How Do Regional Attitudes Affect Pumping Accommodations?
May 19 2020 – Kathryn Wepfer
This mom was one of the first woman in a management role to have a baby at her company. Learn how her pumping experience was positively impacted by California’s more progressive attitudes and policies regarding working moms.
Name: Erin Resch
Occupation: West Region Sales Manager
Children: Son, age 14 months
How old is your child, and how long did you breastfeed and pump?
My son is 14 months. I breastfed him until he was about 11 months old, though I didn't do exclusive breastfeeding. The majority of the milk he got was my milk, and we coupled my breastfeeding with some formula.
Many women are afraid of introducing formula and feel a lot of pressure to exclusively breastfeed. What gave you the confidence to supplement?
My supply was good, but my son is an active mover and he wanted to do other things. I was okay with not nursing him all the time if that’s what he wanted. Sometimes I think he maybe he didn’t have the patience to wait for the breast milk.
What do you do for work?
I manage sales for the West Coast at a dairy company, and I’ve been at the company for almost seven years. It's a good company, and I have my own office, so that made it easy to pump. At work they were pretty accommodating of my pumping. They put up a screen to cover a part of my office door that you could see through, and they made sure I had a refrigerator and anything else I needed for my office. For me, pumping was an easy decision and I didn’t mind the time that it took at work to pump. When I was first doing it, I felt like I was pumping more frequently than I would have wanted, but eventually I got into a good rhythm. I actually didn't mind breast pumping. It is a pain, but it's a good time to just spend 15 minutes of your day, and I was able to think about my son, so it was a good break.
I actually didn't mind breast pumping. It is a pain, but it's a good time to just spend 15 minutes of your day, and I was able to think about my son, so it was a good break.
What drove your decision to stop pumping?
I stopped pumping at work around 11 months, which was a bit earlier than when I stopped breastfeeding altogether. I noticed my supply was starting to go down, mostly because I was giving him some formula, and for me it made it easier to just go ahead and stop pumping at work as a starting point.
How long would your maternity leave and how was your transition back to work?
My leave was six months. I appreciated having an option to return to work part time. The thing that really helped with transitioning back to work was being in a good head space, because it was really hard at first. Having an option to go back part time can be helpful for individuals because you miss your family and it can be nerve wracking leaving your child in someone else's care.
What advice would you give to other moms for having a great transition back to work?
I really liked having a part time schedule as an option because it just helps you be in a better head space when you are at work, and it feels great to have an employer who will support you in that way. That's definitely something I would recommend requesting.
I really liked having a part time schedule as an option because it just helps you be in a better head space when you are at work.
You got to do the pumping experience on your own terms, with a lot of confidence at each step of the journey. It sounds like your company was very supportive and played an integral role in your positive pumping experience.
In California we’re a little bit different from most other states. There are so many more accommodations for females than there are in the rest of the U.S., so I think companies are a lot more on top of it in terms of knowing the law, and knowing that they have to provide a good workplace environment for females who are breast pumping, so that's a big differentiating factor. I think any company has the potential to offer great accommodations to pumping moms. My company is very old school, and I was one of the first females to be in a management role there and have a baby. I brought in a number of other females to my organization, and within a year we all got pregnant. Even though my company is run by all male leadership, I feel like they really stepped up to support us.
In California we’re a little bit different from most other states. There are so many more accommodations for females than there are in the rest of the U.S., so I think companies are a lot more on top of it in terms of knowing the law, and knowing that they have to provide a good workplace environment for females who are breast pumping.
Did you talk to your employer about your pumping plans prior to returning to work?
It was pretty simple because I have my own office. I did talk to them before I left on maternity leave to request the door curtain and a refrigerator, and that was my biggest concern for making arrangements.
It’s interesting to consider the difference in pumping experience and employer attitudes based on what state you work in. Is an accommodating policy something that is part of the culture in California?
I think it’s a part of the culture of our state that women know it shouldn't be a problem to pump at work, and then I think it’s also determined by the culture of each individual company. Even at my company, if I weren't in my own office then it would be a struggle to find space for pumping, so it wouldn't be a great situation. It feels like there are more rights for women here mostly because of the leave time policy and the rights at work for pumping, but I do think it can vary company by company.
You had a great private office space for pumping in the midst of a very male-dominated workplace. Did you choose to tell your male colleagues about your pumping activities, or did you keep that pretty private?
I did have my own office space for pumping, but I didn’t have a sink in there, so I had to use common areas to clean my bottles and pump parts. It wasn’t embarrassing, but it definitely was a visible sign that I was a breast pumping mom in the office. Sometimes other people would be in the kitchen while I was sanitizing the pump parts, so it made it very obvious that's what I was doing. For the most part, once I got breast pumping down I just collected all the milk in the same bottle and ended up not having to wash bottles every single time because I would just put them both in the refrigerator without having to wash them again, and keep them refrigerated the whole time so I could use them the next time. That eventually enabled me to avoid washing parts after every pumping session.
Were there any supplies or equipment that you found to be particularly helpful for pumping in office?
Probably backup parts for your pump. I remember one time I forgot a single tiny part for my pump, and then the whole thing wouldn’t work. My office is pretty far from my home, and when I discovered the piece was missing I wasn’t going to drive all the way back home to get it, so backup pump parts or even a backup pump would be helpful. What’s also helpful is something to easily clean up the area where you’re pumping.
What sort of support systems helped you to make the transition into working motherhood?
My husband is really amazing. He was able to take off three months to be with our son as well, so that made the transition a lot easier. I didn't feel like we were dropping him off at daycare too early without having had enough time to be with him ourselves. We have great daycare support, and also family was really helpful.
What do you do to take care of yourself as a working mom?
Having a son in daycare! I love my son, but it's so nice to just focus on doing what I need to do, and I feel like it makes me a better parent to be with him after he's been able to run around. He's a bit of a wild child with a ton of energy, so keeping up with him can be draining, and it’s great to have a nice balance.
I love my son, but it's so nice to just focus on doing what I need to do, and I feel like it makes me a better parent to be with him after he's been able to run around.
Any advice to pumping moms who are about to return to work?
Just commit chunks of time to do it. It’s the same kind of thing as taking a few minutes break from your work to gather your thoughts and not be going crazy full-speed all the time. I think you need that sort of break, and I actually appreciate that breast pumping enabled me to do that.
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