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Can breastfeeding, working moms expect legislation to support her lactation needs? The answer is “yes” thanks to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that President Obama signed on March 23rd, 2010.

Federal Health Reform and Nursing Mothers

President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, H.R. 3590, on March 23 and the Reconciliation Act of 2010, H.R. 4872, on March 30, 2010. Among many provisions, Section 4207 amends the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938 (29 U.S.Code 207) to require an employer to provide a place, other than a bathroom a place, and reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk every time she needs to for her nursing child for one year after the birth. The employer is not required to compensate an employee for the break time taken.  If these requirements impose an undue hardship, an employer that employs fewer than 50 employees is not subject to these requirements. The federal requirements do not preempt a state law that provides greater protections to employees. For more information, see the U.S. Department of Labor's Fact Sheet on Break Time for Nursing Mothers under the FLSA.” National Conference of State Legislature, Issues & Research:, retrieved 11-26-2010

Additionally, thanks to another piece of legislation-- NJ Paid Family Leave Insurance, signed into law on May 2, 2008 by then-Governor Jon Corzine-- leave time is available to new mothers who need time away from work to care for their newborn infant. What better care could a newborn infant receive in the nutrition and bonding they receiving from their nursing mother.

I noticed how effective PPACA legislation is when I was having lunch with a friend at her office and we ran into a woman carrying a pump bag. My friend and I met Sue, the new mother of twins born premature. Sue was finally able to return to work after three months of paid family leave where she could nurse her twins at the hospital. Sue’s return to work could not have been more timely as her employer had just distributed a memo to all department heads regarding the PPACA legislation.The memo provided guidelines about the PPACA legislation and the requirement for employers to provide break time and a space to express breast milk. Sue shared that she called the Human Resources Department prior to her return and they immediately responded that they would find her the space to express breast milk. I asked Sue how long she was employed with the company and she explained that she is a new hire.  Sue was pregnant when the interview took place and decided to share that information with the hiring manager, against the advice of friends and family  Surprisingly, the hiring manager indicated they would be glad to work around her schedule and provide accommodations. The hiring manager did not mandate any set schedule or work format and left that decision up to the employee. Sue could return to work part-time, work from home and/or modify her office hours.

The other stories I heard over the past few months were about NJ Paid Family Leave Insurance. Every time I came into contact with a woman who shared the joy of her childbirth, I could not help but asked if she took paid leave. Overwhelmingly, every woman I asked responded with such appreciation and a resounding “yes”. Many of these women shared that without paid leave, the entire family would suffer financial hardship. Sue could not have spent the much needed 3 months visiting her premature twins in the hospital. Paid family leave “... allow(s) workers to apply for up to six weeks off to care for a newborn or newly adopted child, or a sick parent, spouse or child. They could collect up to two-thirds of their pay, to a maximum of $524 a week.”, (retrieved 11-24-2010). Along with 6 weeks of temporary disability, employees could potentially receive 3 months of paid maternity leave.

It is rewarding to me, personally, having worked with MomsRising advocating for NJ Paid Family Leave Insurance, to witness the results of NJ FLMA, along with PPACA, in the workplace environment. The flexibility to pump breast milk, get hired during a pregnancy, maternity leave with pay and return to work with a flexible schedule is actually happening and for this, I am truly thankful.

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