Ashley Graham pumped on the job. Breastfeeding and nursing at work isn't easy for some moms.

Priscilla Blossom
·4 min read

Model Ashley Graham made her return to the runway this week after spending the past few months enjoying new mamahood. In a new Instagram post, the 32-year-old Nebraskan revealed some behind the scenes action, which, notably, included a moment to stop and pump milk for her baby.

It’s not the first time Graham decided to get real about parenthood, showing off her pregnancy stretch marks in a photoshoot in July, and posing without clothing on while breastfeeding her baby for an interview the following month. And for the most part, the fans are here for it.

“You rock!! I remember those days of being a busy mama! Enjoy every minute!” said veteran pumping parent @passionsbyglory in one comment.

“I love how you just sat there pumping. Brilliant. Xx” added @missy_moo_86.

Others chimed in calling her a “queen” and “super mom” while others even gave breast pump recommendations for the busy supermodel to consider.

Ashley Graham went back to runway work for Fendi in Italy. Backstage she pumped while getting getting ready. (Photos: Getty Images; Instagram)
Ashley Graham went back to runway work for Fendi in Italy. Backstage she pumped while getting getting ready. (Photos: Getty Images; Instagram)

While it’s admirable that Graham is multi-tasking as she works her modeling job, it’s not always this easy or acceptable to pump openly at work. While federal law requires most employers to allow pumping parents regular breaks for pumping during work hours, as well as reasonable accommodations so that said parent have privacy without having to hide in, say, a bathroom stall, it can still be tricky for your average parent to get it done at work. Additionally, not all employees are covered by the federal law (though they may be covered by state laws), and there have been instances where employers attempt to bend the laws anyway, or simply don’t realize just how difficult they’re making it for pumping parents.

“Pumping at work for me was rushed and made me feel edgy. I would be precariously balancing milk bottles and parts near my computer while I wondered who might come in the (locked) door with their own set of keys,” says Alexandra Frost, a teacher in Cincinnati.

The mother of three says she’d often try to eat her lunch simultaneously — but it was a pretty difficult situation to manage in only 25 minutes.

Wedding photographer Rebecca Aranda, 32, says she was simply “at the mercy of the kindness” of the couples who would hire her whenever she had to pump on the job. She says her one break was usually toward the end of an 8 to 10 hour wedding day.

“My breasts would be super swollen and uncomfortable by that point, and the pumping was just for relief. I would use a hand pump in a bathroom stall the most often,” she says, adding that she rarely felt fully comfortable with the situation.

“All of this milk was thrown away; there was no safe way to store it and take it back home,” says Aranda.

The experience was even rougher for one Texas-based mom who wished to go by Natalie D.

“I was a dispatcher at a certain auto club. After I was hired I asked what space they were going to provide for me to pump in. They started describing the bathrooms and I said, ‘I'm sorry, the law says that's not acceptable,’” says Natalie.

She was given a conference room with windows that faced a call center, covered with blinds that had a few gaps.

“It was good enough. Meaning no one was ever walking in on me. I did have to pump in the bathroom once when a meeting went long,” she says.

Even when the experience is mostly described as “wonderful,” as one Maryland mom named Arlene put it, there were still a couple of issues. The mother of two says that while she was lucky enough to pump in her office, she still “found it very difficult to pump around my class schedule.”

It’s fantastic that Graham is being open and honest about her own unique pumping experience while surrounded by folks getting her runway-ready, however, it’s clear that more industries and employers need to do more for busy working parents who wish to keep on pumping.

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