A Closer Look at "Break Time for Nursing Mothers"
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Sweet Peas, Pods & Papas: All About Birth, B@@bs & Babies

A Closer Look at "Break Time for Nursing Mothers"

Francis, one of our SPB working-out-of-the-home mamas, pictured here with her breastfed children <3
Reconnecting skin-to-skin after a workday 
is one of the great joys of breastfeeding
PJs by Belabumbum

A discussion question on our student group led me to do some more digging.  Hence today’s blog post on who exactly is covered under the amended Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to pump at work with mandatory break time.
 
If you are planning to pump when after your maternity leave, see the list of 20 Tips for Workplace Pumping compiled from the brain trust of our SPB students who work in a variety of careers (travel tips included!).  It helps to have some insight so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel!!
 
I was originally ecstatic about the provisions for breastfeeding in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“PPACA”), which took effect when the PPACA was signed into law on March 23, 2010.  There was a part of the law that was going to be implemented immediately that had the potential to positively impact our students!! YEAH!!
 
Here is an excerpt from the Break Time Fact Sheet: http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs73.htm

General Requirements
Employers are required to provide “reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk.” Employers are also required to provide “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.”

The FLSA requirement of break time for nursing mothers to express breast milk does not preempt State laws that provide greater protections to employees (for example, providing compensated break time, providing break time for exempt employees, or providing break time beyond 1 year after the child’s birth).

Time and Location of Breaks
Employers are required to provide a reasonable amount of break time to express milk as frequently as needed by the nursing mother. The frequency of breaks needed to express milk as well as the duration of each break will likely vary.

A bathroom, even if private, is not a permissible location under the Act. The location provided must be functional as a space for expressing breast milk. If the space is not dedicated to the nursing mother’s use, it must be available when needed in order to meet the statutory requirement. A space temporarily created or converted into a space for expressing milk or made available when needed by the nursing mother is sufficient provided that the space is shielded from view, and free from any intrusion from co-workers and the public.
 
Sounds great, right?? Then the little chink started to show through.  This “Break Time” provision is only for hourly employees that are not exempt.  Although it would stand to reason that an employee who is salaried should be able to take breaks since there is a tacit understanding that work can be done throughout the work day, however it gets done, there is no guarantee that an employer will feel compelled to honor these same requirements for salaried employees, or those on the exempt list.
 
What about those employees who are exempt?  Check out the complete list HERE.  So that means that airline pilots (we have one lactating pilot amongst our alumni), teachers (almost one in every series since 2010!), employees of motion picture theaters (one used to work for a local theater!)…All of these mothers are at the whim of their employer/supervisors to either accommodate them…or not.

Surprisingly, our students that seem to have faced the most discrimination have worked for hospitals, the places where one would imagine they understood and valued the importance of providing breastmilk for an infant.  Not so much.  All three have been employed by the Banner Hospital System (different hospitals – seems to be an endemic value problem).
 
So what can you do if you want/need to go back to work, and you are not covered by the PPACA?  Thankfully, there are other provisions in the law and otherwise, that might help you make your case.


  1. Find out what laws are in place in your state.
  2. Educate yourself so you can have a persuasive conversation with your employer.
  3. Talk to your insurance company about your pumping equipment.
  4. Know your legal recourse if you need it.
  5. Set yourself up for success by building your own support network.


1. Find out which laws are in place in your state. 
Check out THIS interactive map that outlines the provisions under the law state by state.  You can find out the protections for workers who are pregnant or nursing, protections against pregnancy discrimination, provisions for pregnancy accommodations, and workplace breastfeeding rights.  HERE is another resource provided by the National Conference of State Legislators that breaks down the laws state-by-state.
 
Side note:  Each state is different.  Since 2016 is an election year, this would be an opportune season to petition your legislators to extend your state’s protections for workplace breastfeeding rights.  States have the opportunity to supersede federal law in this case.  For example, New York law includes ALL employers, and allows for break times to pump for up to three years after a child’s birth, with no exception like, “unless doing so would unduly disrupt the employer's business”.  *thank you* That little, “unless,” could by used by any employer who did not want to accommodate a lactating mother.  Although under the federal law employers have to prove hardship, some mothers may give up at the mere mention of conflict, because as women, many of us are  conditioned to “play nice”.

2. Educate yourself so you can have a persuasive conversation with your employer.
Read up on some talking points so that you can have an informative and persuasive conversation with your employer and/or supervisor.  The Office for Women’s Health has several resources for you, and for you to share with your employer.
 
Information about breastfeeding and going back to work from the Office of Women’s Health – answers questions from preparing during pregnancy, to pumping and storing needs after your return to work.
 
Information to share with your employer/supervisor
"Business Case for Breastfeeding"

Excerpt from the Business Case for Breastfeeding:
Companies successful at retaining valued employees after childbirth find that two components can make the difference: providing dedicated space (as small as 4' x 5') for breastfeeding employees to express milk in privacy, and providing worksite lactation support.

The payoff is significant: more satisfied, loyal employees and cost savings to the business. These savings are seen in such areas as:
- Retention of experienced employees;
- Reduction in sick time taken by both moms and dads for children's illnesses; and
- Lower health care and insurance costs.
 
Find out how several different industries have successfully supported lactating mothers HERE.
 
Find creative space solutions for lactating mothers to pump HERE.
 
Remember that there are options for you as negotiate your return to work.  Maybe you work part-time for a few weeks before you return full-time.  Maybe you do a mix of work-at-home time/days + office time/days for a few weeks.  Maybe someone brings your baby to you at lunchtime, or you negotiate for a longer lunch and a later end time so you can lactate (aka, “go nurse your baby”) during your lunch break.  Maybe you start back to work on a Thursday or Friday, so the time to your first 24-hour reunion with your baby isn’t five days away.  Maybe if you are lucky like me, your boss will say yes, and let you bring your baby to work with you. (I am not alone; a couple of other students have also been able to do this.)    
 
As you may have noticed, I am trying not to use the word “breastfeeding” in this post.  When you are ready, talk to your employer about accommodating your lactation needs after your maternity leave.  Lactation is a condition of pregnancy, and is therefore more likely to be recognized by a court as discrimination, should you need to file a case against your employer.  Mothers who have made the case for “breastfeeding” have not won in court to date.  Read THIS article by an Ohio State law student for more historical background.  She makes a great case for changing our language around the conversation from the first time you mention your desire to pump to your employer.

3.  Talk to your insurance company about your pumping equipment.
Our students have found it is best to talk to your insurance company about providing your breast pump while you are pregnant.  Hopefully this keeps you from scrambling for equipment as your return-to-work date draws nearer.  Your breast pump AND all the parts are also supposed to be covered by your insurer as per the PPACA.  

Excerpt from healthcare.gov:

You may be able to get help with breastfeeding at no cost.

Health insurance plans must provide breastfeeding support, counseling, and equipment for the duration of breastfeeding. These services may be provided before and after you have your baby.

These rules apply to Health Insurance Marketplace plans and all other health insurance plans, except for grandfathered plans.
 
If you have questions about finding the right pump for you, click back to read a guest post written by Debbie Gillespie, IBCLC about finding the right pump for the job you need it to do (more on that HERE).

4. Know your legal recourse just in case you need it.
I hope that it will not come to this, however, in the event that your employer and/or supervisor change the agreement about your break times after you return from your maternity leave, here are some protections in place under the EEOC.
 
Excerpt from Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) website

Discrimination Based on Lactation and Breastfeeding
There are various circumstances in which discrimination against a female employee who is lactating or breastfeeding can implicate Title VII. Lactation, the postpartum production of milk, is a physiological process triggered by hormones. Because lactation is a pregnancy-related medical condition, less favorable treatment of a lactating employee may raise an inference of unlawful discrimination. For example, a manager's statement that an employee was demoted because of her breastfeeding schedule would raise an inference that the demotion was unlawfully based on the pregnancy-related medical condition of lactation.

To continue producing an adequate milk supply and to avoid painful complications associated with delays in expressing milk, a nursing mother will typically need to breastfeed or express breast milk using a pump two or three times over the duration of an eight-hour workday. An employee must have the same freedom to address such lactation-related needs that she and her co-workers would have to address other similarly limiting medical conditions. For example, if an employer allows employees to change their schedules or use sick leave for routine doctor appointments and to address non-incapacitating medical conditions, then it must allow female employees to change their schedules or use sick leave for lactation-related needs under similar circumstances.

Finally, because only women lactate, a practice that singles out lactation or breastfeeding for less favorable treatment affects only women and therefore is facially sex-based. For example, it would violate Title VII for an employer to freely permit employees to use break time for personal reasons except to express breast milk.

Aside from protections under Title VII, female employees who are breastfeeding also have rights under other laws, including a provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that requires employers to provide reasonable break time and a private place for hourly employees who are breastfeeding to express milk. For more information, see Section III C., infra.
 
If you are in CA, THIS resource is available from the Legal Aid Society Employment Law Center.
 
Should you find yourself in the unhappy situation of facing hardship and/or discrimination because of your choice to breastfeed, there are two resources I can offer.
 
In Arizona contact:
Michelle Hottya
480-442-8491
michelle@azbreastfeedingcenter.com
www.azbreastfeeds.com
 
United States:
Best for Babes~ Their breastfeeding discrimination hotline helps moms wth their legal rights & assists with filing a complaint to the Department of Labor
NIP Hotline
1-855-NIP-FREE
http://www.bestforbabes.org/
Read more HERE 

5. Set yourself up for success, and build your own support network.
As our students pointed out, rally your support team before you go back to work.  Get your partner on board – pumping is a team effort.  Their help packing the bag in the morning, and helping clean the parts when you get home from work helps ease the burden of this amazing commitment you are making to your Sweet Pea.  Find other mothers like you on a social media forum, or amongst your co-workers.  It helps to know you are not alone in this choice.
 
Also take the time to educate your peers if your employer does not take up the opportunity to do so.  Pumping could take as much as 30 minutes between set up, let-down, collection time, and clean up (and that’s on a good day!).  Let your peers know what the time commitment is, and also how you plan to keep up your workload, or trade-offs or concessions you are willing to make.  This will help pave the way for an easier transition back to the workplace.
 
Reality check: Be prepared for the backlash that might come from mothers who feel judged by your choice.  Remember, it is not about you.  They did what was right for their family; this happens to something you want to commit to for yours.  The "Mommy Wars" set mothers up for the potential to feel like they failed their child if they gave them formula, and here you are pumping to give your baby breastmilk.  They may register, “MOMMY FAIL”.  It simply is not true.  Each family makes the choice that they made with the information that was available, and made sense for their situation.  End of story.

CLOSING THOUGHTS: 
However long you or however much you are able to pump, remind yourself that every ounce is good for your baby.  Give yourself the grace to do your best and keep your sanity.  Know that generally, whenever you take milk out, it places the order for the next day.  Even if you can’t keep up your supply at work and you supplement with formula, every time you breastfeed your Sweet Pea during your contact hours with them tells your body to keep making milk. 

HERE again is the list of 20 Tips for Workplace Pumping compiled from the brain trust of our SPB students who work in a variety of careers.  Many of these moms have been able to lactate past the first birthday – they know what they are talking about.  And, should you need them, HERE are some ideas to boost milk supply.  

I wish you all the best as you navigate returning to work and keeping up your breastfeeding relationship with your Sweet Pea. 

What was your experience with returning to work and lactation? Any tips to share?
Please leave us a comment - it will be moderated and posted. 
 

Bradley Method® natural childbirth classes offered in Arizona: Chandler, Tempe, Ahwatukee, Gilbert, Mesa, Scottsdale, PaysonDisclaimer: 
The material included on this site is for informational purposes only.
It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult her or his healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation.  Krystyna and Bruss Bowman and Bowman House, LLC accept no liability for the content of this site, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided.  This blog contains information about our classes available in Chandler, AZ and Payson, AZ and is not the official website of The Bradley Method®. The views contained on this blog do not necessarily reflect those of The Bradley Method® or the American Academy of Husband-Coached Childbirth®.



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