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Healthcare Reform Gives Nursing Moms A Break at Work

By paulabernstein |

Good news for nursing mothers: Under President Obama’s new health care reform law, all employers must provide unpaid break time and an appropriate space for nursing mothers to pump breast milk at work, according to USA Today.

It’s a “revolution in American culture,” according to Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore), who sponsored the breastfeeding portion of the legislation in the Senate. “Essentially, until now there’s never been a national discussion, a national sense of, ‘Oh, of course this is something we should accommodate,’ ” Merkley told USA Today.

Pumping at work can be a real drag — especially when there’s no time or appropriate place to do it, so this could be a huge shift in the right direction. The new law specifies that employees must have “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.”

The breast-feeding provision took effect when President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on March 23, but it’s still not clear how it will be enforced.

Under the new legislation, employers must provide “reasonable break time” for an employee to pump breast milk until her child turns one. Small companies (with fewer than 50 workers) won’t have to follow the law if it would cause an “undue hardship.”

I was surprised to learn that the legislation covers only women who are paid an hourly wage. Some state laws, however, cover both.

It’s about time that the government supported breastfeeding in a concrete way. There’s so much pressure on women to breastfeed, but not a lot of public or institutional support for it. On the one hand, women are criticized if they don’t nurse their baby and on the other hand, they’re criticized if they nurse in public. Sometimes, it seems as if moms just can’t win. I’m hoping this is one instance where they can.

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About paulabernstein



Paula Bernstein is a freelance writer and social media manager with a background in entertainment journalism. She is also the co-author of Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited.

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0 thoughts on “Healthcare Reform Gives Nursing Moms A Break at Work

  1. Susan B-K says:

    Yea! This is wonderful news. Boy was it hard to pump 12 years ago when I had my first child. I was put in the kitchen–with a door that didn’t have a lock–and prayed daily that no one would walk in. The kitchen was next to the office lobby. Then I got my own office, but it didn’t have a lock either. It did have the only fax machine in the office, though. So people would open the door, even thought I taped a sign over the handle asking people to come back in 10 minutes after I finished pumping. This was all in San Francisco. My only gripe about this new law is that smokers should also take unpaid leave to light up outside. There’s no way they should still get paid to do that while mothers don’t get paid to do something healthy.

  2. Kate says:

    Glad to see you covering this issue, but seems highly inappropriate to have a huge ad promoting formula right next to this post.

  3. [...] so many moms who want to breastfeed don’t get enough support from friends, family, or their workplace. Forbes is hoping that nursing parties will help women who are struggling with breastfeeding and [...]

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