Dear Diary,

Several things caused me anxiety when my daughter was born, including the fact that I’d been laid off from my previous company and I needed another job asap. But I relieved stress by reminding myself that I had the opportunity stay home and form a loving bonding with my daughter for the first five months of her life. When I did land a job offer, I worried if I was ready to return to work with new people and a new breast pump briefcase.

Breastfeeding in the Workplace


I pumped daily, since I was exclusively breastfeeding and didn’t want to run into any problems when I went back to work. Fortunately, my new job has been ranked for several years on the Fortune 500 Best Companies to Work. And lo’ and behold, when I arrived on site, there was a Mother’s Nursing Room on every other floor! So my anxiety eased in the sense of having a clean, private place to continue to provide my daughter with mommy’s nourishing milk.

But I couldn’t help but wonder what other women at other companies were facing: what about retail workers? Coffee shop baristas? Bank tellers? Waitresses? The United States is the progressive land of opportunity in many ways, but when it comes to fair and consistent treatment for paid maternity and parental leave, and accommodations for nursing mothers, we, as a country, are lagging behind. That’s why it’s important that women understand their rights in the workplace, when to speak up, and what is legally required for nursing mothers.

There are recent regulatory updates that affect nursing mothers that were enacted under the Affordable Care Act signed into law by President Obama. Here is what you should know about breastfeeding in the workplace:

Breastfeeding Breaks

  • The requirements by the Department of Labor applies to more than 130 million workers, both full- and part-time, in the private and public sectors.
  • The law requires employers to provide reasonable break times for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk. In other words, the Department of Labor has interpreted this to mean that a nursing mother may take breaks to express milk as frequently as needed.

Lactation Rooms

  • Employers are also required to provide a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk. The statute specifically states that the space provided for employees to express breast milk cannot be a bathroom.


  • Employers are not required under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to compensate nursing mothers for breaks taken for the purpose of expressing milk. However, where employers already provide compensated breaks, an employee who uses that break time to express milk must be compensated in the same way that other employees are compensated for break time.
  • An employer with fewer than 50 employees may be exempt from compliance if it will subject the employer to undue hardship. Undue hardship will be determined by looking at the difficulty or expense of compliance for a specific employer in comparison to the size, financial resources, nature, and structure of the employer’s business. All employees who work for the covered employer, regardless of worksite, are counted when determining whether this exemption may apply.

As nursing mothers that want to provide the best for our children, it is critical that we know and understand our rights and have the courage to speak up in the workplace to ask for the accommodations that the law provides for us. For more information on your rights as a nursing mom, please visit these additional resources:

Hey DFTM Fam–Did you go back to work when you were still breastfeeding your baby? How did you make the transition smooth?

About The Author

Ayanna Jackson
Working Mom

Ayanna is a married mom raising a 2-year-old daughter outside of Washington, DC. The human resources professional and career coach writes about how moms can successfully navigate the corporate world while raising children. She loves being a mom, because no matter what type of day she has, her daughter makes her smile and laugh as soon as she gets home. When not writing for DFTM, Ayanna serves as senior human resources professional with Discovery Communications. She's also a photographer, tulip lover and stationary addict.

One Response

  1. Raymond Richardson

    Good article I had a couple of situations like this in the military unfortunately there is not a place to do this at. We talk later about my experiences on this which is different then a civilian sector.


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