Breastfeeding in the Workplace: Knowing Your Rights and Advocating for Yourself

Breastfeeding in the Workplace: Knowing Your Rights and Advocating for Yourself

Written by Rebeccah Wrady


In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, WWCode DC member, Rebeccah Wrady, shares her experience of returning to work after maternity leave and needing to pump in the office. 

I returned to work after a two-month maternity leave, optimistic and naive about the journey before me. On my first day back, I walked behind the HR director as we went through each room, ticking off reasons why each one was not an acceptable place to pump. The first didn’t lock, the second had no blinds, and I had to settle that day for the bathroom in the basement shared by the building. I couldn’t lock the door to the whole bathroom and wasn’t going to pump in the stall, so I hopped on the counter and tried my best to relax as I connected the tubes and turned on the suction. While pumping, I was walked in on by my colleague who’d given birth the year prior and had given up on pumping, and the HR director walked in on me. I left in tears, humiliated, and ready to quit. That night, my husband and I re-read all of the rules around pumping and crafted an email explaining that I would not return to the office until a room that had a lock, blinds, and wasn’t a bathroom was available. 

I pumped for a year in the office twice a week, in a room in the center of the office that executives used as their personal phone booth. They often entered the room just before my scheduled pumping sessions or knocked loudly in the middle while jiggling the door handle. 

I felt unsupported and humiliated more than I can count that year, but I grew personally and became a stronger advocate for myself and others. Whenever a friend or close colleague becomes pregnant, I show them where to find their rights and let them know that if they need an advocate, I will be the first in their corner because everybody deserves to know they don’t have to do this alone. 

Here are resources to help you with your breastfeeding journey, especially as a working mom.

Finding Federal laws:

Breastfeeding Apps:

  • Feed Baby – Breastfeeding and Baby Tracker App
  • Hatch Baby – track growth and health data breastfeeding or bottle sessions
  • LactApp – dedicated to breastfeeding and motherhood that solves your questions in a personalized way.

Donate or Receive Breast Milk

Additional Resources

  • La Leche League – Breastfeeding Support
  • LactMed – a database app from the National Library of Medicine that provides information on medications and their compatibility with breastfeeding. 
  • Milk Stork – breast milk shipping services for working moms