limit on those breaks. 

  • Pumping locations  
    Your employer must provide a space for pumping that is not a bathroom. It needs to be clean and have a lock. If it is not a dedicated lactation space, it must be available whenever you need it for pumping. 

  • Privacy 
    You have the right to remain out of view from coworkers and the public when pumping. 

Oregon has a strong history of supporting pumping at work. Federal law allows for exemptions for companies of less than 50 people; Oregon law sets the limit to companies of less than 10. While the PUMP Act provides protections up until the child is 12 months old, Oregon workers have that period extended to 18 months.  

“A lot of families are surprised to learn that Oregon has these laws in place until the baby is 18 months old,” says Magner, “When parents know the law supports them, they can better advocate for themselves.” 

Magner adds that one way Oregon specifically supports families is that the law allows for a $1,000 penalty per incident for companies that do not follow the law. 

How to support pumping coworkers or employees

Pumping is hard! Breastfeeding takes a lot of energy, planning and determination. Taking time out to pump is different from taking a break from work. Leaders and colleagues can help nursing parents by creating a culture of support by: 

  • Setting up a welcoming space for pumping, with the right equipment and a refrigerator 
  • Providing education and signage for all employees 
  • Publishing and sharing lactation policy information 
  • Properly enforcing the pumping laws  

If you plan to pump at work, check out some of the programs and resources below. Consider going to the Understanding Pumping class through OHSU’s Childbirth and Parenting Education program or connect with a lactation consultant who can help you get set up for success.