Are you planning to breastfeed and worried about when and where you can feed your baby? Where you can actually breastfeed and where you feel comfortable doing so are separate topics, but we have some information that might help a bit. Breastfeeding (pumping and nursing) is legally protected in the United States.
All 50 states have laws that protect your ability to feed your baby in public and private spaces. Some individual states may have individual laws that take this protection further than others. Let’s break it down a bit here.
State Legislation Protecting the Right to Breastfeed
The District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands although not technically states, also have this same legal protection.
Louisiana has legislation that protects breastfed babies against discrimination in childcare facilities. Meaning that if a mother wants to provide breast milk, the childcare facility must make accommodations.
Mississippi requires all childcare facilities to have a safe and sanitary place for mothers to express milk and refrigeration to store expressed milk. The legislation even goes so far as to mandate that the business display materials that promote breastfeeding to their clients. Maryland and Nevada have similar legislation promoting breastfeeding at childcare facilities.
New Jersey, Maryland, and Liousiana have various legislation exempting breast pumps and parts from state sales tax in order to try to make it more affordable.
Donor Milk is a topic of legislation for California, Connecticut, Illinois, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, New York and Texas. This includes the collection, processing, and distribution of human milk for donors.
The following states require health insurance plans to cover the cost of support or assistance for breastfeeding: Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Texas.
The State of Illinois passed a Lactation Accommodation in Airports Act requiring space for lactation rooms in their airports.
Federal Legislation Protects Pumping in the Workplace
2010: Federal Care Act
While it is a major piece of legislation that covers many different aspects of healthcare, it does focus a bit on mothers.The Federal Care Act Amended the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). It mandates that employers must give women the time and space to pump while working. The space must be somewhere other than a bathroom.
This protection is granted until the child’s first birthday. Since this law was passed, the American Academy of Pediatrics has updated its guidelines specifically saying mother’s should breastfeed children until they are two years of age.
And the employers are not legally required to pay mothers for this time. If you are not a salaried employee, and so many are not, you may be missing out on wages in order to breastfeed your baby. This leaves mothers making the decision: is it financially prohibitive to breastfeed their baby?
Some women are left pumping in what looks like it might have previously been a coat closet with a folding chair.
And organizations with less than fifty employees are not held to these mandates.
2019: Fairness for Breastfeeding Mothers Act
This piece of legislation takes the protections a bit further. This legislation adds criteria for what might be considered a lactation room. The goal is to protect mothers from employers who might do the bare minimum in order to abide by the requirements outlined in the Federal Care Act. Mother’s might have had a space in which to pump, but it often wasn’t adequate or safe.
It must be considered a hygienic space. This cuts out a lot of the wiggle room where businesses previously could offer almost any space to make something work. Moms might not have been pumping in the bathroom, but many did not have a safe and clean room in which to pump.
The room must be shielded from view. In other words, it must be a private space. This space should be somewhere that another coworker might wander into like a spare flex office space. Imagine you get all set up to pump, top down, nursing bra on, and a male co-worker walks in on you…
There must be a workspace provided in this room. This is not to say that moms must work while they pump but those who do, now have the option.
Not all women are covered under this legislation. Big lobby groups have shielded large industries such as aviation, motorcoach, and railroads from having to comply.
Companies do not have to comply if the provision of a safe and private lactation space would cause undue financial hardship.
2023: PUMP Act
Obama signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act into law, and in this legislation there were inclusions for pumping mothers. The provision of the law is called the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act, or PUMP Act. Keep reading or click here for the Department of Labor’s resources on this legislation.
You can find the Fact Sheet here.
Temporary Spaces: The space employers are mandated to provide does not have to be a fixed or permanent space. The law specifically states that it may be temporary.
Now that we’ve covered the legal details, for tips on getting comfortable with breastfeeding check out this post. From practicing at home, to actionable tips that you can use today you’ll find the post helpful for assuaging any qualms you might have.