Pumping At Work: The Ultimate Lactation Room

There are so many new things to consider when you become a mom. From the trials and triumphs of pregnancy to the early weeks of figuring out how on earth to care for your new baby. But one thing that trips parents up is conflicting information and attitudes around feeding your baby. Today, we’re going to look at one aspect of that: breast-pumping at work.


Why would you need to pump at work?

In South Africa, legislated maternity leave for a full-time employee is 4 months. The minimum amount of time recommended breastfeeding a child is 6 months, but ideally up to at least a year. And this is imagining that you have been successful at breastfeeding and wish to continue.

Once you’re back at work, you’re not going to be able to feed your baby from the breast during the working day anymore. But in order to provide the breast-milk you’ve decided your baby needs — and to keep your supply up — you’ll need to pump regularly.


What are your rights?

Some places of work are friendlier than others to breastfeeding mothers, and this includes both offices and other types of workplace. But the right to access pumping facilities is laid down in law, at least here in South Africa. 

Workplaces are required to provide a clean, private space for breastfeeding mothers to pump in until their babies are 6 months of age. They also need to give 30 minutes twice a day for these breaks — although some mothers also choose to use tea and lunch breaks for pumping, too.


What should a pumping room look like?

At a minimum, it should be a clean, accessible, private room with a door that locks. It should have plug points, a comfortable chair, and access to clean, running water nearby. It should never be a toilet, bathroom, or filing room that needs to be accessed by other staff members who are not there to pump. 

Even better, the ultimate pumping room could also have counter space for moms to organise their pumping equipment, exclusive-use fridges to store the expressed milk in, and a built-in sink for cleaning pump parts as well as a microwave for sterilising them. If it is intended to be used by more than one mom at a time, it could include alcoves or private booths for moms who need privacy to pump.


Why is it so important?

The WHO has determined that, where possible, it is preferable to breastfeed babies for at least 6 months. Breastfed babies are sick less often, reducing both medical costs and employee absence to care for their sick baby. Providing space for mothers to fulfill their motherly duties while working also increases employee retention by up to 96%, and improves loyalty and satisfaction among new mothers.


What can you do to get this?

While you’re pregnant, you can engage with HR on the matter of a pumping room. If there isn’t already one available, now that you know what your rights are, you can ask for one. This is required by law and you can report your employer if they do not provide at least the minimum. 

As far as we’re concerned, supporting new mothers who choose to go back to work is a no-brainer. If no mothers went back to work after having their babies, our economy would be much worse off. Breastfeeding is such a crucial part of raising a baby and if moms have decided to carry on with it, they should be supported for as long as possible.



  1. https://www.parents.com/baby/breastfeeding/breast-pumping/this-is-what-the-ultimate-office-pumping-room-looks-like-why-it-matters/
  2. https://www.getkisi.com/unlocked/setting-up-nursing-rooms-for-your-workplace
  3. https://www.workingmother.com/most-impressive-company-lactation-lounges-in-us
  4. https://momlovesbest.com/feeding/breast-pumps/pumping-at-work
  5. https://sidebyside.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Breastfeeding-in-Workplace-Booklet.pdf
  6.  Image: https://www.workingmother.com/most-impressive-company-lactation-lounges-in-us#page-12