What breastfeeding employees need to know
Nursing moms often have many questions about how to continue breastfeeding when they return to work. Read frequently asked questions about breastfeeding at work, including how to talk to your supervisor about your needs and where to find resources and support.
Am I entitled to breastfeeding support at work?
You are covered under the federal Break Time for Nursing Mothers law if you are also covered by Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). FLSA is the federal law that establishes the federal minimum hourly wage and the requirement to pay overtime when you work more than 40 hours in a week. FLSA applies to most hourly employees. If you don’t know whether you’re covered under FLSA, ask your supervisor or human resources manager. Also, every employer who must follow FLSA must post a notice (PDF, 147 KB) in the workplace about the federal minimum wage. This notice also has information about the Break Time for Nursing Mothers law on it.
The Break Time for Nursing Mothers law requires FLSA employers to provide break time for women to express milk and a functional space that is not a bathroom each time they need to express.
Many employers provide these lactation benefits to any nursing mother at the workplace, regardless of coverage under FLSA.
How can I talk with my supervisor about the breastfeeding support I need?
Don’t be shy about talking with your supervisor about your needs. Most employers want to meet the needs of their employees. But not all employers are familiar with the needs of a breastfeeding mom. If your workplace does not have a lactation support policy, the company may benefit from seeing examples of success stories to help make arrangements for a lactation space. Start the conversation during your pregnancy, before you go on maternity leave. This will give your supervisor time to make arrangements and educate your coworkers about pumping breaks.
For ideas for how to comfortably discuss your needs with your supervisor, check out:
- Making it Work: For Moms (PDF, 1.4 MB)
This resource includes ideas of things you can say to your supervisor and coworkers.
- The Business Case for Breastfeeding: Employee’s Guide to Breastfeeding and Working (PDF, 2.15 MB) includes a sample letter you can send to your supervisor.
- Short videos showing lactation break time and space success stories from all types of industries that you can show your manager for ideas on how to create a lactation space
Can I be paid for time spent pumping or expressing milk at work?
The law does not require employers to pay women for breaks needed to express milk. However, the law says that if paid breaks are provided to all employees, then those breaks must continue to be paid if nursing moms use them to pump at work. If you need extra time beyond the standard paid break time, your employer might not pay you for that extra time. But if you’re covered under FLSA, your employer is required to give you the unpaid break time you need to express milk.
Ask your human resources manager or supervisor if you have questions about time spent expressing milk at work.
I’m not getting the breastfeeding support I need at work. What can I do?
FLSA requires most employers to provide reasonable break time and space that is not a bathroom for breastfeeding employees to express milk at work. However, the lactation space does not have to be a permanent, dedicated room just for breastfeeding moms. The space can be temporarily used for pumping if it can fit a chair and a flat surface for pumping equipment and can be locked or otherwise made private. Not all lactation areas are ideal, but the space should be safe and clean and have a light so you can see while pumping.
If you are covered under FLSA but your employer is not providing the break time or private lactation space you are entitled to, you can:
- Talk to your human resources manager or supervisor. Learn more about how to talk to your supervisor.
- Show your manager or supervisor one of these short videos on how different types of workplaces provide time and space for lactation.
- File a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor. You can also see what employers are required by law to do for nursing mothers.
What resources can I share with my supervisor about supporting nursing moms at work?
- The Business Case for Breastfeeding: For Business Managers (PDF, 782 KB)
This booklet describes bottom-line benefits to the business of supporting employees.
- U.S. Department of Labor Fact Sheet
This fact sheet can be used to inform your supervisor about the Break Time for Nursing Mothers law.
- Sample Policy (PDF, 106 KB)
These guidelines can be used as an example of how to set up a company policy for supporting nursing employees.
- Video Success Stories
These videos from all types of industries show how lactation can be accommodated in any type of workplace.
Where can I find more resources about breastfeeding at work?
- Office on Women’s Health
- Breastfeeding and going back to work
Practical tips to prepare for returning to work, expressing milk at work, and getting support. You can also call the toll-free Helpline at 1-800-994-9662.
- Supporting Nursing Mothers at Work
What employers need to know and what the law says about breastfeeding and work.
- Employees’ Guide to Breastfeeding and Working
Practical tips for combining employment with breastfeeding, including a sample letter to help you talk with your supervisor.
- Breastfeeding and going back to work
- International Lactation Consultant Association
Check the Find a Lactation Consultant Directory to locate a lactation consultant in your community who can help you with any breastfeeding concerns, advise you on a breast pump that will best meet your needs, and help you with your transition back to work. You may also find a lactation consultant at your local hospital, health department, or Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) clinic.
- New York State Department of Health Breastfeeding Partners
Guides for preparing yourself, your baby, and your family for your return to work.
- Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) State Breastfeeding Coordinators (PDF, 827 KB)
Your local health department or WIC office has breastfeeding counselors who can answer many of your breastfeeding questions or refer you to local experts. Many WIC agencies also provide breast pumps to eligible women.
Did we answer your question about breastfeeding at work?
For more information about breastfeeding in the workplace, call the OWH Helpline at 1-800-994-9662 or contact the following organizations: