As a working or studying parent, there are unique challenges you will encounter when breastfeeding. Making the transition back to school or to work, requires planning and a solid support system. While the preparation takes time and intentional planning, the benefits of breastfeeding are WORTH IT!
Back to Work
Get familiar with your employee rights. Ask your employer about available benefits and federal and state required accommodations for breastfeeding parents. The Pump Act signed into law in 2022, requires employers to provide lactating and nursing employees with accommodations such as break times and a private space to express breastmilk at work. You also have protected rights under Federal and California law.
Federal law requires employers to provide reasonable break time and safe place for a non-exempt employee to express breast milk for their nursing child for one year.
California law extends these protections to any employee for as long as the employee is nursing their child.
Involve your circle of support. When you’re making initial plans with your support system, talk about your back-to-work schedule. Think about how your needs may be different when you return to work compared to when you’re home right after the baby is born. Think about what type of support you need from them to continue breastfeeding.
You may want to start pumping at least two to four weeks before you return to work to become comfortable with using your breast pump
Create a pumping schedule: Create a pumping schedule for work and try to pump your milk at the same time you breastfeed at home.
Here are some things to consider when creating your pumping schedule:
What are your work hours? How long are you there? A 4 hour shift will require much less pumping than a 12 hour shift.
How much and how often is your baby eating? What age is your baby? For example, newborns and younger babies feed more often.
What is realistic? Some work shifts and schedules may be more difficult to keep a regular pumping routine than others. Before you decide to complement breastfeeding with formula, explore your options, including employer’s responsibilities to comply with breastfeeding laws.
What makes you feel happy and healthy? Ultimately, you decide what is best for you and your baby
Build a supply of stored frozen breast milk. Frozen breastmilk can be stored for up to 6-12 months. This way you will have a supply to feed your baby breastmilk regardless of schedule changes. CDC breastmilk storage
Storing your pumped breastmilk at work: Access to a sink with running water and a refrigerator suitable for storing milk, in close proximity to your workspace must be provided by your employer.
If your employer has less than 50 employees it may be exempt from the lactations law’s requirements.
If your workplace does not provide a refrigerator, plan to bring a small cooler box or cooler bag to work with you.
Talk to the childcare facility about your feeding expectations: Make sure the child care provider or other caregivers your baby spends time with are able to store your pumped breast milk properly and feed it to your baby.
Back to School!
As a student you also have the protected rights to breastfeed under California state law. Under the Education Code 66271.9, California Community Colleges and California State Universities are encouraged to provide equitable accommodations for lactating students to express breastmilk or breastfeed their baby.
As a middle or high schooler, you also have the right to express milk at school. Under federal Title IX and the California Sex Equity in Education Act, lactating students must be provided with accommodations to allow them to pump at school.
Cal. Education Code § 222 (2015) requires schools operated by a school district or a county office of education, the California School for the Deaf, the California School for the Blind and charter schools to provide reasonable accommodations to a lactating pupil on a high school campus to express breast milk, breastfeed an infant child, or address other needs related to breastfeeding.
Many of the same tips apply for returning to work but here are some specific tips to make breastfeeding work for you as a student:
Be proud of yourself that you are trying to continue breastfeeding
Get the supplies you need: Whenever possible, have a breast pump, breast milk storage bags, a cooler with ice packs, and wipes to clean out your pumping supplies in your bag.
Talk with your school counselor or advisor: Let your institution know that you are breastfeeding and want to keep it up while at school breastmilk or feed your baby.
Schedule: To minimize conflicts in your school schedule use breaks to pump or breastfeed your baby
Find dedicated lactation space: Ask your school about available spaces for breastfeeding or pumping