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Breastfeeding Moms Can Pump Milk at Work

Breastfeeding Moms Can Pump Milk at Work

Darragh Worland | Tonic

June 11, 2010

A little-known clause of the new health care bill gives new mothers the right to pump breast milk at work.

It’s not something most of us think about until we actually have to do it. After all, who really wants to have to pump their breasts at work? It’s bad enough having to share a bathroom with our co-workers, let alone having to find a quiet corner to pump milk from our naked breasts into a plastic tube.

But for many working moms, many of whom return to work within just 12 weeks of giving birth, it’s a downright necessity. And now, thanks to Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), it’s also the law — not just in New York but across the country.

According to an Institute for Women’s Policy Research analysis published in 2007, on average nearly one-quarter (24 percent) of the best employers for working mothers provide just four or fewer weeks of paid maternity leave, and half (52 percent) provide six weeks or less.

Now consider that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) currently recommends mothers breast feed their babies for their first six months of life. The math doesn’t add up, which means many moms, their chests engorged with breast milk, have to pump by midday or suffer severe discomfort.

For years, many moms have pumped in silence, either crouched on a toilet seat in the bathroom or in an empty office, all the while hoping they wouldn’t be caught with their blouse unbuttoned. While some states have laws on the books requiring that employers provide a private space for women to pump, it’s now federal law.

Under the Affordable Healthcare for America Act, signed into law by President Obama in March, all employers with more than 50 employees must:

[ … ] 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 do so. The employer shall make reasonable efforts to provide a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from co-workers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk. An employer shall not be required to compensate an employee for any work time spent for such purpose.

Maloney, who has been pushing for the law for years, says it “recognizes that most mothers simply must go back to work during a child’s first year.” Another supporter, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) has touted it as a way to cut health costs, since studies show breast-fed babies have lower rates of some common illnesses.

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