Break Time for Nursing Mothers in the Workplace

I happen know a lot about workplace laws which is kind of ironic because I myself don’t work in a workplace but anyway, ya’ll might like to know for yourself, for your friends, or for your wives that working, breastfeeding mothers have more rights these days than they had in the past.

Hopefully these laws will help keep working women out of the cold and lonely bathroom, expressing their breast milk standing up at the counter, inhaling any number of unpleasant smells. I mean, maybe some women can ignore it, but I think it’s rather demeaning and awfully suggestive of the little value we place on motherhood.

Law Regarding Milk Expression

One of the provisions of President Obama’s Health Care Reform amends the Fair Labor Standards Act to legally entitle nursing mothers to break time at work for the expression of breast milk.

The amended act does not state how many breaks are to be given but specifies any “reasonable break time.” The breaks need not be paid by the employer but, by law, must be available and provided in a clean, private room without a toilet.

Here is the full law as outlined by the Department of Labor.

Breastfeeding women can be very sensitive to their surroundings. In fact, it’s kind of biological. Breastfeeding is a warm and loving activity. A bathroom (unless it’s a damn nice one) is not an ideal place to get the oxytocin flowing. And on top of that, the use of a pump is already unemotional, cold, and sterile. A warm cozy chair and a 20 minute break might be enough to help a mother provide breast milk for her baby longer term.

Why Working, Breastfeeding Moms Must Pump

Breastfeeding working mothers have a huge challenge to keep their milk flowing. Without the little one around to nurse on demand the milk can dry up pretty fast. A lot of business owners and bosses (who are mostly male) don’t understand the logistics here so allow me to illuminate. Pass this on to bosses everywhere!

  • A mother’s milk builds up while she’s away from her baby. In the absence the buildup of milk can become very uncomfortable and even painful. It needs to be expelled.
  • If milk is not expressed at somewhat regular intervals throughout each and every day, a woman will lose her ability to breastfeed her baby. Breast pumps can substitute and “trick” the body into believing that the baby is still nursing all day.
  • Breastfeeding, in conjunction with a healthy diet, helps babies become exceptionally strong and healthy. A breastfed baby’s immune system is more robust than a formula fed baby so they generally require fewer doctor visits, meaning fewer sick days for mom!
  • Breastfeeding has been proven to increase IQ, meaning a better workforce for the future!
  • Babies who are breastfed are typically happier and, consequently, so are their mothers. This might make for a more peaceful office.
  • Breastfeeding mothers often don’t get enough sleep. A midday break may be just the energizer that she needs to do her best at work.

I would love to hear other women’s experience with this. I didn’t work for the first two years of my baby’s life so it wasn’t an issue for me, but I did pump on occasion and I can’t say that I found it incredibly enjoyable. I would think it would be difficult to maintain the milk beyond say a few weeks to a few months expressing milk in a bathroom. What do you think?

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