Breastfeeding Support

MIT is recognized as a "Breastfeeding-Friendly Employer" by the Massachusetts Breastfeeding Coalition.

MIT provides a supportive environment for nursing mothers by offering special work policies and lactation resources, and was featured in the September 2016 issue of Workplaces Magazine for its commitment to providing high-quality lactation rooms across the MIT campus. 

For Mothers

Returning to work and separating from a new baby is tough enough without worrying about whether your baby is getting the best possible nutrition. In addition to offering a number of resources on child care and parenting, the MIT Work-Life Center has put together the following information to support you in your decision to continue breastfeeding.

Tips on returning to work

  • Eat a healthy diet, get plenty of rest, and stay hydrated. Taking good care of yourself will help you keep up your milk supply for your baby.Consider starting back to work at the end of the week, so you can ease into your new schedule.
  • Make arrangements to buy or rent an electric pump and learn to use it.
  • Talk with your supervisor to request and arrange appropriate private break times for expressing milk, and to identify a private space for pumping, at least two weeks before you return to work following maternity leave. See Tips for Supervisor/Employee Discussions. 
  • Familiarize yourself with the MIT Guidelines for Nursing Mothers and Their Supervisors and resources to help anticipate questions and propose solutions.
  • Be prepared to share some information on the benefits of pumping for mothers, babies, and employers; you may also want to explain that accommodations can generally be achieved without hardship, using existing resources.
  • Estimate and communicate how much time you expect it will take to pump and what the schedule is likely to be. (You can make a reasonably accurate estimate based on your physical needs and the distance of the lactation space from your place of work. Note that pumping typically requires two or three breaks during a work day, with each break lasting 15-30 minutes, depending on need and distance.)
  • If you have a medical condition that requires special accommodation, contact your Human Resources Officer or Disabilities Services.
  • If you would like to request flexibility to make up unpaid break time (for example by staying late or taking a shorter lunch break) — outline your proposal in writing and discuss it with your supervisor. Consult the Guide to Job Flexibility at MIT for help with your proposal, and be sure to identify the benefits and address any challenges you can anticipate.
  • If you would like to propose using vacation or personal time to cover the break time, discuss this with your supervisor. Note that leave time, whether paid or unpaid, must be reported in 15 minute increments.
  • Contact the MIT Work-Life Center, or your Human Resources Officer or departmental human resources administrator, if you have questions or are unsure how to proceed.

Tips on pumping

Before returning to work: 
  • Start pumping at home a few weeks in advance. This will build your milk supply and help you become familiar with the pumping equipment.
  • Freeze several bottles of milk so you have a backup supply on hand.
  • Introduce baby to the bottle, when baby is ready. Consult your pediatrician or health practitioner about assessing baby's readiness to both bottle and breastfeed.
  • Have someone else feed your baby regularly. Your child will need time to adjust to being fed by someone else before the new work routine begins.
  • If you will be using one of MIT's lactation rooms, contact the room coordinator and reserve time to pump (if required). You may want to visit the room before your first day back in order to familiarize yourself with its amenities. If the room includes a communal pump, find out what type of attachments you need to purchase.
Supplies to bring to work:
  • Breast pump. A good electric, double-sided pump will allow you to pump both breasts at once, so you can pump your milk in about 10 to 15 minutes. More information on choosing a breast pump. If you are using a communal pump, be sure to bring your own tubing, flanges, and containers. Several MIT lactation rooms have hospital grade pumps. Please see description of rooms for more information.
  • Bottles. Be sure to date milk containers and refrigerate milk. Milk should be transported in a cooler with ice packs.
  • Extra breast pads.
  • Photo of your baby. Looking at a photo of your baby can help you let down your milk. You may also want to bring soothing music with you to help you relax; some mothers find it helpful to record their baby’s sounds (gurgles, crying) to play on an MP3 player.
  • Cleaning supplies. All breast pump parts should be cleaned and dried after use.
At work:
  • Pump and save your milk each day. You will typically need to spend about 20 minutes pumping every three hours you are away from your baby.
  • Label and refrigerate pumped milk.

Tips on storing and reheating milk

(from US Food and Drug Administration)

  • Store milk in single-serving sizes of 2 to 4 ounces.
  • Seal the container with a solid lid and label each container with the date the milk was pumped.
  • Breast milk that will be frozen should have at least one inch between the milk and the container lid. Frozen milk expands as it freezes.
  • Store milk in the main refrigerator or freezer compartment, away from the door, to avoid changes in temperature that may compromise the milk.
  • Use milk that has been in the refrigerator or freezer the longest first.
  • Thaw frozen milk in the refrigerator or under cool, running water.
  • Heat the milk under warm, running water and gently swirl the container to mix the milk.
  • If warm water is not available, heat a pan of water on the stove. Once the water is warm, not boiling, remove the pan from the stove and place the milk container in the pan. Never warm the milk container directly on the stove.
  • Never microwave breast milk because microwaves can cause dangerous hot spots that could burn you or a baby.
  • Always test the temperature of the milk on the inside of your wrist before feeding it to a baby. The milk should feel warm, not hot.
  • After thawing, milk should be stored in the refrigerator for no more than 24 hours.
  • Never refreeze thawed milk. Throw away previously frozen milk that is not used within 24 hours.

See also

For Supervisors and Employees

Open communication is critical to establishing arrangements that both accommodate work routines and create a supportive environment for nursing mothers. This section offers guidance on the roles and responsibilities of the supervisor and the employee, plus tips to help employees and supervisors work comfortably together to develop mutually beneficial arrangements.

Tips for supervisor/employee discussions

  • Familiarize yourself with the MIT Guidelines for Nursing Mothers and Their Supervisors and resources to help anticipate questions and propose solutions; make sure the employee is aware of these as well.
  • Explore all options for accommodating lactation breaks, including the use of a flexible schedule. Consult the Guide to Job Flexibility at MIT for information about flexible work options.
  • Invite the employee to detail her needs, including thoughts about lactation rooms, frequency and length of lactation breaks, and interest in using flexible work hours or vacation or personal time for the break time. For help addressing any special circumstances, contact your Human Resources Officer.
  • Work with the employee to identify a private space for pumping. To ensure that appropriate lactation space is made available to the employee, consider the following:
    • MIT has a number of specially designated lactation rooms for nursing mothers; check the list to see if one is convenient and accessible.
    • A "lactation room" can also be created in any area that is shielded from view and free from intrusion. See Lactation Room Requirements.
  • Keep in mind that not all women feel comfortable discussing their breastfeeding choices and be sensitive to their privacy.
  • Educating other employees about special arrangements that are made for nursing mothers can help avoid misunderstandings and help to create a supportive work environment.
  • Contact the MIT Work-Life Center, or your Human Resources Officer or departmental human resources administrator, if you have questions or are unsure how to proceed.

MIT lactation support guidelines for nursing mothers and their supervisors

In accordance with federal law, employers must provide reasonable break times and private space for nursing mothers. See MIT's guidelines for nursing mothers and their supervisors.

MIT Lactation Rooms

Have Questions?

Get in touch with The MIT Work-Life Center.