New Law Helps Nursing Mothers Who Work

Provides “reasonable break time” for breast feeding moms

 

Approximately 75% of mothers start breast feeding immediately after birth , but less than 20% of those moms continue to breast feed after returning to work, according to Corporate Voices for Working Families. Workplace barriers such as inflexible break schedules, inadequate facilities, and professional stigma have contributed to women's breast feeding decisions. One benefit of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that President Barack Obama signed into law March 23, 2010, is that it includes a section on Reasonable Break Time for Nursing Mothers. This new federal law amends the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938 by requiring employers to provide time and space for nursing mothers to pump breast milk. In addition, this amendment does not diminish any state laws that give workers more rights to pump at work. (For the actual text see Public Law 111-148, sec. 4207 at http://thomas.loc.gov.) While this act does not remove all workplace barriers that prevent women from breast feedin g, it does help to reduce the restrictions.

With the new legislation, employers must provide “a reasonable break time to an employee to express milk for her nursing child for one year after the child's birth each time such employee has need to express the milk.” The location provided must be a suitable place other than a bathroom and must be shielded from view and free from any intrusion from co-workers and the public. Although this law is a significant gain in securing workplace rights for nursing mothers, it applies only to non-exempt workers (i.e., most non-salaried employees) and excludes employers with fewer than 50 employees if the firm can prove that it would “impose an undue hardship.”

The benefits of breast feeding to both mother and infant have been well recognized by medical personnel. Women who breast feed have a reduced risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, postpartum depression, and cardiovascular disease. Also, breastfeeding protects infants and children from ear infections, several acute and chronic diseases, and reduces the risk of obesity.

CEW and the University of Michigan's Work/Life Resource Center (WLRC) have long been advocates for breast feeding moms. As members of a committee addressing student parent issues in the mid-2000's, CEW and WLRC assisted U-M in developing a number of lactation sites across campus. WLRC continues to expand the number of sites and provides extensive lactation resources. For more info rm at i o n , please visit http://hr.umich.edu/worklife/parenting/lactation.html.