Wellness Wednesday: News and Tips for Breastfeeding Moms
Welcome to Wellness Wednesdays! Join us on the MomsRising blog every Wednesday for tips, expert advice, and the latest news on wellness related issues, including:
- Health care
- Paid Sick Days
- ...and so much more!
It's going to be great: Look how happy this baby is about it!
This week, we're taking a closer look at two newsworthy moments for breastfeeding moms, and what they might mean for you. We'll break down the Reasonable Break Time for Nursing Mothers amendment and figure out how to use pre-tax health savings account money on breast pumps (just in time for tax season!).
1. The Reasonable Break Time for Nursing Mothers amendment
What does it cover?
It requires employers to provide:
Reasonable break time: This is enough time to express milk as needed. Your break time does not have to be paid; though, if you have paid breaks and use your paid break to pump, you should be compensated as usual.
A private, non-bathroom place for nursing mothers to express breast milk during the workday: The space does not have to be a dedicated breast feeding space---but here’s what it does need:
- Shielded from view
- Available when needed
- Free from intrusion from co-workers and the public
Space: The mother should be provided with a space to store her equipment, and a cooler for her expressed milk.
Are you eligible?
The Reasonable Break Time for Nursing Mothers law does not apply to all mothers; it’s for FSA nonexempt employees. Not sure if that includes you? Typically, nonexempt employees refers to employees who are:
- Hourly workers (Retail, restaurants, etc.)
- Subject to overtime laws in Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act
If you’re still not sure, check your paystub or talk to your employer to determine your status.
Here are a few more eligibility factors to keep in mind:
- The age of your child matters: This law applies to women who are pumping for babies up to one year of age.
- If your company has less than 50 total employees, they may qualify for an undue hardship exemption. If they have shown that compliance would cause “significant difficulty or expense when considered in relation to the size, financial resources, nature, or structure of the employer's business,” they may not have to comply.
I'm not eligible. What do I do now?
- Look up state laws: If you’re not a nonexempt employee, look into your state’s laws: Some states have their own, similar policies.
- Share these resources: The Business Case for Breastfeeding is an excellent set of materials from womenshealth.gov that shows employers the benefits of supporting breastfeeding employees, and shows employers the best ways to offer support.
I am eligible, but my employer isn't complying. What do I do?
Use this guide on the Department of Labor/ Wage and Hour Division website to help you file a complaint. When you're ready to file, call the toll-free WHD number 1-866-487-9243.
"Top 5 Tips for Working and Breastfeeding" by Bettina Forbes
"FAQs: Break Time for Nursing Moms" from the United States Breastfeeding Committee
Fact Sheet #73: Break Time for Nursing Mothers under the FLSA, from the Department of Labor
2. Using Pre-Tax Money on Breast Pumps
What does this mean for you?
Last year, the Internal Revenue Service reversed its decision and will now let women pay for breast pumps with pre-tax money from health savings accounts. (Click here for the full story about this important victory for moms and families)
Here's the quote from the IRS:
After reviewing this matter, we have concluded that breast pumps and supplies that assist lactation are medical care under section 213(d) of the Internal Revenue Code (the Code) because they are for the purpose of affecting a structure or function of the body of the lactating woman. Therefore, if taxpayers meet the remaining requirements of section 213(a) of the Code, expenses they paid for breast pumps and supplies that assist lactation are deductible medical expenses. These expenses will qualify as medical care expenses reimbursable under a flexible health spending account.
What is a health savings account?
A health savings account is pre-tax income set aside specifically for health related expenses. If you're not sure if you have one, talk to your employer or insurance company to find out. Click here to learn more about health savings accounts.
I have more questions...
Don't worry, we do too! We’ve contacted the IRS and they have agreed to review our questions and provide answers back. We’ll publish those answers so you are clear long before tax day comes.
So, what questions do you have about how and what you can deduct as part of the new IRS breastfeeding rule? (Here's one of ours, to get you started: What does "supplies" mean? Do storage bags and bottles qualify?) We’ll forward your comments to the IRS on Friday, February 17th. Click here to learn more and leave your questions in the comments.