12 Insights for Employers: Breastfeeding Moms Share Concerns about Returning to Work

At Kin, we’re passionate defenders of a mom’s breastfeeding journey – from the birth of her baby through her return to work and to the moment she ultimately reaches her breastfeeding goal.

We asked moms to tell us about their experiences balancing breastfeeding and work responsibilities.  We’re sharing highlights gathered from 2,500 new moms¹ – in their own words – to provide insight into how employers can help parents thrive and meet the needs of their infants.  

Medela Kin program. 12 insights blog image with professional women in a meeting.
  1. The return to work – when moms feel they don’t actually have a real choice about pumping breast milk
    • No specific place to do so. No time to do so. No breaks to do so.
    • There are so many barriers: little privacy, little time, little support.
    • Ultimately, I stopped breastfeeding earlier than planned due to difficulties pumping at work. It was too stressful.
    • No private place for expressing milk, no free lactation consultation, no child care.
  2. And when the choice is made for them
    • I haven’t returned to work because there is nowhere to pump and my schedule won’t allow it.
    • I could only use my two 15-minute breaks and pump during my time off the clock in my car. It caused my supply to diminish. I ended up resigning three weeks after returning to stay home with my son and rescue my breast milk supply.
  3. Riding a wave of uncertainty: Why vague policies don’t work
    • My workplace has a multipurpose ‘room’ available for lactation and a vaguely worded policy to allow ‘reasonable time’ for pumping but it cannot exceed 20 minutes–so it’s basically not supportive since I have to pump every 3 hours.
    • My maternity leave was not fully paid. I had to pay my portion of health benefits to keep my health insurance. I’m concerned about where I’m going to find a place to express milk at work.
    • I was always allowed to take my 15 minutes to pump but was never told where, so I just found a closet somewhere. HR never reached out to confirm if I was getting breaks or if I needed anything on return.
  4. Moms need flexibility with break times
    • They were unhappy that I had to take a break every 2 hours to pump.
    • I have to clock out if I’m going over 20 minutes even if I’m working.
    • I was told I have to split my lunch to accommodate my lactation breaks.
    • Employees and staff would be annoyed when my pumping time came.
  5. It’s 2022 and yes, moms are still pumping in bathrooms
    • Unsure where I’ll be able to pump at work besides the bathroom.
    • I work as a package handler and the only place that’s available to pump is the bathrooms.
    • My workplace does not have a designated lactation room. If the room is occupied, I have to ask to use someone’s office or a bathroom to pump in.
  6. Here, there and everywhere does not make a lactation space
    • I didn’t have a designated space to express milk. I had to create my own space and keep it clean. It also wasn’t very private, so I had signs posted.
    • My employer is not respectful of the amount of time it takes to express milk and does NOT have anywhere for me or another breastfeeding employee to pump. We pump outside in our vehicles and are required to use our lunch break to pump.
    • I currently pump in the faculty lounge or the school psychologist’s office, both of which are usually occupied.
    • The challenges I have faced are having to choose to pump in my car, a bathroom or a shared office.
  7. When support isn’t really support
    • Work supports breastfeeding but I’m also limited to a closet that I roll my desk chair in.
    • We’re allowed to pump but it’s unpaid so the day will be lengthened unless we can multitask while pumping.
    • I breastfeed all my children until age 2 and plan on doing that again. Due to my tenacity, I have a place to pump. It’s a coat closet and I’ve been walked in on.
    • Having a private space for pumping is great. However, the space I have is not solely designated for a lactation room–it’s called a respite room. So there have been times when the room is occupied by a non-lactating mother and I’ve been forced to find another space in the limited time I have to pump.
  8. A day in the life of new parents–the struggle is real
    • No heat or A/C in the mother’s room. Very uncomfortable.
    • The rooms don’t all have sinks, so sometimes it’s hard to clean my pump parts between sessions.
    • The other challenge is the mental load of having to shuttle and clean pump parts. I really can’t afford a second pump, but need one.
    • There is limited time to pump sometimes and insurance doesn’t cover a wearable pump so I’m tethered to the cord to work.
  9. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions for new moms
    • Sometimes I feel guilty for taking time out from working to pump.
    • The time available (to pump) is sparse. Knowing when and how to speak up will be a challenge.
    • Don’t have a pump room and I have a fear of being walked in on.
    • I had some eye rolling about how much time I needed to pump and how much storage space I needed.
  10. The vicious cycle of stress
    • Hard to get work done and take time to pump. I was behind coming back from leave and it took longer to catch up when I took breaks to pump. Caused anxiety and a dip in (breast milk) supply.
    • I’m constantly feeling behind in my work after taking 30 minutes to pump or struggling to get to a stopping point. The stress of it also has affected my supply. I became even more stressed about the (infant formula) shortage because it made me unable to trust or rely on formula if my supply drops.
  11. Hanging tough: the personal sacrifices moms make
    • The responsibility of breastfeeding is difficult because of the time it takes, but I’d rather do what’s best for my child.
    • The first few weeks were really challenging for me. At 10 months of breastfeeding, I still feel overwhelmed occasionally.
    • I had to advocate for myself to continue breastfeeding my child once I returned to work.
    • I pump whenever and wherever I can; no dedicated room or privacy. If I wasn’t comfortable pumping in front of people or in the car, it’d be a significant barrier. For me, my determination and goal is more important than their discomfort. I’m going to do what I need to do.
  12. The extra challenges of extended breastfeeding
    • It’s easy upon initial return, but it becomes very difficult when the baby is 9-12 months old. When the ‘newness’ wears off, it’s very difficult to continue to step away from a meeting to pump 3 times per day.
    • My work only supports breastfeeding and pumping up to one year of age.
    • I work for a large hospital system and my only concern is the availability of pumping breaks after one year.



¹ The Moms’ Thoughts on Breastfeeding in the News survey was conducted by Kin and Medela in October 2022 and included more than 2,500 qualified respondents of new or expectant mothers.