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Breastfeeding Support FAQs for Employers

Businesses of all types have found creative solutions to address common questions or concerns about supporting nursing mothers.

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Do we need to provide a dedicated room if we don't have many women needing the support?
Federal law does not require that businesses have a permanent dedicated milk expression room. Each business should assess the needs of women working for the company. If there are not enough women to justify a permanent room, many flexible options can be considered. Learn more about flexible options.

Our business is very small and has NO extra space. How can we comply with the federal regulations?
Even businesses with small to seemingly nonexistent space can support nursing mothers. A functional space is usually large enough for a chair and a flat surface for the mother's breast pump. Flexible options such as allowing the employee to use a manager's office or screening off a small area often work well. Some companies even partner with neighboring businesses to share space for nursing moms. Learn more about shared space options.

What options can accommodate employees who work outdoors?
A variety of flexible and mobile options can work for employees who are stationed outdoors. Small pop-up privacy tents and portable lactation stations are often used. The cab of a company vehicle or the employee's personal vehicle can sometimes be used as long as privacy can be ensured and the car is otherwise in compliance with all requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act.* Learn more about creative outdoor options.

Our company is quite large and has multiple buildings. Do we have to provide a room in every building?
Each business will need to determine how many milk expression spaces are needed to meet the needs of their employees. Some companies require that new construction include milk expression spaces and they work to gradually increase the number of rooms. Some select buildings with spaces that will be within a 5-minute walk of employees in nearby buildings. Learn how many university campuses have managed this.

Are there funds available to help pay for creating a milk expression room?
It can cost very little to provide a flexible space for nursing women or to retrofit existing space. Businesses that invest funds in support services for employees have experienced a 3:1 Return on Investment (ROI). Most of the expenses occur in the first year when starting the services. If funds are not available, consider more flexible options at first that do not require major renovations (e.g., using an empty office space, meeting room, etc.). Community grants could also be explored for additional assistance.

How can we assure that other employees will support this?
Supporting nursing mothers in the workplace brings bottom-line benefits that help all employees! This includes such benefits as lower absenteeism and turnover. While other employees may need to help out with coverage from time to time, it is easier to schedule around breaks than to deal with unexpected absences due to illness. Many businesses find that involving other employees in the initial planning helps bring about teamwork and a sense of fairness for all.

What if our employees have a more rigid work schedule?
Even in work environments that require a more rigid employee schedule, reasonable time can be accommodated. Women can schedule breaks, if needed. Some companies such as manufacturing plants and schools provide floaters for coverage when employees are taking breaks. Sometimes the supervisor will provide coverage. Learn about time solutions.

How many private milk expression spaces will we need?
The number of milk expression spaces depends on the number of female employees ages 18-45, the size of the business space, the number of buildings, and other factors. Consider starting out with a private station for every 50 women ages 18-45, and adjust as needed. Some companies have multi-user suites separated by curtains or other dividers. If the company has multiple buildings, consider offering space in every building, if possible, to minimize the amount of break time needed to get to and from the space. Learn more about multi-user spaces.

* Employers who are covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act must provide a space for certain nursing mothers each time there is a need to express milk, as well as reasonable break time to do so. Learn more at the U.S. Department of Labor.

Content last updated June 19, 2014.

Resources last updated April 15, 2014.


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