Breastfeeding at work can be uncomfortable, but if anyone gives you a hard time about it, remember it’s your right.

I felt so uncomfortable when I had to discuss breastfeeding options with my boss, but I had another co-worker who was fearless about it. She insisted that they provided the time for her to breastfeed and that she be allowed to use a room that wasn’t the bathroom where they initially wanted to put her.

I wish I had fought that hard for my rights, but I was way more timid than she was. If you don’t have someone in your office like that, you may have to assume that role whether you’re comfortable with it or not. Some bosses and companies just don’t value the role of breastfeeding yet. Hopefully that will change someday, but until then we need to keep fighting.

Here’s what you need to know about the rights you have as a breastfeeding mother under the federal law, “Break Time for Nursing Mothers.”
  • Who Is Covered: Sadly, not everyone is. It covers hourly employees who are already under the Fair Labor Standards Act (source). Read the section below for more information on this.
  • How It Helps Breastfeeding Moms: Since health professionals have backed breast milk as being nutritionally superior to formula, this law was created in an attempt to help working moms continue to breastfeed. It forces employers to give their employees a break so they can breastfeed during work hours. It also requires that they give them a place where they can have some privacy while pumping.
  • Are There Any Rules Or Conditions: The private room you’re allowed to pump in can’t be a bathroom. No one should be able to see into the room while you’re breastfeeding so if you have any known office perverts, you can breathe a sigh of relief.
  • Who Enforces This Law: This depends on where the person is receiving protection. For those protected under the FLSA, the watchdog of this law is the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. They have a general toll-free number you can call if you’re experiencing any problems. The number is 800-487-9243. However, state courts and agencies would enforce the law with those protected under state law.
  • How Long Can I Pump For: The time portion of the law is open to interpretation — it requires that you be given a reasonable amount of time to pump. This time isn’t necessarily paid though, unless your boss already has paid breaks for everyone. You shouldn’t milk this time for all it’s worth though — you should pump and get back to work. During lunch, you’ll want to eat while pumping to save time.