A large majority of American mothers breastfeed their babies. Employers must be prepared to make lactation-related accommodations for these employees when they return to work. Breastfeeding mothers who are away from their babies need to express milk (typically using a breast pump) on roughly the same schedule as the baby’s feeding schedule to maintain their milk production and avoid health complications, like infections. This means that breastfeeding employees must be given breaks every few hours throughout the workday and be allowed to use a clean, private space – preferably one with a comfortable chair and an electrical outlet – where they can express milk.
Practical Resources for Accommodating Breastfeeding Employees
Supporting Nursing Moms At Work: Employer Solutions. [U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.] This guide provides detailed, illustrated, industry-specific solutions for the challenge of finding appropriate private space and time for breastfeeding employees to express milk.
Easy Steps to Supporting Breastfeeding Employees. [U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.] Looking to adopt a breastfeeding support program but not sure where to start? This guide walks you through the entire process, from pilot study to implementation.
The Business Case for Breastfeeding
Supporting breastfeeding employees is not just a matter of legal compliance—it is a smart management strategy. This publication from the United States Department of Health and Human Services explains why.
Employers may be required by various state and federal laws to provide break time, private space, and other reasonable accommodations to breastfeeding employees. Non-exempt employees nationwide are covered by the Break Time for Nursing Mothers Provision of the Affordable Care Act, which requires employers to provide nursing employees with reasonable break time and private, non-bathroom space for expressing breast milk during the workday. Employers may also be required to accommodate breastfeeding employees under other federal laws, including the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Additionally, many states have their own break time and reasonable accommodation laws covering nursing mothers.
Coming soon: Legal Overview of Breastfeeding and Federal Employment Law.
Employers seeking advice on accommodating breastfeeding employees or addressing other family caregiving issues may wish to contact Workforce 21C.
Workforce 21C provides advice and consulting services to employers and their advisers on issues related to pregnancy accommodation, gender bias in the workplace, and family responsibilities discrimination.