It can be hard to know how a breastfeeding mother and family will be affected by laws. First of all it can be hard to find out what the laws say. Then knowing what they say isn’t enough – most of us that aren’t lawyers (that is, most of us) need help understanding what the laws mean. This website by Jake Aryeh Marcus, breastfeedinglaw.com, has both the texts and the explanations to help. Check it out!
Last year a new law was passed that requires employers to provide a space and break time for breastfeeding mothers to pump for their babies. These links have information about what the law provides and how to file a complaint. One nice thing about the law is that it acknowledges the variation between mothers in how often and how long they need to pump (“Employers are required to provide a reasonable amount of break time to express milk as frequently as needed by the nursing mother. The frequency of breaks needed to express milk as well as the duration of each break will likely vary.”)
The United States Breastfeeding Committee has posted FAQ’s about the provisions in the new health care reform legislation for workplace support of breastfeeding mothers. They summarize the provision:
Section 4207 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (also known as Health Care Reform), states that employers shall provide breastfeeding employees with “reasonable break time” and a private, non-bathroom place to express breast milk during the workday, up until the child’s first birthday. Employers are not required to pay for time spent expressing milk, and employers of less than 50 employees shall not be required to provide the breaks if doing so would cause “undue hardship” to their business.
Here’s the link. It includes answers to questions including what the law does (and doesn’t do), when it takes effect, why the law is necessary, and what employers will gain from providing breastfeeding support for their employees.
From the United States Breastfeeding Committee:
On June 11, 2009, Representative Carolyn B. Maloney (NY) and Senator Jeff Merkley (OR) introduced the Breastfeeding Promotion Act in both houses of Congress, to provide a unified national policy to keep mothers, their children, and their communities healthy. This is the first time the bill has been introduced in the Senate.
The Breastfeeding Promotion Act (H.R. 2819, S. 1244) includes five provisions:
- Amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to protect breastfeeding women from being fired or discriminated against in the workplace.
- Provides tax incentives for businesses that establish private lactation areas in the workplace, or provide breastfeeding equipment or consultation services to their employees.
- Provides for a performance standard to ensure breast pumps are safe and effective.
- Allows breastfeeding equipment and consultation services to be tax deductible for families (amends Internal Revenue Code definition of “medical care”).
- Protects the privacy of breastfeeding mothers by ensuring they have break time and a private place to pump (applies to employers with 50 or more employees, see text of legislation for details).
Something to think about and write to your representatives about. It’s exciting to see breastfeeding become a visible, national health care issue. Having said that, I still think that what breastfeeding mothers and babies really need is good maternity leave policy. Protecting mothers’ ability to pump milk for their babies is a great start but not a true replacement for time together during those first months of life.
It would be great to have a law that protected mothers that are breastfeeding their babies in public places. We’ve got people in Wisconsin working on this project right now. Legal protection, however, is only partial support. It may take a long time for the community to realize that nursing mothers should not be harassed. As supporters of breastfeeding mothers, there are lots of things we can do to help make nursing in public comfortable. Thanks to Mothering Magazine, we have one small and easy way to let mothers know that they are in a breastfeeding-friendly location:
The International Breastfeeding icon is available for free on-line. How about getting it posted at your church? Local coffee shop? Favorite restaurant? Workplace?
While breastfeeding is (of course) legal all over the United States, mothers are still sometimes harassed for nursing in public. There are lots of things we can do to try to change this. One approach is to protect mothers with laws. In Madison and Dane county we have ordinances that do this. Senate Bill 16 is a bill that would provide this protection to mothers throughout Wisconsin. Here is the Legislative Reference Bureau’s summary of the bill;
Under current law, there are various prohibitions against lewd behavior or sexual gratification in public. Those prohibitions, however, do not apply to a mother’s breast-feeding of her child. This bill permits a mother to breast-feed her child in any public or private location where she is otherwise authorized to be and prohibits any person from interfering with the right of a mother to breast-feed her child as provided in the bill. Because no penalty is expressed in the bill for interfering with that right, a person who interferes with that right is subject to a forfeiture not to exceed $200 under the general penalty provision under current law.
This bill has moved out of committee and will be scheduled for voting on the Senate floor. There are still more steps before this can become a law. If you want to show your support for the Assembly’s version, let your representatives know. If you want more details, drop me an email and I’ll send you the most current information that I have.
As a note, protection of breastfeeding is way more complicated than just passing a law. If you have any interest in this at all, it’s well worth reading Jake Marcus’s article in Mothering Magazine, Lactation and the Law. If you want current information on breastfeeding and the law, check out LLLI’s legal page.