Supporting Breastfeeding and Pumping Employees

Returning to work can be a bit of a challenge for breastfeeding and pumping moms. There are so many things to consider, both mentally and physically. So, how can employers help ease this process for mothers returning from maternity leave? What are some of the challenges businesses face? And how can employees advocate for themselves? Today we’re talking about how to support breastfeeding and pumping employees.

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Episode Transcript

Sunny Gault 0:01
Returning to work can be a bit of a challenge for breastfeeding and pumping moms. There are so many things to consider both mentally and physically. So how can employers help ease this process for mothers returning from maternity leave? What are some of the challenges businesses face? And how can employees advocate for themselves? Today we're talking about how to support breastfeeding and pumping employees. We're The Boob Group!

Sunny Gault 0:31
Welcome to The Boob Group. We're here to support all moms wanting to provide breast milk to their babies. I'm Sunny I'm a mom to four kiddos. And I breastfed all of my babies for various lengths. I struggled at times, which I'm sure you guys can all relate to. And that's why we created The Boob Group, so you don't feel like you have to go through all of this alone. If you haven't yet, I encourage you to go to our website, new mommy And subscribe to our weekly newsletter, you'll get updates and all of the new episodes we release because we produce other podcasts in addition to The Boob Group, everything parenting and pregnancy focused. You can also subscribe to the blue group through your favorite podcast app. And when you do so, I would love for you to leave a review. It's so great to hear from you guys. Who knows, we may even read your review on our show. Alright, we're gonna dive into this topic. But first, a quick break.

Sunny Gault 2:08
Today, we're talking about how to support breastfeeding and pumping employees and also what role employees have in all of this. Our expert is Sascha Mayer. She is the CEO and co-founder of Mamava, which are portable lactation spaces. You guys have probably seen them at airports, conference centers and other public areas. Sascha, welcome to The Boob Group!

Sascha Mayer 2:30
Thank you, Sunny!

Sunny Gault 2:31
Alright, so I think this is a very timely topic, right, because of something called the pump Act, which would amend and expand the accommodations for breastfeeding and pumping moms. So Sascha, tell us a little bit more about The Pump Act and your involvement.

Sascha Mayer 2:47
Yeah, no, we're very excited to hear that this legislation actually passed the House in October. And it expands basically, the Break Time for Nursing Mothers Act. So that's been legislation that was part of the Affordable Care Act, was passed in 2010. And what this really does is cover all of those breastfeeding parents who maybe weren't covered in the original legislation. So the original legislation had protections for hourly wage employees, which is great and important. But there are many, many people out there, people who are teachers, or nurses or who work in the agricultural sector, who were exempt. And so now The Pump Act would cover all of those folks provide them with the same protections, the break time for using a breast pump. Or in some cases, people are able to use that time for breastfeeding, as well as extend the time. So the original legislation allowed for breastfeeding parent one year after the birth of that child. And this new legislation actually covers it for two years.

Sunny Gault 4:04
So it extends some of these accommodations now for the people that were already covered previously. does it extend it for those people as well? Like everyone as a group?

Sascha Mayer 4:14
Yes, it does. Yeah. So exactly. It's sort of an evolution of the original legislation.

Sunny Gault 4:19
Got it. Okay. So it's kind of sitting there with the Senate. What are what are the next steps? Do they debate it? Do they discuss it? What happens from here?

Sascha Mayer 4:27
Yeah, so it should be coming up for a vote, I would hope that it would be a pretty non partisan approval as it was in the house. Like who doesn't love you know, taking good care of babies and mamas. In terms of the actual timing on that, hopefully it would be coming in this legislation legislative cycle, but that's never for sure. Sure. And then if it went, when it passes, I'm gonna I'm gonna put it by vote on that. It will. It'll go To the president design.

Sunny Gault 5:01
Okay, so realistically, when could mom's start to see some benefits from this? I know that's a that's kind of a loaded question, because there's so many variables, but what can we hope for Sascha?

Sascha Mayer 5:12
Well, I think there's just great cultural momentum. So any sort of grand gesture like this helps right away. But in actuality, employers would have 120 days after the passage of the law to actually come into compliance.

Sunny Gault 5:29
Does it depend on how big the business is? Like? What are the the stipulations there?

Sascha Mayer 5:36
Yeah, it is. Right now the law is written. So if you have fewer than 50 employees, and employer can request an exemption, if they can demonstrate that compliance would impose an undue hardship. And the truth is just legislation is not that hard to be compliant to, it's not that you have to build a separate space. Or it's really that you have to create a space that is comfortable, that has a locked door for the time that the parent needs it. But the the burden of proof for for making it a hardship is really going to have to be on that employer. And we expect that that's going to be, you know, more trouble than it's worth. And that, in fact, what we have found at Malaga is that most employers actually want to support breastfeeding, they know it's great for the health of the parent as well as their their child. So in general, we think it's, it's all positive, and we shouldn't, you know, have any issue with this passing.

Sunny Gault 6:45
Well, I love that you are involved in this. I love that things are being done to accommodate moms. I think breastfeeding pumping is so important. When when I hear about legislation like this, I'm like, Oh, thank goodness, we're doing this. And then there's, there's another side of me, it's like, why isn't this common nature? Why do we have to have laws that tell us it's okay to feed our babies, I kind of struggle with this sometimes. How do you think we're doing as a society and just making breastfeeding which our bodies were created to do for our children? more commonplace? Like it seems kind of silly to say that, but I feel like, you know, we still kind of have this struggle. How are we doing as a society? Do you think?

Sascha Mayer 7:27
Yeah, I think we're doing better. And I, you know, a major issue here is that we don't have any standardized paid parental leave. And we know that many, many parents go right back to work after having a baby. And we know how difficult that is to even try, let alone to sustain, you know, pumping and breastfeeding under those circumstances. But in the time that we've been working on Mamava, the initiation rates of breastfeeding have increased significantly from about 73% of parents at least trying to start to breastfeed to I believe the last numbers I saw were about 83. So that's a meaningful data point. And I think the fact that there's legislation, there's conversation about breastfeeding, you have celebrities like the Kardashians and Beyonce, I mean, I think that's sort of pop culture actually influences the rates of breastfeeding in a really good way as well. So we are making progress. And I think just even evidence of our little business, that there is just more infrastructure out there for breastfeeding in the form of lactation rooms, or the pods that we've placed around the country. So I do think there's reason for hope. And I do think that, as you said, it's frustrating that sometimes it takes a legal mandate to make change, but it's, it's important, and it actually does influence change, for sure.

Sunny Gault 9:09
I'm also wondering, and I don't know if you've seen any studies done on this, but since more and more people have been working from home, I wonder how that's playing into moms, you know, cuz I mean, I've always kind of worked from home, I've had some jobs where I had to go to a place but since having kids, I've always pretty much worked for home. So I've could be breastfeeding a baby while doing anything. And I'm just wondering if we're seeing those numbers increase and moms breastfeed and pump for longer because they don't have these restrictions of going into a workplace. Have you seen anything on that?

Sascha Mayer 9:43
Yeah, I don't know about the data on that. I longer rates of breastfeeding, or more. I actually can't give you any statistics there. I'm sure those will surface soon enough. I have anecdotally heard, and we've done a few surveys just with our audience of app users that they are breastfeeding for longer. Okay. But what's interesting is the pressures on the workforce, as we know, the low unemployment rates, the fact that so many women are leaving the workforce is actually influencing employers to do better in terms of employee benefits, and support. So that is a silver lining coming out of this is that they, you know, no longer can sort of dismiss some of the needs of employers of employees, because they want women to not leave the workforce. It's it's much harder to fill a position. Oh, yeah. Then to just do better in terms of benefits and support for new parents. Yeah, totally.

Sunny Gault 10:57
Did we see like, once the the Affordable Care Act, and then the section, the Fair Labor Standards Act came into effect? Did we see any changes in numbers with moms and breastfeeding? Or, you know, did we see...

Sascha Mayer 11:10
Yeah, that was about so 2010. So it's been 11 years since that was passed. So that would be around that time frame of the initiation rate 73% of of new parents initiating breastfeeding, and now it's 83%. So I think that definitely made an impact. Yeah, absolutely.

Sunny Gault 11:29
Well, I'm glad to hear that. Yeah, that gives me hope that every time we do something like this, you know, moms would take advantage of that, of course, and then you can help their families. So that sounds really good. Okay, so Sasha, we're going to take a quick break. And when we come back, we're going to talk more about what employers can do to help breastfeeding moms as they return from maternity leave, and then also moms, what you can do to encourage this whole process. We'll be right back.

Sunny Gault 11:59
Welcome back, we have been discussing breastfeeding and pumping in the workplace, and then the various laws and proposals to help moms who are returning from work. Sascha Mayer from Mamava is our expert today. And she's been involved in some new legislation being discussed in the Senate. Hopefully, that will pass and help a lot of mamas out there. Especially, I wanted to talk more specifically about what smaller businesses can do here. We talked in the first half about this legislation and how smaller businesses could file for some sort of exemption and maybe not have to do some of this. Not that they don't want to help moms, right. But we're in kind of this weird position. Sometimes I run a small business where you want to help, but there's only so many resources. So I wanted to talk a little bit more, maybe there are some people listening to this who run small businesses that want to help moms, but may not be able to do you know, some of the things like a larger business would do. So for some of those smaller businesses out there. What are some ways that they can help some practical ways they can help breastfeeding and pumping employees or workers?

Sascha Mayer 13:01
Sure. So I think it's really important to have the conversation before parent goes on parental leave, and has the baby, right. And so kind of removing that stressor is really important. And no, and making sure that the employee, you know, you want that employee to come back, after having a baby, and getting a better understanding of what they need and what their intention is, in terms of choosing to breastfeed. It is hard, you know, for a smaller company to maybe figure this out, what we have found it, you know, for instance, in our office building, where we're located, we have, obviously, we actually have three or four of our lactation suites and various phases of prototype, okay. And some complete, and we will actually invite the rest of the building to to if there are moms, in these smaller office suites to have access. We know, for instance, that some of our pods are in atriums, or in a mall, for instance, where you might have a bunch of smaller retailers. So giving the information to that mom, like, oh, when you take your break for pumping, it's just down, you know, five stores down in the food court or what have you. Things like that are important and you know, the time flies, you know, that first year or two when you're breastfeeding mom, so even establishing, you know, one of the offices as a lactation room is, you know, an easy way to comply with the legislation and so it's pretty easy ultimately to do the right thing.

Sunny Gault 14:57
And then you know, I don't know some of these businesses may not even be big enough to have an HR. And I think that's kind of where you are going with this is having that conversation, whether you have an official HR or whatever, to be able to have that conversation and just be honest about the situation. So no one's surprised. Right?

Sascha Mayer 15:14
Exactly. And I mean, the mom should know, I know that there's a million decisions that you're making and questions you might have. But in this one, the law is on your side. So not being shy about asserting your expectation. And ultimately, you know, we know that breastfeeding is a key key to health outcomes for both the mom and the infant. And I think that should motivate any employer to you know, want to support it.

Sunny Gault 15:48
Yeah, absolutely. And are we seeing any kind of trends happening right now with employers, as moms go back to work?

Sascha Mayer 15:55
Yeah, many more offerings, particularly in the corporate sector, for supporting new families. Again, there is so much competition for quality workforce. And even in places like, you know, Walmart, distribution centers, for instance, or Amazon, you know, facilities where we know, they have many, many employees. They need those folks to stay, stay in employment and are creating, you know, more of a benefit package around what it means to be a new parent. There's a lot of, we're not in that business ourselves right now. But there are a lot of types of programs, again, helping employers plan for employee parental leave plan for the benefits that they might require, on the health side, helping new parents get breast pumps, those sorts of things that just make it easier for those new parents to navigate a very kind of complicated phase of life.

Sunny Gault 17:15
Absolutely. And what can some of the moms do the employees? How do they advocate for themselves? Because it obviously depends on what kind of company you're working for. And I and I hope that the companies out there, you know, really considering the needs of their employees above, you know, the bottom line and all that kind of stuff, because, you know, you need to make your employees happy and feel safe and comfortable. But what are some ways that that moms can advocate for that without, without coming off as super pushy or needy, you know, you kind of walk that fine line, sometimes depending on your employer.

Sascha Mayer 17:50
Yeah, and not.... and also not wanting to apologize for it. Again, it's about the employers being more front footed about it. One of the things that I think is just universal is when you are starting your adventure as a new breastfeeding parent, then it's feels very lonely and can be kind of isolating. And I know that when I was breastfeeding, I always felt during that time, even though I had a supportive and employer where I was using my breast pump, I was missing a meeting, right? Or I was you know, inconveniencing somebody who was waiting for me outside of a client session when I was traveling. And I think it's about just building that muscle of saying out loud, this is what you're doing. And I know that can feel sometimes, you know, embarrassing for a new parent, but after a while, it helps to break down the conversation and and you'll feel more comfortable and your employer or your colleagues will feel more comfortable. And I think the normalization part is just important. We have seen amazing advocates that are you know, fathers or grandfathers or, or partners who have been through this with their, their, their partners or wives and or, you know, their, with their children, and have these new grandchildren who they're excited, you know, getting breastfed because it's they know, it's like the best thing to do.

Sascha Mayer 19:32
So, amazingly, sometimes it's actually the least expected who would have the most comfort with the conversation. One of the things we have done at Mamava and we also talk about it for the employers that we've worked with, is established kind of a button Bosom Buddies system. So someone else in the in the business who has recently been a breastfeeding parent, then You actually couple that with the new parent, and they kind of show them the ropes, make sure they have what they need. Help them as they come back to work, you know, we have decorated our pods for the many new parents who have been who have had babies since. Mom, we haven't, we haven't. We're not a very big company, we have about three or four babies born a year. It's like it's in the water, okay. But, um, so that really helps too, because you can feel isolated and to have someone who is almost as as kind of your, your, your bosom buddy, your your wing woman in this journey is like, it's such a relief. And yeah, and it makes a huge difference. Like we have some colleagues who have babies, and they're always like, what's the big deal? Like, they didn't, you know, have that same stress about coming back to work. Because they, you know, we're in such a supportive environment.

Sunny Gault 21:01
I love that. And I am seeing more and more of that I have friends, that their companies are providing paternity leave, which is like six weeks, and then it's, you know, same thing for moms or dads, you know, because I think we lose sight of that sometimes, too, is that you know, whether it's another mom that's helping you or your partner that's helping you, like we all need that support, I am seeing more of that. And I'm really happy when I see it. Usually, it's like the younger companies that have younger employees that have a different mindset towards us. I'm glad to see that it's changing. I do feel like it's changing. That's what I'm saying at least.

Sascha Mayer 21:38
Yeah, no, I think I think it is changing. I mean, just in the time that we've been doing this business, we have seen it changing. That's great. And, you know, we see it in the form of the old days, we literally had to do so much educating, you know, and directing towards legislation to make sure people were in compliance. And now they come to us and they know what's up. And they know that it's a kind of an easy saw that they're creating a more positive work environment by having lactation spaces.

Sunny Gault 22:12
I love that. So I want to talk a little bit about Mamava before we say goodbye, because I love your pods whenever I'm traveling, and I see one of your pods I smile. So for, again, the employers out there that might be listening, how does an employer know if a pod is a good fit for them? But what are some of the options that you see? And how can they get involved and help?

Sascha Mayer 22:37
Yeah, sure. So it's a still pretty hands on process. And we have an extremely knowledgeable sales force. Actually, we have folks that sell specifically in the channels that they know about. So we have an account executive who works in health care, and she's actually a certified lactation consultant. And she has been, you know, placing our units in healthcare and hospitals for I don't know how many years now, four years now. And similarly, for government, we have someone who's an expert in that channel, and then for airports, and so on. So it's definitely, you know, our whole vision is that this problem is solved. And it doesn't have to be with our Mamava pods. You know, for instance, our free mobile app has not only our public pods, but it has about 4,000 other lactation spaces, that are just rooms that we want moms to find. So that's really important to us. So in the conversations we have with an employer or a facility, we really talk them through it and want to make sure that it's the right fit for them. And in the beginning, we just sort of had one version of the pods and now we have, you know, a smaller pod that is a little bit more designed for like the back of the office space kind of fits in and more neutral environment, all the way up to the pods that you see that are wheelchair accessible, that are in airports or stadiums. So there are a lot more options when we first started out. And our team was really good at talking folks through and they, we we also do you know, for instance, audits, you know, we work with some employers who have, you know, 20,000 people coming in and out of a big facility. And so we can help them crunch the numbers around birth rates lack parents who are breastfeeding and sort of guide them like Okay, great. You have one lactation room that can fit two parents. In fact, statistically speaking, you need three more spaces at this facility to even be somewhat close to getting all of the Your employees covered. So that's the kind of work that we're doing more and more of which is, which is really fun.

Sunny Gault 25:06
So for more information on that, can they see actually, can they go to your website and see the different pods and stuff like that for more information?

Sascha Mayer 25:13
Yeah, yeah, all that we also have a really good resource for The Pump Act, you can actually just look up Mamava Pump Act. And you can find an overview of that legislation, and a bunch of other content around state by state legislation and laws.

Sunny Gault 25:32
Awesome. Well, we'll include that as a resource on the episode page. So if you guys want to check that out, make sure you go to our website new mommy and look for this episode, the latest episode and we'll link straight to that Sascha, thank you so much. I just again, I appreciate you you're an advocate for breastfeeding pumping moms, I love that I love everything you do. You guys, be sure to check out Mamava check out The Pump Act again. We've got those resources for you. And thanks for listening.

Sunny Gault 26:05
That wraps up our show for today. Thank you so much for listening to The Boob Group. Don't forget to check out our sister shows, Preggie Pals for expecting parents, Newbies for newly postpartum moms, Parent Savers for moms and dads with toddlers, and for all of you twin parents, we've got Twin Talks. This is The Boob Group- where moms know breast.

Disclaimer 26:27
This is a New Mommy Media production. information and material contained in this episode are presented for educational purposes only. Statements and opinions expressed in this episode are not necessarily those of New Mommy Media and should not be considered facts. While such permission and materials are relieved to be accurate. It is not intended to replace or substitute for professional medical advice or care and should not be used for diagnosing or treating health care problem or disease or prescribing any medication. If you have questions or concerns regarding your physical or mental health, or the health of your baby, please seek assistance from a qualified health care provider

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