The “pumpgate” incident: Stigma against lactating mothers in the U.S. workplace

Document Type


Department or Administrative Unit


Publication Date



Studies conclude that breastfeeding for six months is associated with better lifelong health for the mother and the child. Mothers in the U.S. returning to work after maternity leave report difficulty with the need to take frequent breaks to pump breastmilk so many stop breastfeeding. Factors discouraging pumping breastmilk in the workplace motivated a content analysis of public comments posted in response to a legal deposition that occurred in January of 2011 in which an attorney who was a new mother was challenged about taking a break to pump breastmilk. A total of 899 public comments posted on Yahoo in 2015–2016 in response to this earlier incident were analyzed for content. Of these, only 336 mentioned breastfeeding. Overall, 148 comments showed support for breastfeeding or pumping breastmilk at work, while 182 comments showed moderate to strong disapproval (six unclassified). The majority of disapproving comments were critical of pumping breastmilk in the workplace. Implications of these findings for the duration of breastfeeding after returning to work are discussed.


This article was originally published in Women & Health. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

Due to copyright restrictions, this article is not available for free download from ScholarWorks @ CWU.

An accepted version of this article appears in the South Dakota State University Institutional Repository.


Women & Health


Copyright © 2017 Taylor and Francis.