Going back to work after maternity leave can feel overwhelming. You miss your baby, you’re readjusting to work life, and you need to factor in the time and means to pump while working. Expressing milk using a breast pump can feel like a full-time job. If you face obstacles when pumping in the workplace, returning might feel next to impossible.
As a breastfeeding mother, you must have the resources you need to successfully continue your breastfeeding journey upon returning to your place of work. The Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act, also known as the PUMP Act, is paving the way to ensure breastfeeding mothers in the workforce have the legal support they need to express milk for their little ones. This law extends workplace protections for breastfeeding employees and helps many moms achieve their breastfeeding goals.
What is the Pump Act?
The PUMP Act was signed into law on December 29, 2022, and expands the rights of breastfeeding mothers in the workplace. This extends the rights established in the 2010 law, Break Time For Nursing Mothers, which initially gave nursing mothers certain protections for expressing milk at work.1
Under the PUMP Act, nursing mothers continue to have the right to:
- A reasonable break time to pump and express breast milk for one year after their baby’s birth.
- A clean, private place to express breast milk. This area does not include a bathroom.
The PUMP Act also extends protections that include:1
- Coverage and rights for a significantly larger amount of working women.
- Specifications that an employee must be paid for their pumping break if not completely relieved from their work duties.
- A breastfeeding mother can file a lawsuit against an employer who does not comply with the law and allows the employee to seek monetary compensation.
Although the law was signed and went into effect in 2022, an enforcement provision includes a 120-day delay. This makes April 28, 2023, an important date; it’s the day employers can begin to be found liable for not meeting the requirements of the PUMP Act.2,3,4
Who Does the Law Cover?
The PUMP Act includes a much larger group of working, breastfeeding mothers and covers almost all working women. Before the PUMP Act’s passage, many workplaces did not have to consider breastfeeding rights. These jobs included teachers, nurses, and agricultural workers, which the law now covers.
Unfortunately, a handful of workplaces and professions are not covered by the PUMP Act or have differences in law application. These include certain rail carrier and motor coach employees and airline crew members.1
Another PUMP Act exception is an employer with less than 50 employees. They do not have to comply with requirements if allowing a pumping break would “impose an undue hardship by causing the employer significant difficulty or expense.” 3,4
It is important to remember that for all breastfeeding women, and those exempt from the PUMP Act, you can find more protections for expressing milk in the workplace under state laws.1,3,4
Why is The PUMP Act Important?
The PUMP Act is significant to breastfeeding mothers nationwide who are part of the workforce. Most working, breastfeeding moms can now meet their breastfeeding goals. Women choose to breastfeed for several reasons. These might include health benefits for their baby, economic benefits, and even health benefits for themselves. Whatever the reason, they can now achieve their goals by getting the resources to express milk for their babies at work.
Tips for Returning to Work
Here are a few quick tips to help you feel more prepared and confident upon returning to work.
- Speak to your employer about pumping at work. Make sure to discuss the location, the amount of break time you need, and what they will give you.
- Create a plan for how and where you will store your expressed milk and clean your pump parts.
- Start pumping a few weeks before your return to work to create a supply of expressed milk for your little one.
- Introduce your baby to a bottle ahead of time to prepare for your work departure.
- Check your breast pump equipment and bring extra parts if needed.
- Consider your work wardrobe and ensure you have clothing options you will be comfortable pumping in.
The PUMP Act will significantly impact breastfeeding women returning to their workplace after giving birth. Now, more women than ever can continue their breastfeeding journeys while simultaneously working. Now, this is something to cheer about!