Breastfeeding in the workplace: What are your rights?

As Breastfeeding Awareness Month kicks off, what are the rights of mothers who choose to express breast milk at work?

Breastfeeding is recommended up to at least 12 months of age, but when moms return to work at six weeks or three months, how can they continue to breastfeed successfully?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 70 percent of employed mothers with children younger than age 3 work full-time. One-third of these mothers return to work within three months after birth and two-thirds return within six months.

Often mothers run into barriers associated with finding time to express breast milk at work, finding a suitable place to express and store their breast milk and often are concerned about co-worker and boss support of expressing breast milk during working hours. These items combined may then result in an inadequate supply to support exclusively or partial breastfeeding.

As an employer, providing the following key elements is needed to support your breastfeeding workers:

  • Flexible work schedule: Allowing breaks to pump as needed
  • Space: Allowing a closed environment to pump as well as a place to store expressed milk
    • This space should have an electrical outlet, privacy, refrigerator and sink

Many states have enacted legislation that supports breastfeeding in the workplace. According to the United States Breastfeeding Committee, Section 4207 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (also known as Health Care Reform), amended the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), or federal wage and hour law. The amendment requires employers to provide reasonable break-time and a private, non-bathroom place for nursing mothers to express breast milk during the workday, for one-year after the child’s birth. The new requirements became effective when the Affordable Care Act was signed into law on March 23, 2010.

Know your rights as a mother and provide the best environment as an employer.

Michigan State University Extension offers the Breastfeeding Initiative Program for WIC eligible moms across the state in collaboration with the Michigan state department of WIC. For more information visit

Did you find this article useful?