Pumping breast milk while you’re away from your baby is a common, crucial part of many working moms’ lives. When you travel for work, though, it’s not always feasible to ship it back home to where it needs to be — with your baby. IBM has plans to roll out a pretty spectacular perk for breastfeeding moms, however.
The company says it will pay to ship breast milk home while you’re traveling for work.
And even if there aren’t tons of moms who take advantage of this benefit, the company plans to keep it in place as long as someone is utilizing it. “We are going to experiment with this and see how many women are interested,” Barbara Brickmeier, vice president of benefits at IBM, told Fortune. “As long as it appeals to a segment of our population and they feel that they can better balance their work and home, we will continue it.”
On the surface, this is a pretty sweet benefit. It shows that employers are recognizing that many mothers are breastfeeding their kids, and are making it a priority to work with them to make that as painless as possible. While I didn’t pump a ton, I did for a few months at a prior job, and it wasn’t a basket of roses. I applaud moms who pump for a year or more — that takes dedication and motivation to make it work. So when a large employer like IBM makes an effort to make pumping a priority for moms, we take notice.
But at the same time, it bothers me a little. Requiring moms of young infants to travel away from their babies is obviously part of that specific job, but I wonder if there could be another way to say, “Your work is important, you are a valuable employee, and this is a way we can make it easier.” Allowing more paid maternity leave at a federal level would be ideal, of course, like many other developed nations around the world have, but since that doesn’t seem to be forthcoming, companies can and should do that on their own level.
IBM is rolling out this plan in hopes of attracting more female employees, but I think it would have a better result if it had more family-friendly benefits that did not take mothers away from their breastfeeding babies.
For the rest of us who don’t work at IBM, there is a law in place that protects our right to pump milk at work. Many working moms are allowed to have time to pump for their babies since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010.
This means employers are required to allow “reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk” as well as a place that is not a bathroom and is free from intrusion — in other words, nobody will be able to wander in while you’re pumping.
While IBM seems to be moving in the right direction, I hope it (and other companies) moves a bit further.