A woman-led company called Work & Mother is bringing peaceful, private, and fully-equipped lactation suites to office buildings to help breastfeeding moms feel supported and secure. 

Founder and CEO Abbey Donnell hadn’t yet become a mother herself when she first conceived of the business idea, but knew she wanted to have children relatively soon. She was working in marketing at the time, and also in the process of earning a master’s in business administration.

As she listened to her friends who’d recently given birth describe their difficulties pumping at work, Donnell was driven to harness her talents to address the issue — knowing if she didn’t, it would also most likely affect her in the near future: Her first child would be born less than a year after Work & Mother officially launched in 2018. 

“I was able to observe how [my friends] struggled with transitioning back to work,” Donnell shared with Nice News. “Specifically, I saw how they were attempting to continue breastfeeding while going back to the office, and were met with difficult, awkward, and just — to put it lightly — overall unfavorable conditions at work.”

She realized that much of the detriments to successful pumping in office environments came down to design flaws in the workspace. Even when companies seemingly value their parent employees, technicalities can get in the way of employees experiencing that support. 

“Little things that turn into big obstacles — like losing or breaking a small piece of pumping equipment and having to compete for the multipurpose private room — were causing them to get burnt out, feel guilty, and suffer emotionally,” Donnell said. 


Kim Alexis Photography (www.KimAlexisPhotography.com)

Work & Mother COO Julie Lairson (left) with Founder Abbey Donnell (right)

When she learned about the legal obligations most employers are under to provide spaces other than bathrooms for their breastfeeding workers to pump in, and the fact that many businesses weren’t fully complying or relying on loopholes in the law, she was spurred on even more. 

Breastfeeding mothers who are protected under the Fair Labor Standards Act must be provided “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk” for up to one year after birth. 

But according to Work & Mother, those stipulations still allow less desirable rooms to be used, granted they are technically shielded from view, like a closet, an office space split off with a partition, or even communal break rooms as long as no one enters. All are far from ideal areas to partake in an intimate act pertaining to a mother and child’s health and wellness. 

A company representative explained that when women feel stressed — perhaps worrying about being walked in on or that coworkers will hear the whirring of the pump — the oxytocin needed to produce milk may be restricted. And once finished pumping, women walking through the office carrying milk to the fridge may experience harassment or embarrassment. 


That’s why Work & Mother’s corporate lactation suites are so meaningful. The peaceful, private rooms include hospital-grade pumps and accessories, refrigeration, individual storage lockers, an app-based booking system, and additional resources. And not only do they make moms’ lives easier, but they may also improve businesses as a whole. 

Donnell explained that studies have shown companies with breastfeeding support programs experience a threefold return on investment through increased employee retention and productivity, health care savings, and positive public relations. The suites also make complying with breastfeeding laws a breeze, as all requirements are taken into account. 

Courtesy of Work & Mother

So far, suites have been installed in office buildings around Texas, as well as in Massachusetts, Florida, Washington D.C., and New York, with more planned for California, Boston, and Chicago. The company works primarily with landlords to convert underutilized spaces, providing specifications and a build book, and offering consulting services throughout the process. Once a suite is completed, Work & Mother operates the facility, including access, booking, and equipment maintenance.

Work & Mother has now been open long enough that some employees are using the suites for a second time, as they expand their families — something Donnell loves to see.