Healthcare Reform and Breastfeeding
Two years have passed since the signing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. In it, provision 4207 stated that employers must provide a place other than a bathroom and reasonable time for women to express their breastmilk during the baby’s first year of life.
The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour division has cited 23 companies for not complying with this law. I can’t help but wonder how many other companies are getting away with not providing the accommodations for their nursing employees. Women need their jobs so they stay quiet, but it should not be this way. It is so unfair and detrimental to their own health and their babies. The cost of having a small room with a table, chair, an electrical outlet, and a door to be locked while the mother is in there pales in comparison to the benefits for the family, company and society in general when a baby is getting nutrition from her mother.
If this seems like a lot to ask, the better and easier solution would be for the mothers to have paid maternity leave for the baby’s first year of life so the employer doesn’t have to deal with setting a small lactation room. That’s right, a small lactation room and not a “lactation chamber”, as it was pejoratively labeled by Staples co-founder Tom Stemberg. In his statement, he says he’s all for breastfeeding, but I beg to differ as referring pejoratively to anything that will support breastfeeding is not the behavior of a person who is “all about breastfeeding.” I’m wondering if Mr. Stemberg would like his wife to go pump in a bathroom or, even worse, feed their baby in a bathroom.
It’s time to set politics aside and focus on the health of our babies, who are after all our new generation and the future of this country. How do we see this country in 20 years from now? A generation composed of sick and unhealthy individuals? Or a generation that is thriving health-wise? Breastfeeding is preventive medicine for mothers and babies. Let’s not deny them the access because they have to pay the bills. Accommodations for nursing mothers during work time is not much to ask and it benefits us all.
Here are a few helpful resources for employers/employees who are working on setting up lactation accommodations in their companies:
Healthier Worksite Initiative by the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention
Business Case for Breastfeeding by Department of Health and Human Services
The Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division has a Fact Sheet (#73) to give an overview of the Break Time for Nursing Mothers under the FLSA
Employees whose employer has violated this law can contact The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour division’s toll-free helpline at 1-866-487-9243.