As a new mother, there are many decisions you need to make on behalf of yourself and your new child. In many cases, these decisions are simple, while others have more profound and long-term implications. One such decision is the choice to breastfeed your child. Sadly, like pregnancy, breastfeeding can cause issues at your place of work.
Medical evidence makes it clear that breast milk can offer babies a bit of a head start in life. It can boost their immune systems, increases their potential for a higher IQ and even helps cement the maternal-infant bond, which is critical for healthy infant development. Sadly, many new mothers who want to continue their career and nurse their infant get put in difficult positions by employers.
Nursing and pumping are protected medical needs
There is actually a federal law in place that protects the right of mothers to continue nursing or pumping breast milk for their babies. This law, called the Break Time for Nursing Mothers Act, requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for nursing mothers. Much like pregnancy itself, nursing or lactating are medical needs protected under law.
In order to comply with the law, your employer may not discriminate against you because you have chosen to provide your child with breast milk. Your employer must also supply two basic accommodations for your medical needs, which are time and space.
You deserve time to pump and a private space as well
Most women need to pump or express milk every 2-4 hours. Your employer may request that you use some of your lunch break for pumping, but there is still need for at least two other breaks for pumping, which often takes about a half an hour. Regular pumping ensures that the mother does not experience physical pain due to milk production and ensures she continues to produce adequate supply for her infant.
Your employer should also allow for a private space for you to pump, nurse or manually express milk. This space may not be a bathroom and should not be visible to others outside. Your employer does not need to create a special room for lactation. An unused room or office will suffice, so long as it is private.
Supporting new mothers is good for everyone involved
Not only does breastfeeding give the baby the best start to life, it helps the mother lose that pregnancy weight faster. Overall, that could reduce the costs of health care for the family, which can also benefit the employer over time.
Keeping a new mother on staff reduces the costs associated with hiring and training a new employee. Making basic accommodations for lactating new mothers isn't just a good policy, it's legally required. If your employer refuses to accommodate you or retaliates against you for requesting accommodations, you should push back and assert your rights.