Attitudes about Expressing at Work

Expressing breast milk is a sure sign of your commitment to breastfeeding, but it’s much easier said than done.  Time, equipment, location, and attitudes from colleagues.

FYI: There is legislation in NZ that stopping a woman expressing or breastfeeding at work is against the law. Human Rights Commission. More info on the Department of Labour website

The new legislation also requires employers to provide appropriate breaks and facilities for employees who want to breastfeed or express in the workplace where reasonable or appropriate in  the circumstances. Employers are able to take into account operational requirements and the availability of resources when negotiating arrangements with their employees.”

One of our members shared her shocking story of how she has been treated at work, while expressing in an office.

She writes: “With my first baby, my work didn’t have an office I could express in so I expressed in the toilet. With this baby I asked my bosses where I could express and they said I should ask the Office Manager if I could use her office. Not ideal it has half frosted windows but the top half isn’t and my all-male colleagues sit by that window so if they stand up they can see in. Despite that I asked her if I could use her office while she went for lunch but when she came back I was still expressing. She stood outside saying” for goodness sake how long does it take” across the open plan office. I felt quite emotional and got upset but was determined not to let it show. I then heard gales of laughter from the office and just knew it was connected. When I came out a colleague told me that they had been trying to get the IT guy to go into the office and see what I was doing. Really funny and mature stuff.”

How has your work accommodated the NZ breastfeeding/expressing legislation?

*I recently expressed at work for 6 months. I had a supportive manager and colleagues – and also had the attitude of ‘deal with it’. I actually expressed at my DESK underneath a nursing apron.

*I’m horrified that someone has to deal with that  immaturity – please remember as someone making the commitment to the difficulty of expressing, that YOU CAN TAKE THE MORAL HIGH-GROUND ON THIS ONE. Your colleagues are being obnoxious and I wonder whether the threat of a personal grievance would be enough to wipe the smirks off some faces.

*I expressed at work for 6 months also. There was a room set aside for this purpose, with a fridge, microwave, sterilizer and comfy chair. My workplace was amazing about it, but I had some colleagues tell me I was being a martyr, and others say ‘for god’s sake just give him formula’. I’m a pretty stroppy person so I thought it was exceptionally brave of them to say anything of the sort to me! Mostly though people were really supportive and thought it was great that I was still managing to do it.

*I did it facing into a cupboard because of half frosted windows in all our offices. As much as this wasn’t the ideal location it was all our small office had that I had to make do. I would so recommend you get the heavy dutybreast pump to hire. Speeds up the process and makes it so much quicker and easier. I had to express for 8 weeks with my first and then again when I returned to work and discovered she had allergies to formula. I wouldn’t have lasted without this breast pump.

*I am about to return to work and I plan to express. I have already written to my HR manager to let them know my intentions and for a room and facilities to be made available. I am very nervous as I don’t think they would have organized a thing but we will see. The HR manager stated that by law they have to provide a space so let’s wait and see.

I am currently expressing milk at work for my son who’s almost 1 and have been since my return to work 8mths ago. I’m lucky that I have my own office but there is a specific room just for breastfeeding/ expressing mothers (labeled as such on the door!!) for those that don’t have their own space.

*I’m planning on going back to work in about 4months when bubs is 12months, and planning on continuing BF. But slightly petrified about it all as haven’t expressed, she has never had a bottle and also unsure of attitudes of work mates, cause no one has done this at my work in the last 10 years that I’ve been there. I work in a factory environment and the premise doesn’t have any private rooms that I can see as being suitable. Still I’ve told my boss of my intentions so will see what they come up with!

*Bubs not here yet but my awesome boss made a room for me during the xmas/new year holidays, put up curtains, a little fridge, baby changing table, wipes dispenser, stool, even a new cupboard for me to put my stuff if need be. I do appreciate it and I have total confidence it will be private just for me and bubs. He’s even letting me take bubs to work. Some colleagues who can’t be supportive to mums who want to give their children the best or can’t respect mums who choose to breastfeed are really self centered. And if they are moaning about the time you take to express  how about those who take smoko breaks for 10 minutes every hour. So I’d say we mums fight for our rights to express our milk!

*I expressed for 3 months while working – had a lockable room off the lunch room where I wouldn’t be disturbed, also had access to a separate fridge away from the main staff fridge so milk could be stored at a constant temperature. It just wasn’t a big deal where I work; although think I might be the only one who has done it? Plan to do the same next time too.

*On my way back to work in 2 weeks. Bubs 6 months. Plan on expressing at work. Sorry to hear about your colleagues being so down right rude  Maybe your boss needs a gentle reminder that you are protected by law.  You’d think people would be more mature about it. Don’t know what the answer is  my thoughts are with you. GO Go Go Girl! All the best.

*I tried expressing at work – we had nowhere that I felt comfortable with so I negotiated my hours differently and went to daycare to feed bubs. He was ravenous when I got there but he never waited more than 4 hrs and learnt to fill up on water and then baby food. This was at 7mths when I returned to work. Good luck!

*I’d rather go hide in my car and express than put up with that kind of carry on, that poor woman, that’s a disgusting way to be treated by work mates, expressing for 10-20mins in no worse than someone going out for a smoke break is it,

*For the person who said going back to work when bubs is 12 months who has never had a bottle you could keep breastfeeding just morning and night, with just water during the day and probably bubs will want more on the weekend  I know I can go away for a day and my girl doesn’t notice lack of milk as I’m not there . if I’m around she’ll happily feed 3 or 4 times during the day though! (oh she’s 14 months).

*I’ve been back at work 2 weeks, and am expressing at work. My son is almost 4months old (and not going too well on the bottle so far!). It’s a bit of a mission trying to fit in expressing around meetings, and not wanting to seem like I am  slacking off. I have to eat my lunch at my desk so I don’t feel like I am always away from it. I work at a very male organization, but luckily as part of the recent office refurb they have installed a ‘wellness room’ which has a sink and lazy boy chair. I’ve now bought another pump so I can pump both sides at once, because I was finding it was taking 45 minutes each time (by the time I had pumped both sides and then cleaned the pump and put in a click clack container with a sterilizing tablet). I read the DOL website while I was pregnant, and went straight to HR and asked them where the breastfeeding room was – since I knew they had to provide one. You just have to stand up for what you need. working, and expressing, and being a mum is tiring, but worth it to be able to breastfeed for that little bit longer.

*I am expressing twice a day for my son who is 8 months. I use the sick room and don’t work the day the health nurse is in – a lock was installed on the door at my insistence because I know that Act is on my side. I think the situation is  deplorable that the woman you speak of had to deal with as it is hard enough to relax and express when you can hear everyone moving around and talking outside the door – or trying the door handle. I have found the staff at the human rights commission to be very supportive people – give them a call to discuss as this is discrimination on a gender basis!

*Am currently battling with this now my son is 8 months old. I work as kindy teacher and get 30min lunch break, but the only place 4 me to express is in my classroom while kids are playing outside. It takes the whole of my lunch break and I am feeling very isolated as this is my only break from my class in the day. Considering weaning him from lunch feed ASAP