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Do you understand your rights as a breastfeeding mother?

Following the signing of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, laws protecting the right to breastfeed in the workplace too effect. While not technically part of the Family Medical Leave Act, these laws are somewhat related to the act in that they impact new mothers.

When breastfeeding moms have completed leave afforded to them under FMLA and by their employer, they must return to work. Because they might be feeding their infants only breast milk, their bodies continue to produce milk throughout the day. This milk can be pumped and stored; it is usually used later by other care providers to feed a baby when a breastfeeding mom is at work or otherwise occupied.

The law now requires that covered employers provide safe spaces for breastfeeding activities. This means that women must have a place to go that is not a bathroom so that they can breastfeed in private without worrying about the intrusion of another employee. The location must be shielded from view from other employees as well.

In addition to a place to breastfeed, employers must make reasonable accommodations for new mothers so that they have breaks in their schedule during which to breastfeed. Breastfeeding is different for each woman, which means the frequency with which a woman needs to express her milk — and how long that takes — varies for each individual. As such, there aren’t specific details on how long and when these breaks need to take place, but employers are expected to accommodate individual needs in this regard.

Failure to accommodate breastfeeding requirements for the first year after a baby is born could be a form of discrimination. If you feel you are being discriminated against as a nursing mother, understanding the appropriate business and legal steps is important.

Source: Wage and Hour Division, United States Department of Labor, “Break Time for Nursing Mothers,” accessed Jan. 13, 2016

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