Pumping at work: Responding to unsupportive colleagues

The other day, a friend of mine wrote online about the trouble she’s having pumping at work. Coworkers walk in on her while she’s pumping milk for her baby. She’s rushing to pump and still get back to her class in time to teach. And unsupportive colleagues are making insensitive comments.

Because that’s just what a working mom needs: Flak for doing her best to feed her baby, continue her career and maintain her own health.

(Skeptical that pumping is more than a luxury or convenience to breastfeeding women? Please read this NPR article about the health risks of not being able to pump breast milk regularly.)

Other moms and I jumped in to defend our friend online, since we can’t drive to work with her and stand up to those jerks in person. Unfortunately. Though I’d totally do it.

We suggested a handful of comebacks a working mom could use to the ignorant, curious or hostile comments she got. If you’re heading back to work—or are already back and are unsure of how to respond to coworkers—here are ready-to-use replies for an unsupportive colleague’s comments about your about pumping at work.

Pumping at work is hard enough without unsupportive coworkers. Here's how to respond to insensitive, mean or just ignorant comments. Ten Thousand Hour Mama

Gasp! What is that?! *points, disgusted, to your pump parts*

“You know, I knew so little about feeding babies before I had one! This is how I pump milk for my daughter’s bottles.”

What *is* it that you’re doing, exactly?

“My baby has to eat, even when I’m at work, and we’re continuing to feed her breast milk—so I have to pump! Pumping at work, and feeding my baby in general, keeps me busy. What keeps you busy these days?”

(Deflection FTW!)

Pumping at work is really a way to seek attention.

“Actually, I’m trying to be as private as I can about it because that makes me more comfortable. Did you see the DO NOT ENTER sign on the door I put up?”

You’re pumping to get out of work.

“Actually, pumping itself is really hard work! Not only does it require my time, my energy and a whole lot of calories, I also have to spend my lunch, my breaks and even my commute doing something I don’t even love. I wish I could browse Facebook or take a walk instead, but I’ve made this choice to do what’s best for my baby.”

Pumping is an inappropriate use of work time.

“The United States government disagrees. Federal law requires that workplaces provide the time to pump milk for nursing mothers.”

That’s something you should do in your own space, like your car.

“Wait, I thought you wanted me to be more private! But anyway, my car is definitely not as clean as pumping in a safe place like the room work has provided. And I have the right to pump in a private room with a locking door that is not a bathroom at least until my baby turns one, according to federal law.”

Are you really still nursing?

“Yes! How lucky that I’m still able to, especially because the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for at least two years for Baby and Mom’s health.”

OR, if you’re feeling saucy:

“No! I’m a _____, not a nurse, silly!”

And for any other annoying, insensitive or persistent comments:

“I’m sorry you feel that way, but I’m going to continue to do what’s best for me and my daughter.”

Fist bump, mama. You keep on rocking and pumping at work.

Did you ever face pushback for breastfeeding or pumping? How did you deal with it?

4 thoughts on “Pumping at work: Responding to unsupportive colleagues

    • September 12, 2016 at 1:39 pm

      Yes! There’s no reason to be all hush-hush about something moms should be proud of: their dedication to pumping the best food for their babies!

    • September 12, 2016 at 6:27 pm

      I was shocked when I heard what people had been saying to my friend! I thought, too, that we were past that – especially here in Portland. I was sadly surprised.


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