For Breast-Feeding Moms Returning to Work: Speak Up

For new moms returning to work after maternity leave, having an up-front conversation with the boss can be difficult. Especially when it's about breast-feeding.  

Capitol Hill has stellar lactation facilities, but even that cannot always compete with the awkward conversation with the boss about why you can’t take that 3 p.m. meeting. New research out Wednesday and provided to Roll Call from Bravado Designs reports 25 percent of working mothers are not able to discuss back-to-work breast-feeding plans with their employer prior to taking maternity leave, and only 38 percent found that their employer was extremely supportive of their plan.  

While these numbers are not specific to Capitol Hill — or even Washington, D.C. — the findings illustrate not all women feel comfortable making their family needs a priority at work. This is particularly intriguing for a place such as the Hill, where staffers are often expected to put their boss' needs above their own and are less accustomed to taking time for themselves.  

Hill staffers who spoke to Roll Call about pumping at work cited the need to block off time in their calendars each day for pumping, though many worked during that time. Every effort is made to allow staffers to remain plugged in — the lactation rooms have phones and TVs for watching the floor or committee hearings — yet without that initial conversation or support from the boss, staffers who feel uncomfortable are more likely to opt out of breastfeeding when returning to work.  

Capitol Hill staffers are accustomed to hard work and dedication; many work on the Hill because they care about public service and want to give back to their communities. But doing so shouldn’t be at the expense of their families or themselves.  

The White House Summit on Working Families is on June 23 , and I’ll follow up with some of the findings reported there.  

This conversation is just beginning.  

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