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Supporting Nursing Mothers in the Workplace: Laws Protections and Accommodations

Laws and Protections for Nursing Mothers at Work

For working mothers who choose to breastfeed, seeking privacy and taking time off to pump milk can often be a stressful and inconvenient experience. In the United States, laws have been put in place to ensure that nursing mothers have reasonable accommodations in their place of work.

Reasonable Break Time for Nursing Mothers Provision

The Reasonable Break Time for Nursing Mothers provision is a federal law that requires employers to provide unpaid, reasonable break time to nursing mothers to express breast milk during the workday. This provision is applicable to all employers, regardless of size, and covers both salaried and hourly employees.

Private Space

Additionally, the law requires employers to provide private space, other than a bathroom, for nursing mothers to pump milk. The space must be shielded from view, free from intrusion, and readily available when needed.

This space should be equipped with a comfortable chair, electrical outlet, and a surface to hold a breast pump and other personal items. Employers are not required to create a separate lactation room but can offer a private office or another type of space that meets the requirements.

Undue Hardship

Although employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations for nursing mothers, they can plead undue hardship if accommodating a nursing mother would cause significant difficulty or expense. This must be a factual claim, not speculation, and the employer must provide evidence to show that accommodating the employee would cause an undue hardship on the business.

Loopholes in the Law for Salaried Workers

While the Reasonable Break Time for Nursing Mothers provision applies to both hourly and salaried workers, some salaried workers may not benefit from the provision due to federal regulations regarding meal and rest breaks. Salaried workers who are exempt from overtime requirements are not entitled to meal and rest breaks under federal law, leaving them with little protection under the Reasonable Break Time for Nursing Mothers provision.

Pregnancy Discrimination Act and State Laws

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act also provides additional protections for nursing mothers by prohibiting discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Employers who refuse to provide reasonable accommodations for nursing mothers or who make employment decisions based on a nursing mothers request for reasonable accommodations may be in violation of the Act.

Moreover, many states have passed laws to provide further protection than the federal law. For instance, California law requires employers to provide reasonable break time to lactating employees and requires employers to make reasonable efforts to provide a private location near the employees work area.

Lactation Room Accommodations

Creating a private, functional lactation space is essential for nursing mothers to have a comfortable and safe experience expressing breast milk.

Standards for Private and Functional Lactation Space

The lactation space should be private and functional. The space should include a door that locks on the inside to allow the mother to have uninterrupted time to pump.

There should be a comfortable chair, an electrical outlet for a breast pump, and a nearby sink for washing hands and pump parts.

Use of Existing Rooms as Makeshift Lactation Space

Employers can use unused office space, conference rooms or storage rooms to create a makeshift lactation space. However, the space must meet the minimum requirements for privacy, cleanliness, and functionality.

Employers should consult with a nursing mother before designating a particular room as a makeshift lactation space to avoid inconveniences.


Taking reasonable break time and having access to a functional lactation room is crucial for nursing mothers to maintain their physical and emotional wellbeing. Employers must adhere to federal and state laws to ensure that their employees find a supportive and comfortable working environment.

3) Pumping Schedule and Availability

For nursing mothers who return to work, maintaining a steady schedule of pumping times can be a challenging task. It is essential to ensure that the mother has enough time throughout the day to express enough milk for her baby.

Flexibility and Frequency of Pumping Time

Nursing mothers should have the freedom to pump as frequently as needed to maintain milk supply and avoid discomfort. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies should be breastfed at least eight to twelve times per day, and breast milk should be expressed about every two to three hours.

This means that a typical workday should consist of at least two to three pumping sessions.

Employers should be aware of the importance of pumping sessions for nursing mothers and allow them to take breaks as needed.

They can encourage employees to schedule pumping times at regular intervals or before or after related activities, such as a meeting or lunch break.

Difficulty of Finding Time and Space in Non-Traditional Desk Jobs

Non-traditional desk jobs, such as those in healthcare or retail industries, may not allow for a rigid schedule or offer private space. Nursing mothers in these industries can face challenges in finding the necessary time and space to pump milk during work hours.



Employers can provide creative solutions for employees working in non-traditional desk jobs by allowing them to use empty exam rooms or private offices when not in use. Employers can work with employees to help schedule meetings and other activities around the mothers pumping schedule.

In retail environments, managers can allot specific time blocks for the employee to have uninterrupted time to express milk in the staff lounge. In some cases, employers can offer the option to work from home or modify an employees schedule to accommodate pumping breaks.

Whatever the solution may be, clear communication and collaboration between the employer and employee can help nursing mothers achieve their working goals while continuing to breastfeed.

4) Advocating for Lactation Accommodations

Nursing mothers should not hesitate to advocate for lactation accommodations in the workplace. Open communication with employers is essential to creating a supportive and comfortable environment for nursing mothers.

Importance of Early Communication with Employer

It is crucial for nursing mothers to communicate with their employer in advance of their return to work. This allows for plenty of time to organize the necessary accommodations and for employers to plan around the employees needs.

Nursing mothers can share their pumping schedule and any accommodations that will help enable them to continue breastfeeding.

Dealing with Challenges and Discrimination in the Workplace

Unfortunately, nursing mothers may face challenges in the workplace related to breastfeeding, such as discrimination or difficulty generalizing accommodations. It is important to seek solutions that work towards the mothers needs and encourage time and space dedicated to pumping.


One potential solution when facing discrimination or lack of accommodations for lactation is through seeking out an Employee Assistance Program representative. Advocating for change as a group can often lead to more effective changes when compared to an individual action.

Additionally, finding local community resources that support lactation assistance and advocating for your needs with a record of healthy communication helps to ensure that accommodations are made. When there is difficulty in finding available space to pump, employers and employees can brainstorm potential solutions.

There are temporary lactation spaces such as portable units that can be set up to provide privacy and space to pump. Sometimes, a public bathroom might be the only option if it is kept clean and there is an available surface to place the pump.

It is important to steer clear of any designated first-aid spaces or storage spaces as this could interfere with the daily operations of the business. In conclusion, advocating for lactation accommodations in the workplace is essential for nursing mothers.

Early communication, flexibility, and creativity are key in finding solutions that facilitate a supportive and comfortable working environment for lactating employees. Despite potential difficulties, an open dialogue between employer and employee can create practical solutions that work in the interest of everyone involved.

In conclusion, laws and protections for nursing mothers at work, as well as lactation room accommodations, are essential for working mothers who choose to breastfeed. The Reasonable Break Time for Nursing Mothers provision applies to all employers, and additional protections are provided under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and state laws.

Employers must ensure that they provide private and functional lactation space to facilitate a supportive and comfortable working environment for nursing mothers. Flexibility and creative solutions can aid in finding accommodate these needs in non-traditional desk jobs.

It is important to communicate with your employer and advocate for lactation accommodations and seek assistance in the face of any challenges or discrimination. Overall, promoting lactation accommodations in the workplace supports the physical and emotional wellbeing of nursing mothers, and every effort should be made to ensure their needs are appropriately met.

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