“Pumpspotting started on the dirty floor of an airport bathroom,” Leila Zayed, senior director of business strategy for breastfeeding app Pumpspotting, told HR Dive. Company founder and CEO Amy VanHaren was huddled on the floor, pumping breast milk, when she realized how little support there was for breastfeeding and working parents. “After a long flight on a work trip, away from her baby, she thought to herself, ‘There has to be a better way,'” Zayed said.
Pumpspotting, intended to help parents connect and cooperatively navigate the often isolating and challenging time of breastfeeding, is one of many parenting and lifestyle apps that have sprung up in recent years and strategically integrated in an employer benefit component. The app provides employers with “a turnkey family benefits package that keeps your working parents engaged, fed and on the job.” depending on the website.
The company joins apps like Cleo, Helpr, Carrot and Ovia Health, which aim to ease the burden on working parents by connecting them to resources and support professionals. Offering such benefits can often be an easy way for employers, as simple as paying an annual fee and providing a link for staff members to enroll. It can also help companies signal their awareness and concern for the non-work demands of their employees’ lives.
breastfeeding (or feeding with milk, for transgender parents) has proven benefits for babies, but it can be physically demanding. On average, Zayed said, breastfeeding or pumping is needed every two hours. This may require leaving a meeting or other corporate event to find a private location, which makes for an isolating experience. Pumping can take around 20 minutes per session; if a dedicated pump room or private space is not readily available, it can add even more time to an employee’s day.
Breastfeeding parents also often feel insufficiently supported by their employers. A commissioned study by breastfeeding equipment company Aeroflow Breastpumps found that while three-quarters of mothers surveyed planned to breastfeed after returning to work, 49% were concerned that breastfeeding at work could impact their career development and 47% said the need to pump made them consider a career change.
The results echo what Ovia Health told HR Dive earlier this month: Many employees are making the decision to stay or go their place of work when they start a family. Employers who show support and help employees continue to feel included and welcome during this time can stand out.
Pumpspotting’s employer-sponsored app gives users access to a community of nursing and nursing parents (both globally and, if you prefer, company-wide), provides a maps nearby locations for feeding and provides access to lactation consultants and other experts, among other benefits. For employers, the app comes with resources to help them set up a premium lactation space and develop a workplace expressing policy.
The app also offers “premium” and “luminary” tiers, which give employers access to more features. the Maine Office of Human Resources recently announced a fixture-level partnership with Pumpspotting, which Zayed says will allow Maine to establish a model of support for state and federal governments and result in potentially useful data, with the help of researchers from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, which will monitor the project.
Through the partnership, Maine will provide Pumpspotting to more than 11,000 employees and extend new lactation support benefits to 20,000 additional state-affiliated agency employees, Zayed said. Benefits will also be available to partners and spouses of their employees.
In addition to working with companies individually, Pumpspotting hopes to change the culture around breastfeeding and workplace expression by creating a coalition of companies “committed to empowering women by enabling parents to reach their breastfeeding goals,” Zayed told HR Dive. The group, called Pumpspotting Guild, is designed to help halt the “mass exodus” of women and other carers from the workforce – a problem exacerbated by the pandemic, but not triggered by it.
Currently, Zayed said, about nine million members of the working population are breastfeeding. Although that’s only half a percent, it’s important to remember that “most women become mothers and most mothers try to breastfeed,” she said. “If the net worth of your [female] employees is important to you as an organization, supporting your breastfeeding workers is absolutely one way to achieve that goal.”