Breastfeeding is hard enough without having to worry about when and where you can feed your baby. Although are have the right to breastfeed anywhere in the United States, other legislation is state-specific. Find out what your breastfeeding rights are when it comes to nursing in public, pumping at work, and getting a pump supplied through insurance.
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Breastfeeding in Public
When it comes to breastfeeding in public, your rights will depend on your location. Different countries and states will have different regulations on what you are allowed to do. The National Conference of State Legislation (NCSL) has a great resource regarding state specific breastfeeding laws. Here are some of the facts pulled from their website.
1. The following have laws that specifically allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location:
- All 50 states
- Puerto Rico
- Virgin Islands
2. These locations exempt breastfeeding from public indecency laws meaning you are allowed to show as little or as much as you would like in public.
- 30/50 States
- (AK, AZ, AR, FL, ID, IL, KY, LA, MS, MI, MN, MS, MO, MT, NV, NH, NY, NC, ND, OK, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, UT, VA, WA, WI, WY)
- Puerto Rico
- Virgin Islands
3. The following places have laws protecting your rights to breastfeed in the workplace (separate from the national laws).
- 29/50 States
- (AK, CA, CO, CT, DE, GA, HI, IL, IN, LA, ME, MN, MI, MT, NH, NJ, NM, NY, ND, OK, OR, RI, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WA, WY)
- Puerto Rico
4. These 18 locations exempt breastfeeding moms from jury duty or allow service to be postponed.
- 17 States
- (CA, CT, ID, IL, IA, KS, KY, MI, MS, MO, MT, NE, OK, OR, SD, UT, VA)
- Puerto Rico
In addition to these laws, many states have unique laws related to breastfeeding. To read more about the regulations in your state, you can check out NCSL.org.
Breastfeeding in other Countries
When doing this research, I learned how far behind the US is in supporting breastfeeding moms. The following 3 countries really stood out in their breastfeeding policies. Please comment on this post if you know of any countries or live in a country that supports breastfeeding!
According to the Australian Breastfeeding Association, it is “illegal to discriminate against a person either directly or indirectly on the grounds of breastfeeding.” This law was passed as a part of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984. This prevents instances such as restaurants refusing to serve a breastfeeding mother or an employer eliminating breaks (whether that is directed at a mother or towards the whole company). The law protects you if you are breastfeeding, hand expressing, or pumping.
Norway holds the record for the highest breastfeeding rate of any developed country with 99% of babies partially breastfed and 80% breastfed to 6 months and beyond. A huge part of that is their generous leave program.
According to Norge.no (a portal providing services from national and local government agencies), new parents get a total of 49 weeks 100% paid leave, and 59 weeks at 80% coverage. “The quota for paternity leave and maternity leave is 15 weeks each.” In addition to this, around 80% of the maternity hospitals are certified Baby Friendly, and they are trained to focus on supporting breastfeeding right from the start.
According to the International Baby Food Action Network, Greek law provides moms who breastfeed with a “breastfeeding leave.” New mothers can typically choose from the following options:
- Work 1 less hour per day for the same pay for the first 30 months after maternity leave
- Work two fewer hours per day for the same pay for the first 12 months after maternity leave and 1 hour less per day for the next 6 months
- 3.5 months of extended maternity leave instead of working less daily hours
Break time for Nursing Mothers
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed in 2010 in the US and contains two different provisions that support breastfeeding moms. The first requires employers to provide “reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk.”
Providing a Place to Pump
The other great thing about this law is that they are 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.”
When it comes to the specific space provided, there are no regulations that says it has to be permanent. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, a company can provide “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 coworkers and the public.”
There are exceptions to the law, however. It states that any “employer that employs less than 50 employees shall not be subject to the requirements of this subsection, if such requirements would impose an undue hardship by causing the employer significant difficulty or expense when considered in relation to the size, financial resources, nature, or structure of the employer’s business.”
Compensation for Pumping Time
Unfortunately, the law also states that your “employer shall not be required to compensate an employee receiving reasonable break time [for expressing breast milk] for any work time spent for such purpose.” Meaning, they are required to provide you with time to pump, but they are not required to pay you for that time. Although companies are not required to pay your for this time, it does not mean that none of them will. Check with your company’s HR representative to find out if your employers has company-specific benefits.
You can find more information on the Federal Register regarding the exact provisions of the law.
Free Breast Pump
The other provision in the ACA mandates that your health insurance plan must cover the cost of a breast pump. However, this does not have to be the pump of your choice. They can cover the cost to rent a pump or to purchase outright. These pumps can be anywhere from a manual to a hospital grade double electric, and just depends on your insurance. To find out more about how to obtain your free breast pump, check out my post on it HERE. [S01E04]
National Conference of State Legislation (NCSL): http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/breastfeeding-state-laws.aspx#State
U.S. Department of Labor Expressing Breastmilk Q&A: https://www.dol.gov/whd/nursingmothers/faqBTNM.htm
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