update: my office pumping room is being taken over for chair massages

It’s “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager, and between now and the end of the year I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

There will be more posts than usual this week, so keep checking back throughout the day.

Remember the letter-writer whose office pumping room was being taken over for chair massages (#2 at the link)? Here’s the update.

I’m the new mom who had their office pumping room potentially turned into a massage room.

When I first got wind that the massage day would happen in the “wellness room,” it was in the middle of one of the busiest days for my department. Unfortunately, I did not handle it immediately well when I heard – I basically asked my coworker, who told another, where I was supposed to go. I asked loudly. I kind of wished I didn’t do that, because it wasn’t exactly professional, but I was shocked.

I did alert my (male) manager that day, and since he was also busy, he made a joke and didn’t offer much. It’s not like I wanted him to do anything – because HR shouldn’t have been doing this in the first place! Coincidentally, a director sent out an all-staff email the next day, telling people to clear their food from the fridge in the wellness room that was supposed to be available to me for pumped milk.

I think part of the problem is what I do is very niche compared to others in the company, so I think people didn’t understand that sometimes I can’t have set office hours. Or, I could, but I may be in the office more than I thought. So when things died down that week, I took a breath and send HR a very long email. It included specific examples of my erratic schedule. It also included me saying I didn’t want to be responsible for canceling massage day. I ended with, “Oh, by the way, this is what President Biden just signed into law.”

The compromise was when I was in the office, massage day would be moved to the conference room. I have no idea if massage day continues. The last Wednesday I was in was two weeks ago and no massages were found.

Couple things:

– Some commentors offered lots of great support, but some thought I was “entitled” to want to have the space to myself. To be clear: there is a law saying I need a private space to pump. It gets painful when I do not. And there were literally three other rooms and empty offices people can duck into for their phone calls. I don’t think my biological needs as a working mom made me entitled. Breast pumping in a locked car sucks. I do not recommend it.

– I think part of it was people were so used to thinking of it as an extra room, and I did nothing to help change that perspective. So I’ve literally just started saying, “I have to go breast pump now” and “I’ll be in the pumping room.” See below for why.

– On the day I heard about massage day, one of the young (like, out of college young) employees asked me why I was so mad about “free massages, yay!” I told him, “Where I was going to breast pump.” He was shocked and shut up about it.

– The best thing was I found a surprising ally! My Big Boss’s No. 2 and I were chatting a few weeks back and I mentioned the whole thing off the cuff. She told me she was appalled and was the one who told Operations about the mini fridge being co-opted for food! AND she caught her subordinate in there making calls and told her off about it! “It is a privilege for us to have you work with us during this special time in your life.”

Solidarity forever, and advocate for yourselves, y’all. Thanks for the advice.

{ 151 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonym*

    “It is a privilege for us to have you work with us during this special time in your life.”

    Well, here I am tearing up. Awesome, awesome. Let’s all be that kind of ally.

    1. Three Pandemic Kids*

      I came here to celebrate this person SO MUCH, what an incredibly wonderful thing to say about your employee, and about recognizing the struggle many working moms have with returning to work following maternity leave.

      1. Overeducated*

        Yes! We hear and think so, so much about what it means to be away from our kids, and whether it’s “selfish” to keep working (which I think is a dumb framing, I’m not supporting it, I’m saying I am sick of hearing it!), and whether women are “entitled” for wanting to be able to feed their children while having jobs. I don’t think I’ve EVER heard anyone say that a company should be grateful and appreciative for a mother of an infant to choose to work there. More of this, please!

    2. Engineer*

      Really? That kind of wording makes me think of tradwife/tradwoman/ultra conservative “to be a mother is to ~truly~ be a woman” rhetoric that’s been spewing lately. Like sure, having a baby may be special to *you*, but let’s kid ourselves by calling it an honor for a parent to work.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        I can see your train of thought; however they don’t say it’s an honour for the parent to work, they say it’s *their* honour to retain the parent. It’s honestly smart management to realize that things like this pay off. You keep skills and knowledge and avoid having to recruit, while recruiting gets easier if you become known as someone who values retaining parents, especially female ones. The word honour might be overstating it, but overstating OP’s welcome would not have been necessary if her colleagues hadn’t ganged up on her and literally tried to oust her for the sake of free massages.

      2. Engineer*

        **Not kid ourselves by calling it an honor for a parent to work with others.

        thumbs can’t match words.

      3. Hlao-roo*

        Context matters a lot. Taken on its own, I’m also not a huge fan of that sentence because it does seem a little too “having children is the most important thing a woman can do” to me.

        But, that sentence wasn’t all on its own. It was specifically said in the context of OP’s coworkers using a space OP needs to use to deal with a medical issue (needing to pump) to store their lunches and make phone calls. It’s a way of saying “you aren’t asking for too much by asking for this room to be available to you,” and I happen to agree with that sentiment (as do the other commenters expressing their appreciation).

        1. Daisy-dog*

          My thought too. Additional context is needed. I think we can also read it as, “I know that a lot of parents may wonder why they leave their tiny human behind every day to come to work and be disrespected (and pay out the nose in childcare), so I want to say that I do respect you and want to work with you.” (Even if you don’t want to be a SAHP, being in a job that won’t even let you pump in a private space may feel like a waste of childcare fees that you could save while searching for something else.)

        2. LW*

          Coming here to second this.

          Tbh, this coworker kind of put me off with previous, overstepping comments. But I think she got the sense I was struggling and asked me about how things were going. FWIW she is a career woman that I think is more in touch with “feeeeelings” than I’m used to from career women.

          She also told me her own horror stories about pumping 18 years ago and made it clear to me that if she had her say, she wouldn’t let another woman go through that in her work place.

          As the right hand woman of my Big Boss, she’s got some pull. Like say, kicking out one of the associates from using the pumping room as a phone booth…..EVER AGAIN!

          1. Engineer*

            Ah gotcha. I really am glad she’s supporting you and throwing her weight around to make it happen, but that wording caught me.

            1. LW*

              Yeah, I get it. It’s not what I would use and she’s more touchy feely than I would be about this. If I didn’t spend days feeling like I was the crazy one in my office for seeing this problem, I would probably be more annoyed.

              That said, I’m glad she’s throwing her weight for me :-D

      4. ariel*

        Working mothers are dragged over the coals at home and at work, so often. As a child-free woman, I get why something empathetic, said warmly and backed up by this person’s useful actions, would be taken as helpful and supportive.

        1. Nebula*

          Yes, if it was just the words with no actions it would be a bit eye-rolly, but she’s putting what she says into practice and that is benefitting LW.

      5. IneffableBastard*

        I read it as “it’s an honour that we get to keep a valued employee who does important work in a time where said employee’s life is going through lots of change and the workplace was making them feel like the accommodations needed were a nuisance.”

        While parents sometimes get advantages when it comes to holiday time-off, more often than not workplaces make it very difficult to people who just gave birth to keep their jobs. I believe that the phrasing was an acknowledgement from the fact and an affirmation that it should not be happening, that LW’s work and LW as a person are valued in the company.

    3. nothanks*

      yeah, no. I’m not that kind of ally, and as a previously breastfeeding mother I didn’t want that kind of ally. I didn’t want people to see me as special, I wanted to be treated as the professional I was, and for that I needed my rights to be met, which included somewhere to pump. It wasn’t a privilege for people to work with me then because I was lactating, any more than it is now that I’m not. This cult of motherhood language creeps me out tbh.

      1. Daisy-dog*

        Except LW was being actively disrespected & dismissed by everyone (including HR!). This would be a very bizarre sentiment on it’s own.

      2. Critical Rolls*

        This was someone who did treat the LW with respect and took steps to see that her rights were met. (And I do think new parenthood is a special time when the competing demands of the workplace can be especially difficult to manage.) So maybe the comment can just be taken in the spirit it was, contextually, intended, by someone who was actually taking supportive action and not just banging on about the glory of motherhood.

      3. Lizzianna*

        I mean, it’s not how I would word it, but I do think it’s *hard* to work outside the home while still breastfeeding or pumping. Or even if you’re formula feeding, working outside the home is really hard with an infant. And to then be treated like you’re asking for special favors to have a private, comfortable space to take care of biological necessities. It is just demoralizing.

        I read that comment more as saying, “I know it’s hard for you to be here, and I’m glad you decided to be here, and you’re not asking for unreasonable privileges by asking for what you’re legally entitled to.”

    4. 2 Cents*

      Same. I’m reading this 3 years removed from pumping at work and I want to give this woman a hug and a TED Talk deal immediately.

      OP, you are not entitled—you are standing up for your rights. Anyone who thinks a pumping mother is “entitled” by needing a private space is welcome to use a multi person public bathroom without any doors or partitions

    5. Aitch Arr*

      I much prefer this mindset to the ‘well it was tough for me 20+ years ago, so everyone has to suffer.’

    6. Princess Sparklepony*

      Same here. And I don’t even like kids. Pumping is a physical thing that has to be done or it’s painful from what I understand and you need some privacy (if you did it at your desk people would complain about that….)

      I’m so glad she got a good ally there.

  2. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

    Aw, I teared up a little at her comment. It’s awesome that they are supporting you (finally, begrudgingly, but doing it). Some day, someone else will also need to pump and you’ve helped establish it’s normal. Yay!

    1. Siege*

      SAME. I don’t have kids, I don’t particularly LIKE kids, and I still would have lost my ever-loving mind. What next, it’s entitled to need a toilet during the work day?

      Just because employers can largely treat employees poorly, as far as legal requirements go, doesn’t mean that demanding the literal, legal, bare minimum makes someone entitled.

      1. I Have RBF*


        I’m hardcore CF, have had a hist, am an enby. IMO, needing a room to pump is not “entitled” at all! It is a biological necessity, not an optional thing. Just because I choose not to have kids doesn’t mean that people who do should be abused.

        1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          A lot of those with children will have given up on pumping early on because it’s so difficult, and they are sadly not at all supportive of those who persevere. They don’t like feeling guilty at giving up and tend to adopt a mindset of “well my baby did just fine on formula, why does she want to carry on longer than me”. They may also be jealous that this mother is managing to do what they couldn’t. It’s very sad all round.

      2. Gigi*

        I weirdly find that CF women tend to be the most ardent supporters of new moms in the office (purely anecdotal). But yeah, I will verbally burn someone to the ground if they suggest someone pump in the car or the bathroom.

        1. MM*

          I can see it. Some decent proportion of CF women will have chosen to be CF because they don’t want to deal with the uneven burdens of childcare, work absences, and the like. So if a woman who does choose to undertake this is having the burden increased by poor workplace treatment, it’s something a CF woman with this mindset would be sensitive to.

          (There definitely are people who go “well, you chose to have kids, suck it up,” but that’s never going to be everyone.)

          1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

            This! I’m CF for a multitude of reasons, but 1000% supportive of parents, especially moms. I *know* that having kids is a huge burden, which is partly why I don’t want to have them. And frankly, it makes me angry that part of the reason I don’t want to have kids is because societal norms–especially around work–make having kids so much more difficult for some people. I don’t have to experience it myself to see how crappy being treated like that is. Knowing how much of a burden it can be means that I don’t want people who DO have kids to have to fight for normal, basic needs associated with having them.

        2. SnackAttack*

          I wonder if it’s because CF women may be more in tune with unwarranted assumptions and comments from strangers about their bodily functions and reproductive habits/plans? Or maybe just tend to run in more feminist circles? Idk. I suppose it depends on which childfree circle you talk to, ’cause if you go to, say, the Reddit r/childfree community, they are NOT supportive of any accommodations made for parents, haha.

          1. TriviaJunkie*

            in my experience, CF women tend to choose the childfree life in no small part because they’ve seen how the world treats working mums. the demands on mums (especially Stateside!) are practically inhuman, and if you complain or ask for better, the response is “no, you chose this, suck it up”. So they chose Not That.

            1. TransmascJourno*

              While societal forces like hegemonic patriarchy can definitely play into the decision to be child-free, can we not paint personal decisions about bodily autonomy with a broad brush like this? Sometimes it’s as simple as “nope, not for me!” And that’s completely valid all its own.

            2. Siege*

              I chose not to have kids because I don’t make enough money, I don’t have a committed partner, and I don’t want to bring kids into a world we’re actively driving into the ground in all kinds of ways. Suggesting that I made that choice by looking at mothers in the workplace and evaluating their treatment to inform my choice is offensive at the very, very best. If I wanted kids, the treatment of working mothers wouldn’t stop me, and if I didn’t want kids, the restrictions on my bodily autonomy would also not stop me.

              Suggesting it’s because people look at others and say “ooh, you’re treated badly, not for me thanks,” is a weird level of middle school groupthink.

          2. Siege*

            In my specific case it’s because I’m ardently into workers’ rights. I work for a union, I am a member of a union (Teamsters represent!), and I’m pretty aware of the ways that United States labor law (and the general shape of state law) is constructed to disenfranchise the working classes in support of the wealthy. I have never once been asked about my plans to have children, and that does not inform my choices to support workers’ rights. As I said, I don’t like kids. It’s not for love of kids that I want people to have the accommodations the law requires. I want people to have better laws.

        3. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          Well, I am child free and so are several of my female coworkers, and we all would be pitching a fit if one of our coworkers with a baby did not have appropriate pumping accommodations. I may not have kids, but I am a woman, and I am fully aware of how hard working mothers have it. I am also aware that the way women with children are treated in the workplace has an impact on how all women are treated in the workplace.

          1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

            Oh, and it also impacts how other individuals with needs for accommodation will be treated!

      3. tangerineRose*

        I also don’t have kids and was horrified that anyone would call this entitled. I’m guessing whoever did never really thought out how this whole thing would work. I don’t know all the details myself, but still… (I don’t need to know all the details.)

      1. AngryOctopus*

        And both are THE LAW, so, you know, it doesn’t even matter if LW was acting entitled (which, to be clear, she was not).

        1. sparkle emoji*

          And in a legal sense, she is literally entitled to have a pumping room, as is anyone else who needs one. I don’t see a problem with acting entitled when you actually are(not that LW was or is).

          1. Lydia*

            That was my question. Did they mean entitled as in, “I am special and nobody should get massages” or entitled as in, “the law says you are entitled to having a private space available to pump your breastmilk and have a clean, refrigerated place to store it”?

        2. allathian*

          Yes, indeed. I’m in Finland and we don’t have any such law yet, because our maternity leave (for parents giving birth of any gender) has historically been long enough that the vast majority of moms returning to the workplace had quit breastfeeding by then. Now the law’s changed to attempt to get the non-birthing parent to take more leave to bond with the baby, meaning that it’s become more common for the birthing parent to need a pumping room.

          Added to that, it’s practically impossible to find daycare for kids who are younger than 9 months, thanks to the expectation of long parental leave. We have comparatively cheap municipal daycare, where the monthly cost is hundreds rather than thousands, and some low-income families, particularly single parent households, may have the cost waived completely. Putting your kid in daycare before they’re 9 months old is expensive, the only practical option is often private in-home care. In spite of all the recommendations, very, very few babies get breastfed past 6 months.

      2. MathBandit*

        Yeah, but can’t you just like- schedule your pees? Just block off in advance the time you might need to pee, and we can use the room for something else when no one has booked it for peeing. It’s not reasonable to set aside a whole room for peeing even when no one has to pee!

        1. Overeducated*

          This part (analagous -on-demand pumping breaks) IS hard though, because like with a toilet, I don’t think the law requires that it not be occupied by others using it for the intended purpose. I used to work at a big building with one dedicated room for pumping. We had to reserve times, and it was frustrating because I think there were like 4 of us using it and I often couldn’t get it at a time I wanted. Sometimes I could use one of the two rooms with cots in the nurse’s office but only if the nurse was on duty/not busy because they were locked. I often pumped at my desk when my officemate took lunch, which was risky but the room was NEVER free midday and the nurse took lunch then too.

          I did my best to get on the schedule ASAP and schedule meetings around it, but the obligation is to provide a room, not to make sure it’s open for any nursing mother any time they want/need it. Ugh. The things we do to just…live.

      3. Kate J*

        Legally deserving something is the *actual* definition of entitled, it’s not the same thing as acting entitled to something you don’t deserve. The commenter that said LW was entitled to the room almost certainly meant it in earnest and agrees with LW.

    2. Relentlessly Socratic*

      I know we had a more recent post about pumping in the bathroom, and it rapidly became clear that most people who have never had to pump (ME INCLUDED) know how complicated the process is. Like I know that pumping in a bathroom is gross, but it didn’t occur to me that beyond just the action of pumping, there’s all sorts of other things going on. (And I am a cis-woman who walks around with breasts as part of her entire body every day and didn’t think of it!)

      However, it was some next level stuff to hear that people thought having a private space is entitled!

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        Not a mother, but a cis woman, and just from seeing what others have had to deal with – there’s so much equipment involved, at a minimum! Trying to juggle all of that and keep clean and semi-comfortable sounds like a nightmare in a bathroom.

      2. DenseToday?*

        I’m a cis woman who has pumped…and I’m genuinely curious about what you mean by “there’s all sorts of other things going on”. What other things? Like cleaning the pump? Maybe I’m just being dense today. :-)

        1. RNL*

          I think of things like needing a flat, clean surface close to me where I can set bottles down, assemble parts, etc. I mean, that’s mostly it, and most bathrooms do not have that – in a stall it would be a nightmare. I spilled enough milk on my work pants and I was able to pump in my office with the door closed.

          1. MusicWithRocksIn*

            You also need access to a plug – which you can’t get in most bathroom stalls. Plus if any part of the cord touched the bathroom floor god knows what it would get on it, that could get on the pumping equipment when you pack it all away.

        2. Wormentude*

          So from when I was pumping at work, I needed:
          * A flat space to place the pump
          * A power outlet no too far from the pump

          Then, the process looked pretty much like this:
          1. Unpack pump from bag, plug in
          2. Take bottles out of back, undo the lids.
          3. Screw flanges onto the bottles (I put my valves on when I packed the bag, but that’s another step some may need to take).
          4. Attach pipes to bottles and pump.
          5. Put on pumping bra (attaches to nursing bra for hands free pumping!) and insert flanges.
          6. Pump!

          Then once I’d finished:
          1. Remove tubing.
          2. Unscrew flanges from bottles, put lids back on and store.
          3. Remove pumping bra.
          4. Rinse flanges and valves under tap (much easier than trying to scrub off dried milk).
          5. Unplug and pack up pump.
          6. Clear up any drips!

          So a fairly involved process. I am a dentist in the UK and used to put a sign on my surgery door saying Do Not Disturb, then used the worktop and would catch up on admin while I pumped. I was lucky both my children were 6-7 months when I went back so I could get away with pumping just at lunchtime.

          I think it’s probably all these extra steps that people who haven’t pumped don’t think about. But then they don’t need to, do that’s understandable. I hadn’t appreciated the process either until it was necessary.

          1. Relentlessly Socratic*

            Thank you for posting this–I know that there’s a ton of stuff that I didn’t think of and didn’t just want to list the few things I know (like pump=milk then ??? then feed baby)

            However, my good intention of just saying there’s more to the process than just popping the pump on one’s body, but I hadn’t thought it through, seems to have caught the fancy of the commentariat today.

          2. Trippedamean*

            I just want to add that it’s also helpful to have a warm place to do it since you have to take your shirt off. I had to pump in a bathroom once (at a hospital of all places). It was winter and for some reason I will never understand, the bathroom wasn’t heated at all. I managed but it was even more miserable than normal.

          3. Cascadia*

            Yes, thank you! Also want to add, many people are pumping more than once at work. Which means you need to wash with soap and water all of the pump pieces – or put them all in a ziploc bag and put in the fridge with the milk.

            Also, putting on my pumping bra frequently involved taking my shirt off, or pulling it up, pulling my regular bra down and strapping the pumping bra on. You’re literally topless with your boobs hanging out for sometimes minutes at a time. And then the whole process again when you’re finishing up. It’s a lot to have hanging out there.

            And then the act of pumping can last anywhere from 15 – 30 minutes, or maybe longer. My pumping space had an auto-light that turned off when there was no movement after 5 minutes. Except the movement sensor was in the main room. So the first few times I pumped in there the lights turned off automatically after 5 minutes and I was in pitch dark using my phone flashlight to deal with everything. I had to get a lamp to put in the space so that I wasn’t fumbling in the dark 3x a day!

            1. 2 Cents*

              And then I had depression and anxiety while I was pumping, so though some people can multitask with work, I had to destress as much as possible to help my milk supply. That meant watching comedy videos while I pumped.

            2. JustaTech*

              One of the requirements I had for myself before I went back to work was to buy some really good pumping bras that I could just wear all day (Kindred Bravely pumping/nursing bra). They weren’t cheap, and I added in an extra mid-week load of laundry because they needed to be washed a lot, but it was absolutely necessary for me to make pumping at work do-able.
              I also pretty much exclusively wore nursing shirts to work, just to avoid the extended “all out”.

        3. rollyex*

          Being calm and comfortable and hydrated and fed enough to express well. Keeping clothes clean. Schlepping gear. Maybe a power outlet. Setting up and disassemling the pump. Keeping bottles clean and ready. Storing and transporting milk. These were issues I’ve seen.

        4. Arts Akimbo*

          Some people’s letdown response is fine with their baby, but very weak with a pump. I had to sit there with a photo of my baby and one of his blankets, thinking happy baby-love thoughts, just to get anything at all to happen. I would have never been able to pump in a bathroom stall.

          1. Chili Heeler*

            Conversely, if the let down is strong even without baby, it gets painful quickly and fumbling around with equipment without a space to deal with everything prolongs that.

        5. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          breasts leaking or getting engorged if you don’t get to the pump room on time, having to transport your milk (there are some epic stories of mothers who need to pump before flying home with their milk, a friend of mine told me the customs officers thought her pump was a bomb!! and she had to offer to show them how it worked, unbuttoning her shirt, for them to go bright red and say OK please move along), people using your milk in their tea because they don’t bother to read labels, people knocking it over – that’s a time when you do need to cry over spilt milk-…

      3. Siege*

        I’m not sure I see why knowing what’s happening matters, can you clarify? I feel like I don’t need to know what happens when my gluten-free colleague eats gluten to know that we need to provide her with gluten-free food, and in this case the relevant law is strikingly clear for the US legal code.

        1. Myrin*

          It matters in the sense that having a broader understanding of an issue often makes it harder to be blasé or thoughtless about it (and by that I specifically mean inside your own mind, not outwardly), which is separate from following rules related to it – you can follow rules and laws just fine and still think by yourself “hm, I accept this but I don’t really understand it”. Really understanding something often goes along with “oh wow, I get it now!”

          1. metadata minion*

            Exactly! I’ve never been confused or resistant to the idea that we should have clear sidewalks and ramps for people using wheelchairs or walkers, but it was made much more viscerally clear just how inaccessible most spaces are when I had to help a friend in college get her wheelchair around.

            In this case, if I were setting up a pumping/nursing room at work, knowing more specifically what’s involved would definitely help me go from designing something that fit the minimum legal standards to arranging a space that was truly comfortable and welcoming.

        2. Relentlessly Socratic*

          That’s a false equivalency. Pumping involves more than removing milk from body [then a miracle occurs] feed baby. Therefore, it takes more room than one would think, including a refrigerator.

          Honestly, the comments section is getting entirely too tetchy.

      4. Cat Tree*

        This is one of the few labor laws that the US gets right. (Not that it’s *only* the US but at least we’re not lagging behind everyone else.) Most of the commenters disagreeing with LW seemed to be from other countries without such laws.

        1. Patty Mayonnaise*

          Yes but some countries don’t have pumping room laws because they have parental leaves that can go a year or longer. I would argue the US is lagging behind them.

      5. Kate J*

        Legally deserving something is the *actual* definition of entitled, it’s not the same thing as acting entitled to something you don’t deserve. The commenter that said LW was entitled to the room almost certainly meant it in earnest and agrees with LW.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      The comments in question weren’t even about pumping, and it was pretty clear the urgency of a physical need just never entered the commenters’ heads it was just “If you get there first, you should totally have dibs on the meeting room”. No mention of pumping (or dedicated pumping rooms) at all, it was just a bit of venting about how when remote employees are in the office unexpectedly, they were a bit like unwelcome and unannounced visitors. Like, the remote randoms probably wanted chairs, electricity, heated rooms, access to a toilet and all sorts of “entitled” things.

    4. BecauseHigherEd*

      Right?!?! That’s like saying someone is “entitled” because they want to have access to a restroom in their office because “you can just do it outside.”

    5. Aeryn Sun*

      YEP. I don’t have kids and at this point it’s looking like I probably won’t, but women have to put up with so much in the workplace. It shouldn’t be a detriment to your career to be a working mother, and working mothers deserve the dignity of having a private place to pump.

    6. LCH*

      don’t have kids, don’t want them, love massages, and calling the LW entitled is just so far out of line. just… what?

      1. Kate J*

        Legally deserving something is the *actual* definition of entitled, it’s not the same thing as acting entitled to something you don’t deserve. The commenter that said LW was entitled to the room almost certainly meant it in earnest and agrees with LW.

    7. SarahKay*

      I remember the comments, and they were infuriating. I’m really glad OP has an ally in Big Boss’s No. 2 person who can hopefully shut down any of that nonsense in real life.

  3. Audrey*

    As someone who ended up exclusively pumping (not by choice), I had NO IDEA how hard pumping is until I had to do it. It’s not a “break” or something fun or optional. I am fortunate that I did not have to deal with trying to pump in an office, but I can only imagine how hard it can be. Good for you for standing up for yourself and I’m so glad you found an ally.

    1. Random Dice*

      I have never in my life cried as much as I did when pumping. It was so hard and undignified and uncomfortable – and the more upset I got, the harder and more painful it was.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, me too, although I only made the attempt twice while our son was in NICU. After that I thought “screw this, as much as I love our baby I didn’t sign up for this much pain.”

        While we were in hospital he got some donated mother’s milk (thanks all donors, you’re fabulous!) and I breastfed him as much as possible, but because he was born underweight, he wasn’t allowed to lose any of his birth weight while my supply caught up. So we fed him on formula and mother’s milk and my supply never did catch up (he remained underweight for his age and height until he started eating solid food at every meal, although he did grow so he wasn’t malnourished). He weaned himself at about 4 months, I guess he figured that formula got him fed quicker and easier.

        So if you find pumping too physically or emotionally difficult, there’s no shame in giving formula instead, no matter what the lactation “experts” say. At least not as long as you have access to clean water. I’m all for supporting parents who’ve just given birth to breastfeed their babies, but I have very little tolerance for any pressure to do so.

        For as long as I was breastfeeding, I also couldn’t tolerate my husband touching me, at all. I wouldn’t allow him within three feet of me except to hand over the baby. So it was no doubt good for our marriage that I stopped.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          I recommend reading the book “Cribsheet” by Emily Oster for all new parents. She looks at what studies there are about newborns and turns out there’s not much hard evidence to support that breastmilk is superior (if good formula and clean water are available).

          A suffering, sad, (more) tired mom certainly isn’t good for the baby, so I’m fully in favor of feeding the baby in whatever way works best for the family and not feeling guilty.

          1. JustaTech*

            Ehh… I read that book a few years ago (and Expecting Better) and thought that they were pretty good, but she got very anti-vaccine and anti-public school during COVID and so I take her recommendations with a big grain of salt.

    2. Cascadia*

      Yes, pumping is seriously the worst! I was exclusive pumping towards the end, not by choice, and it was awful.

    3. Jan Levinson Gould*

      I read somewhere that pumping is a mechanical solution invented by a man to solve a female biological need to allow her to continue working without having to give her more expensive time away from her job. Granted there are moms that have to exclusively pump, particularly for babies in the NICU.

      I am fantasizing about the day I take a sledgehammer to my pump!

  4. Falling Diphthong*

    The second point is interesting, and I wonder if, so long as it’s only OP, some attempt at personalized decor would help trip a sense of “This is Hermione’s space, for pumping breast milk in private and then storing it. So I should boogie right along to the conference room and make my call there.”

    There are offices that could pull off “each new breastpumper will add a decor element” and offices that could not.

    (When I was pregnant in an office I greatly appreciated the couch in the pumping room, because sometimes I could not stay on my feet. Like, once I lay down on the floor between two cubicles on a weekend when the floor with the pumping room was closed off, because obviously continuing to sit upright 3 more hours was not a thing that was going to happen.)

      1. Quinalla*

        That’s cool! I’ll send that to my folks who work in office :)

        Back when I was pumping in 2009-10 & 2013-14 I just had a post-it note I had permanently on my private office door (I know, I was so spoiled!) that said something like “Busy Pumping, please check back later”.

    1. Veruca*

      Decor or signage is a good idea. Just hopefully not like my friend’s workplace did- they hung a picture of a cow on the pumping room door!

      1. Chocoholic*

        One of my coworkers hung up a sign – that she made – that had a picture of a cow on it, and warning people not to walk into her office.

      2. Slartibartfast*

        We had a “milking parlor” sign on the office door when the doctor and I were both nursing at the same time, but it was a veterinary practice that saw cows.

      3. Generic Name*

        My coworker did this of her own accord! She put a printout of a cow on the office she was using to pump in. Pretty effective at stopping people from knocking and then opening the door or simply barging in.

      4. Expelliarmus*

        I remember there was a post (or story on a multi-story post) where an LW was struggling with people trying to enter her office while she was pumping, and so her 11-year-old daughter put an illustration of a cow udder on the office door so that people would leave her alone lol

    2. CRM*

      In my previous office, the pumping room was permanently locked. You could get a key from facilities if you needed to use it for it’s intended purpose, but nobody else could ever access the room. I honestly think that is the best and only way to deal with a situation like this. That room was never available, so everyone else simply made other plans.

      1. Cat Tree*

        Yeah, we did that at my workplace but we all already have ID badges so it’s as simple as switching on access for those that need it to swipe their card.

    3. rollyex*

      We had three or four small offices for private phone calls, and one was prioritized for pumping when someone who needed to pump was on staff. Seemed to work fine the two times we had new mothers pumping.

      It was lockable and also called “The Pump Room” in our room reservations system.

      1. Sister George Michael*

        That’s funny because The Pump Room was the name of a super fancy restaurant at a fancy hotel in Chicago that used to be The Place to be seen for celebrities.

  5. Massive Dynamic*

    YESSSS! So glad for this update!! OP you did an excellent job advocating for yourself and educating your coworkers (not that the latter was something you ever should have had to do).

    Signed, someone who once had to pump in a bathroom.

    1. Almost Empty Nester*

      Same. When I had my babies (some 20 odd years ago) I was given a ladderback chair in the women’s restroom and advised to bring a cooler to keep what I pumped…and that was that. No privacy, no nothing. Not surprisingly, I wasn’t able to continue breastfeeding as long as I’d hoped because when you’re working 40+ hours a week and having to pump in such a lovely supportive atmosphere, the milk just doesn’t last.

      1. run mad; don't faint*

        Nearly 30 years ago, I was grateful to have an office because there was no where else to pump: no private conference rooms, the bathroom had one stall. But my organization merged with another larger one, and they started sending us an HR rep at rather irregular intervals. She also needed an office for privacy so they told us to share. This made a certain amount of sense since I wasn’t in my office all that much except to check emails…and to pump. My boss said HR understood that I needed the office for certain times. But when I talked to her, it was apparent no one had filled her in. She was horrified…because it would inconvenience her to not have the office at her disposal. How often would I need it? For how long each time? What was she supposed to do if she was talking to someone when I needed to pump??
        I never knew when she was going to show up. It didn’t occur to her to give me any heads up. So we began a very delicate dance involving me knocking on my own office door when I needed it and turfing her and any employee she was talking to out of there. She avoided the office one day because I was in a hurry and left my freshly washed pumping equipment air drying on my desk. It was halfway through the day and I had concluded she wasn’t coming…She was sitting in the wide open conference room when I saw her, looking horrified. It was a relief to both of us when someone in another department left, and she snagged their office. But for all the difficulties, it was still better than a bathroom, and I can’t imagine having to pump there.

    2. Polly Gone*

      Ahh that brings back memories of working after my second child was born in 1984 – and trying to pump at work. Electric pumps weren’t really a thing unless you rented from La Leche League, and if you pumped at work it was in the bathroom and usually in a stall. Yuck. I can just remember struggling with that manual pump in a toilet stall.

  6. ThatGirl*

    I am not a parent and will never breastfeed, but I appreciate how my current job/office handles this – the pumping room is a small, locked room with badge access next to the women’s restroom, it’s unmarked and down an unremarkable hallway, so I think most people assume it’s just a supply closet or server room or something. There are also plenty more random phone rooms and huddle rooms around for private phone calls and zoom meetings.

  7. Heidi*

    I’m wondering if the smarter solution would be to always have massage day in the conference room (especially if the OP has an unpredictable schedule). Then everyone knows where the massages are and no one feels like they’re losing the nursing room.

  8. Leave hummus alone*

    I’m so happy for you, OP! I hope Boss #2 has a chat with HR and their wonky accommodation plans.

    1. Sara without an H*

      This. I went back and looked at the original post. The HR team definitely needs to be educated. Preferably before they do something that gets the company sued.

  9. GreenDoor*

    The same people who think it’s “entitlement” to “want space for yourself” to pump milk are probably the same people who think maternity leave is just one big beach vacation. I’m so glad this worked out – and that you have an ally in upper management.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      And that it’s totally fine to discriminate against pregnant women in hiring because they’re just going to turn around and be out for weeks/months.

    2. Kate J*

      This is the *actual* definition of entitled, it’s not the same thing as acting entitled to something you don’t deserve. The commenter that said OP was entitled to the room almost certainly meant it in earnest and agrees with OP.

  10. Team*

    Yes, the badge access is the best way to handle it. We had 2 rooms and you had to get security to add them to your card but keep anyone else from being able to use it. Downside was we still had to schedule the times since we are a large company.

  11. Hashtag Destigmatize Therapy*

    For what it’s worth, I don’t see anything unprofessional about saying “Where am I supposed to go?” out loud in that situation. It’s a perfectly valid work concern and a very big deal.

    1. Generic Name*

      I agree. I know that women are socialized to never be angry while it’s totally fine (even encouraged) for men, but I think displaying displeasure at the situation was warranted and not unprofessional. It would have been unprofessional if you had thrown a chair or shouted obscenities.

    2. Silver Robin*

      My guess is that LW probably felt like she was too obvious in her incredulity/upset in the tone or volume since being “professional” generally means keeping neutral-positive attitude. Entirely valid response though and entirely reasonable thing to say out loud.

    3. SarahKay*

      Yes, that’s exactly what I thought. With any luck OP’s obvious dismay in the moment hopefully brought home to some of the people who heard it what a bad idea taking the pumping room was.

    4. Cascadia*

      Yes, and sometimes expressing shock and concern in this sort of tone allows the decision-makers to snap out of it and realize what a big deal it is.

  12. cxxxb*

    When I returned from maternity leave I made it very clear I would use our pumping room. I then used the kitchen sink (and microwave) to clean and sterilize my equipment. But frequently people left the kitchen sink full and disgusting. So one afternoon I was doing everyone’s dishes and cleaning the sink area so then I could clean my equipment (there’s no use in using a full and disgusting sink to sterilize). A department director came by and saw I was doing lots of dishes and she asked why so I explained. She sent an all company email dragging everyone. It included this “witnessing a new mom have to clean up after you all so she could clean equipment to feed her baby is entirely inappropriate and absurd. I am sure she cleans up after people enough at home and shouldn’t be doing that at work. You have comprised the safety of her baby’s food. Don’t forget we have cameras in the kitchen. I will be watching to see who leaves dirty dishes in the sink and if I see that, documentation of the incident will occur”. She doesn’t even have kids but is an ally and my Queen.

  13. MusicWithRocksIn*

    The amount of places that seem to think they *need* to have windows on all the doors because they think somehow someone will sneak off and not work is astonishing. Then the one place that doesn’t have windows is crazy in demand because spaces like that are actually useful, and everyone is fighting over it. It’s nice to have a place you can step away and call your doctor to discuss something private sometimes. Occasionally someone will need to discuss something sensitive with a spouse or family member or might need to step away and have a moment of privacy to collect themselves or even handle some super confidential work. Pumping mothers should absolutely get first priority but workplaces really need to realize that more than one spaces like that would be more helpful instead of trying to reduce them.

    1. Trippedamean*

      Part of the trouble seems to be that people also use the rooms without windows for things they shouldn’t be doing. One office I worked at replaced most of their private rooms’ doors with sliding glass to cut down on in-office affairs and drug use.

  14. UniversityAdmin Working Mom*

    I heart Big Boss’s #2. I work at a university and it was extremely stressful for me to go to the lactation room and discover a student was using it to make a call or do things other than pumping when I needed to use the room. It was resolved when the facilities director for the building clued me into less public lactation spaces in the building (which were not on HR’s website) that I was able to use.

  15. Fluffy Fish*

    Louder for the people in the back!!!!

    Some commentors offered lots of great support, but some thought I was “entitled” to want to have the space to myself. To be clear: there is a law saying I need a private space to pump. It gets painful when I do not. And there were literally three other rooms and empty offices people can duck into for their phone calls. I don’t think my biological needs as a working mom made me entitled. Breast pumping in a locked car sucks. I do not recommend it.

    1. UniversityAdmin Working Mom*

      Co-signed. I have pumped in a locked car. Heck I’ve pumped while driving between meetings. As Daniel Tiger would say, “It’s not my favorite”. By which I mean, it’s really uncomfortable and challenging logistically and yes, people are going to catch a glimpse of you topless most likely.

      1. Kate J*

        100%. This is the *actual* definition of entitled, it’s not the same thing as acting entitled to something you don’t deserve. The commenter that said you were entitled to the room almost certainly meant it in earnest and agrees with you.

  16. Bess*

    Yeah people who commented “entitled” have no idea. I pumped essentially every 2-3 hours when I was working, including in the car on the way to and from work using a “travel” pump set, and used all my breaks/lunch. It’s incredibly stressful, especially if you have supply issues (common as time away from your baby increases)–you have to do it really frequently and stress impacts your supply, so not having a reliable space or a space where you can to a degree relax has real medical consequences for you and the baby.

    I stopped pumping after months and months of grueling effort when we changed offices and was told I could only use managers offices occasionally and my pumping space became a dark, back, cold cement storage hallway with no real ability to keep others out (multiple doors at different ends that different teams had keys & access to) and no windows and not connected to the HVAC. Otherwise really good managers thought this was a great suggestion! Honestly, people have no idea.

  17. Rebecca*

    my workplace has a dedicated pumping room, but I stopped using it when I found mouse droppings. it’s in the basement of a hundred year old school, so it’s not shocking, but still

  18. Jo*

    I’m glad the poster got it sorted. It sometimes takes compromise to meet everyone’s needs.

    I worked at 200-person organization where there were YEARS when no one needed a pumping room. It simply wouldn’t have be practical to dedicate an entire space for that sole purpose. And I speak as a mom who enthusiastically supports breast feeding and pumped at work with 2 children, often in not great spaces! Yet the company wanted to be supportive, so ours was a “wellness room”.

    It had to be booked via the company-wide calendar (which could be done last minute if open). It was not available for business meetings, but stood as space for someone who needed privacy to pump, administer medication, check blood pressure or other medical stats, or needed a few minutes respite for mental health. If not in use, employees could duck in for a private phone call, like calling their doctor. (Not business calls.) When we had a new mom needing it for pumping, she added standing daily appointments at times that worked for her. The room locked and had signage for when occupied.

  19. Kate J*

    ‘entitled’ is a word meaning you have earned something. It seems very likely that a commenter noting you are entitled to a private room meant it earnestly; you were in fact entitled, not *ACTING* entitled to something to which you had no claim.

    This is a really common language mixup, because lots of folks only know the term ‘entitled’ from it being used perjoratively towards someone acting as though they are entitled to something they have not earned. But in an extremely straightforward sense, you have the legal right to that room, aka, you are entitled to it.

    BTW this mixup is extremely common when discussing Social Security and other legally-named Entitlement Programs. Lawmakers refer to them that way because….you pay in, you earned the benefits, you are entitled to them. And yet folks get in a huff saying “those aren’t entitlement programs – I earned them!”. That is what entitlement literally means. Those are entitlements because you are entitled to them.

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