Health Care Act Gives Breastfeeding at Work a Boost

Women who want to breastfeed their babies know that it is the healthiest choice they can make, for their babies and for themselves, but they also face numerous societal barriers, including:

  • Formula advertising
  • Insufficient education of medical professionals
  • Lack of access to lactation consultants and breast pumps
  • Lack of maternity leave
  • No workplace support for breastfeeding
  • Milk banks are not a priority
  • Negative attitudes
  • Pervasive bottle imagery

In particular, the lack of workplace support for breastfeeding is a significant barrier to breastfeeding in the United States. Whether women are forced back to work due to lacking maternity leave provisions or choose to go back to work, they do not have sufficient support for breastfeeding in the workplace. Some states have laws that protect women’s rights in this regard, but many do not. Even among those that do have laws, employers are known to put pressure on breastfeeding women or make them feel bad for needing facilities or time to pump. There is also not enough support for babies at work programs, which allow women to bring small babies to work with them if they choose. Without the right support, women often find themselves trying to pump enough milk sitting on a toilet without frequent enough breaks to maintain milk supply.

Now experts from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) are saying that provisions within the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will help increase the number of working mothers who are able to continue breastfeeding their babies. According to the IWPR report entitled Better Health for Mothers and Children: Breastfeeding Accomodations Under the Affordable Care Act:

The ACA accommodations for breastfeeding in the workplace require private, sanitary facilities for hourly employees to express milk. The report estimates the legislation will result in an annual increase of 165,000 women who breastfeed their children, and will affect more than one million mothers and their children over the course of the next six years.

These provisions, which cover almost 19 million women, will allow many more women to make the best decision for their babies. The will be enabled by this legislation to continue breastfeeding when they return to work. In particular, this legislation will protect those women who are in the weakest position in the labour market (younger, less educated, African American or Hispanic) and who have historically had lower breastfeeding rates.

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Annie blogs about the art and science of parenting at the PhD in Parenting blog.

Image credit: Wha'ppen on flickr


Kathy M.
Kathy M.5 years ago

Mara L: Well, if babies can't wait, then I hope your surgeon some day is a breast feeding mom. Hope she leaves someone competent to take over your surgery.

Kathy M.
Kathy M.5 years ago

Nancy: Read the comments--these women want exactly what I said. They want daycare on site, then they will breast feed the child directly whenever the child cries. And, whoa to the boss who actually expects them to do their job!! Can you see the outcry??? "Boss makes mother work while baby cries!" If you want to stay home with your kids, marry a man who can support you while you do so. The rest of us don't want to deal with your kids in the work place and I would absolutely fire any employee of mine who thought her children were going to control her workday.

Danuta W.
Danuta Watola5 years ago

Thanks for the information!

gerlinde p.
gerlinde p.5 years ago

breastfeeding is important.

Amilia L.
Amilia L.5 years ago

I think it's just wonderful. It seems like they try and ban anything to do with children. It seems they are distracting even at home. A wonderful thing for infants.

Nancy Roussy
Nancy Roussy5 years ago

Ali H. ~ I am happy to hear that your husband stays at home with your child! Your comparison to smokers is a good one, smokers should not leave their work and go smoke while they are not during their break (i saw a couple of weeks ago that in England there is a company that is taking money away from smokers that smokes while not on break...I LOVE THAT COMPANY!!!!). While you are not during your break you should be working, you can do whatever you want (well, unless what you want to do is hurt someone or a crime) while on your break which is why breaks exists so if you are pumping your breast milk during your break I have no problem with this. What I have a problem with is people demanding that a special place is to be given at work for women to pump their milk, this is total crap! Your boss is not responsible for giving you a place to pump milk (or giving you a special place to smoke or drink or surf the internet or whatever else you want to do that has nothing to do with your work)!

Nancy Roussy
Nancy Roussy5 years ago

Kathy M. ~ There are a lot of people actually already demanding daycare on their job place (some places actually provides it) and there are a lot more people demanding money just because they have kids which is complete crap like the women who demands a place at work for pumping their breast milk! If those people would have a business and would pay people to do what they want instead of working (which is what you are supposed to do while you are at work....WORK) they would probably change their opinion. And don't feel bad about saying that it'd be better for men to control the work place, it is better and there is less crap going on when men are in charge.

Lindsey DTSW
.5 years ago

I've never had children. But from the times I've babysat my nieces and nephews when they were babies I've never seen a baby who is going to be willing to wait to be fit into his mother's break schedule when he's hungry. My siblings' babies would whimper and cry if they weren't fed when they were hungry - and they weren't interested in whether or not feeding them was convenient for me at the time.

Mara L.
Mara L.5 years ago

Kathy - A few things.

1. It's Christmas eve. If you do, in fact, have a family go spend time with them instead of trolling bolgs about breastfeeding mothers.

2. Babies can not wait to be fed. Plain and simple. Woman pump so that when they CAN'T be there with their infants, they can still be fed *right away*. Again.. Babies can't wait.

3. I'm sorry you have some sort of deep seeded issues with a woman who breastfeed, but you do have the right, and the choice, not to watch while it's taking place. Besides, it's just plain rude to stare, especially when you're with a large group.

Kathy M.
Kathy M.5 years ago

Ali H: Why am *I* concerned with the issue?? Because, even though you surely won't want to acknowledge it, I, too, have rights. And I don't want to take my family out to breakfast and have to watch the freakshow of a woman breastfeeding a 5 year old. I also don't want to work in a daycare. If I did, I would. As a woman, I want respect in the workplace, and turning it into romper room is not going to gain any respect for any of us. It just makes us look as though we cannot separate our personal and professional lives.