New mother draws attention to the need for breastfeeding provisions at work

pump breast milk
Image credit: Emily Edgington

Something for the weekend: A new mother working at Ohio Family Dollar in Mansfield, US, had to temporarily close the store earlier this month, in order to pump breast milk after being left alone to man the cash register.

In the US, the Affordable Care Act requires employers to allow mothers to pump breast milk while at work. Federal law further obliges organisations to provide reasonable break times and a private space that is not a bathroom for breastfeeding mothers. Despite these protections, many women struggle to find a time and place to pump milk when they re-join the workforce.

Earlier this month, 23-year-old assistant manager Emily Edgington had to close Ohio Family Dollar for 30 minutes while she went to the back of the shop to pump breast milk for her three-month-old daughter, Eliana. As Edgington was working alone, there were no available colleagues to watch the cash register or help customers in her place.

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Edgington told Yahoo Lifestyle: “I had never had to close the store down to pump and I never thought I would have to. But my daughter’s health and being able to eat was my main concern. I wrote the sign, took a picture to show my manager, prayed to God that I wouldn’t get fired or written up for it, and stuck it up on the doors.”

During her pregnancy, Edgington notified her employer about her future requirements; however, she told Yahoo Lifestyle that Family Dollar failed to prepare the resources she needed when she returned to work. In fact, she claims that an HR employee told her to pump between customers, which could be in violation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

On a more positive note, Edgington has gained public support after a Family Dollar customer, Codey Burghard, posted a picture of Edgington’s sign on Facebook. Burghard’s post drew attention to the need for organisations to support returning mothers, reading: “Pumping at work is a right and employers can’t take that away. Even understaffed, moms gotta do what they gotta do.”

Edgington’s decision to close the store came after working several five to seven hour shifts alone, unable to pump and in significant pain. “I decided the only way that I would be able to use my rights was to close the store. I did not expect the stress of having to figure out when and how I was going to pump and [deal with] the conditions that were totally in violation of the breastfeeding policy, and against civil rights,” Edgington continued.

In a separate Facebook post, Edgington commented: “I encourage all mothers to look up their workplace policy and verify that all of their rights listed are being enacted. If they’re not, do not be afraid to use your voice and if they don’t listen after being told your needs repeatedly, do what you need to do, put up a sign and know that you are protected.”

Here at Employee Benefits, we applaud Edgington making sure that work does not supersede the wellbeing of both her daughter and herself. We hope that other new mothers, and indeed their employers, are able to use her as a good example…