The American College of Nurse-Midwives recently published a free guide to breastfeeding and working, which carries tips for preparing to go back to work full-time, what to look for in a breast pump, how often to pump, and how to store milk.
The suggestions are very practical, although some — such as working part-time or working from home for a while — are not realistic for many women, especially in non-office or hourly jobs.
Newer legal protections for breastfeeding workers, however, should make some aspects of breastfeeding and work a little easier to manage. One rarely mentioned benefit of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is that the act amended the Fair Labor Standards Act to require employers to provide breaks for nursing mothers to express breast milk for a year after the child’s birth.
Workplaces with 50 or more employees are required to provide “a reasonable amount” of break time for expressing milk as often as needed, as well as a functional space for pumping that is *not* a bathroom.
The employers are not required to pay for the time of these breaks. Employers with fewer than 50 employees might be exempt if they claim it creates a “hardship,” so it’s important to check on if you work for a small business. The Department of Labor provides more resources on this topic for workers and employers.
Some states also have laws that protect breastfeeding women in the workplace. Where the state law does a better job of protecting workplace breastfeeding/pumping, the state law is what applies.